A Humane Society volunteer last week asked Bridgeville officials to join the 250 other municipalities around the country that have banned pet stores from selling animals sourced from so-called “puppy mills.”
The ordinance proposed by resident Lynn Ready-Aspiotes would make it illegal to sell commercially bred animals in public places. Pet stores would be limited to selling shelter and rescue animals. Licensed kennels could still advertise animals for sale, but would be required to include their license number in all advertisements.
Council president Michael Tolmer was supportive of the idea, although he acknowledged potential issues, including lawsuits, if Bridgeville moved forward with such a ban. Currently, no pet stores in Bridgeville sell puppies.
“If there’s a way we can do it, let’s see our options,” Tolmer said. “Because it makes sense, obviously.”
Puppy mills attempt to maximize profit by minimizing costs. This can mean dogs crammed into small spaces with no exercise and little medical care, spreading bacteria and parasites, developing emotional issues, then being sold to the unwitting public, according to the Humane Society.
Although Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have adopted bans on puppy mill retail sales, those cities operate under different rules than a smaller municipality like Bridgeville, said borough solicitor Thomas McDermott. Pennsylvania’s two largest cities exist under “Home Rule,” which allows them to create legislation that supersedes some state laws.
“There’s a question about whether we have the authority under state law to regulate this,” McDermott said, “or if it’s more appropriately—under our Pennsylvania Constitutional structure— something that has to be done at a state level.”
That question could become irreverent if two state lawmakers have their way.
State Representative Jason Ortitay and State Senator Guy Reschenthaler, both of whom represent Bridgeville, plan to introduce legislation that would create a similar ban state-wide, according to the Tribune-Review:
“It is well documented that ‘puppy mills,’ inhumane commercial dog-breeding facilities, frequently supply pet stores with puppies,” according to the proposal. “Consumers often spend thousands of dollars caring for sick puppies from pet stores, in some cases only to suffer the heartbreak of their new pet dying. With this legislation, pet stores will partner with shelters and rescues to promote adoption and decrease the demand for the puppies raised in puppy mills.”
Currently, California is the only state to ban puppy mill retail sales, although 250 cities and towns nationwide has also adopted such laws. Some of those cities have subsequently been sued by pet shops.
In 2008, Gov. Ed Rendell signed legislation aimed at cracking down on unethical dog breeders. Initial reports suggested that the law reduced the number of puppy mills in-state, though a 2012 study found the enforcement was lax, at best.
Pennsylvania has 12 puppy mills on the Humane Society’s list of the “Horrible 100” dog breeders. A large number of dogs for sale in pet stores aren’t bred in the commonwealth, however. Instead, they are shipped in from the Midwest.