The city of Phoenix passed a somewhat controversial new ordinance Wednesday that bans all pet stores in the city of Phoenix from selling animals from inhumane sources.

The ban is meant to keep stores from using puppy mills, but several residents who stood to testify during Wednesday’s meeting said the new ordinance’s language only punishes consumers and pet stores and will force people who want purebred dogs to seek out less than reputable sources to get them.

Dozens of people told Phoenix City Council of their experiences purchasing from pet stores and working for pet stores. They assured the council that stores like Puppies ‘N Love use only reputable breeders that are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This ordinance will not allow pet stores to get pure-bred puppies from breeders anymore but will force them to work with nonprofit rescues or shelters to find dogs and kittens to sell. The ordinance also ends the practice of awarding animals as game prizes.

Councilmen Bill Gates, Jim Waring and Sal DiCiccio spoke out against the ordinance saying it’s too broad and will put pet stores that do business the right way out of business. They moved to have the item postponed for another time so that the wording could be re-worked, but the motion failed.

“There are people who want to buy pure bread dogs and they go to a pet store to do that,” DiCiccio said. “What this ordinance is saying is the city feels more comfortable with people going to breeders or Craigslist than a reputable store… If you look at the priorities at the city of Phoenix, Phoenix could not stop the food tax, it could not end pension spiking, it could not hire more police, but it could ban kids getting gold fish at the fair and it is going to run these people out of business. There is no reason to rush this thing through. When you’re talking about someone’s life and their business, you should not be rushing these things through.”

The ordinance was requested by Councilwoman Thelda Williams and Councilman Tom Simplot. At a Dec. 11 meeting of the Public Safety and Veterans Subcommittee, it was approved unanimously. At the formal City Council meeting it passed on a 5-3 vote.

“I feel very strongly about puppy mills and how abusive they are to animals…,” Williams said. “I believe very strongly that this is a community that believes with all their heart that animals are special and are part of the family and deserve to be treated humanely.”

While no one disagreed that puppy mills and businesses that mass produce kittens and puppies should be shut down, it was argued that the ordinance’s language doesn’t solve that problem.

City staff did say the ordinance does not prohibit breeders from selling their litters — only from selling them in a pet shop. Staff also said the Humane Society has does a survey and found that 96 percent of American Kennel Club (AKC) breeders have in their code of ethics that they will not sell puppies to pet shops. Several residents said they fear this ordinance will cause more puppy mills to sprout up as people begin selling their pure-bred dogs on street corners. There are no ordinances against that practice in Phoenix.

“What this ordinance does say very simply is we are as a city going to take a stand and prohibit the sale of puppies that come from puppy mills or mass-produced puppies,” Simplot said.

The Arizona Humane Society sent out a statement Wednesday night applauding the new ordinance as a way to get more rescue dogs into the public eye.

“Phoenix is a leader in animal welfare in our state,” said AHS President and CEO Dr. Steven Hansen. “Sadly, we are also a leader in pet overpopulation, ranking second only to Los Angeles County. This city ordinance is a victory for homeless pets and another step in the right direction towards combating pet overpopulation in our community while also decreasing euthanasia of shelter pets.”

The ordinance passed by the city of Phoenix is following a national trend. More than 40 other local jurisdictions have approved similar ordinances. In 2011 Macerich, which owns several malls in the Valley, decided to not renew leases with pet stores in their malls and instead donate those spaces to rescues. Arizona Animal Welfare League has since opened its own storefront inside Chandler Fashion Center, which has drastically helped to increase adoptions. All animals sold at PetMatch in the Chandler mall are spayed or neutered, microchipped, current on all shots and have been evaluated by a behavioral specialist.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days from Wednesday, Dec. 18.

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