A bill that would ban the retail sale of dogs and cats unless they were obtained from a shelter or rescue facility is being considered by lawmakers in Olympia.
Opponents and supporters testified on House Bill 1640 during a public hearing Feb 5. Some of them were from Puyallup, where the issue is hotly contested.
“The point of this bill is to try to address the situation with puppy mills, where we see a lot of unfortunate practices,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, said at the hearing.
The bill also would require pet stores to spay and neuter animals before they’re sold.
Kayla and Justin Kerr, owners of Puppyland on South Hill, said the bill would hurt family-owned businesses like their own.
The Kerrs opened Puppyland at 13103 Meridian Ave. E. in October and sell only puppies.
“If you limit consumer choice to only rescue dogs in pet stores, consumers will go elsewhere to get the specific breed, temperament and predictability that they want,” Kerr said.
Those other places could be Craiglist or PetFinder, Kerr added, websites that pose a risk to consumers because of unknown history of animals. Instead, consumers can find a dog that’s right for them at pet stores, she said.
In a statement on Facebook, Puppyland wrote that the the bill mandates the sale of dogs and cats from unregulated shelters and rescues and bans the sale of them from “regulated, licensed, and inspected breeders.”
Kayla Kerr testified that in 2018 alone, the business generated $70,000 in sales tax for the state.
“There’s clearly a need and a desire for what we offer our community,” she said.
Since Puppyland’s opening, protests have been organized outside the building by Ashly Dale, a team leader for Bailing Out Benji, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about the puppy mill industry.
Dale testified at the Feb. 5 hearing in support of the bill, stating how she takes issue with the practices of local pet stores.
“Pet stores have no policies in place to ensure their puppies are going to a qualified home. They have no application process and allow anyone and everyone to purchase a puppy,” Dale said.
At Puppyland, practices are “not in the best interests of the public or puppies,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.
Dale said Puyallup Animal Rescue took in 604 dogs from 2016-2018, and 75 percent of those dogs were puppies. Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue took in over 800 dogs in 2018 alone.
Both Puyallup Animal Rescue and Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue told The Puyallup Herald that they support the bill.
“The number of dogs and cats that are euthanized daily in this country is astonishing,” Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue Board of Directors said in a statement. “Retail pet stores are not regulated on where their pets come from. They could be from irresponsible breeders or puppy mills which force animals to live in terrible conditions. Sunny Sky’s has received animals from those situations and they have been in a physical state that appall us and break our hearts, so we are happy to see a bill addressing this situation.”
Dale said she doesn’t want to take away a consumer’s right to choose or to shut down small businesses.
“We simply want businesses to adhere to a humane model and ensure people obtain animals from humane sources such as responsible rescues or shelters or even responsible breeders,” Dale said.
Kerr said in her testimony that her business follows the rules when it comes to obtaining dogs.
“We obtain our puppies from USDA-licensed breeders who follow strict rules and regulations and have not had direct violations in the last two years,” she said.
Other municipalities and states have passed similar legislation requiring pet stores to only sell shelter animals.
Mindy Patterson testified at the hearing and told The Herald such rules are putting other pet stores out of business. She’s the president and CEO of The Cavalry Group, which aims to protect the rights of animal owners and animal-related businesses.
“It’s proven to be a complete disaster,” Patterson said about legislation in other cities. “It puts pet stores out of business because they refuse to sell animals from unregulated source because it puts their consumers at risk.”
Puppyland also advertises financing for puppies — what Dale calls “leasing” animals. Customers can be given a payment plan
A separate bill, HB 1476, has been introduced and would prevent those plans. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13.