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Over two million puppies are bred in inhumane puppy mills each year. Hundreds of those puppies are imported into San Antonio and sold to unsuspecting consumers at pet stores. Meanwhile, San Antonio Animal Care Services takes in around 1,000 dogs each month. Some months, that number balloons to several thousand dogs in need of new homes.

There is a surplus of dogs in San Antonio that must be addressed. That is why San Antonio ACS has proposed that the City limit pet store puppy sales to only those dogs that come from shelters and rescues approved by the City. There is no need to continue to import puppies from out-of-state puppy mills when there are so many dogs in the city in need of loving homes.

Cutting off the importation of puppies to be sold in pet stores will help solve the city’s pet overpopulation problem and benefit the community in a multitude of other ways.

So where do pet store puppies come from? Does that puppy in the window have a mother? Where is she? Pet stores are quick to tout the fact that they acquire puppies from breeders with licenses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but they fail to mention that the commercial dog breeding kennels which are large enough to require a USDA license are often puppy mills that keep the parent dogs in factory farm-like conditions.

A USDA-licensed commercial dog breeder can keep a dog in a small cage for years. The cage only has to be six inches longer than the dog’s body. The pet store puppy’s mother might never be given the opportunity to touch or walk on grass. She can be bred every heat cycle and then killed when she is no longer a productive breeder. All of that is legal, and commonplace, in USDA-licensed commercial dog breeding kennels.

The proposed ACS pet store ordinance will help protect consumers from unknowingly purchasing sick puppies from pet stores. With the conditions these puppies are born into, and the long-distance transport they endure while still baby animals with immature immune systems, it isn’t surprising that many of them end up sick.

San Antonio residents have filed dozens of online complaints, including ones we have received at the Humane Society of the United States, after spending thousands of dollars on pet store puppies who were sick with kennel cough, giardia, parvovirus, and congenital problems. Treating these illnesses almost always leads to thousands of dollars spent on veterinary care.

The puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline is gruesome and inhumane. It subjects weeks-old puppies to strenuous and unsanitary conditions for days traveling from breeder to broker to pet store. Young puppies are pumped with antibiotics in an effort to mitigate sickness; however, it is difficult to control the spread of disease with a pipeline so unhygienic. These puppies often continue to receive antibiotics at pet stores to mask their conditions while on display for consumers.

Animal Care Services’ pet store ordinance already has the backing of most San Antonians. ACS surveyed residents on how they felt about prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores earlier this year. In the majority of San Antonio’s 10 City Council districts, between 60 and 70 percent of those surveyed said they supported the prohibition. The proposed pet store ordinance is not only beneficial to consumers – they overwhelmingly support it.

This is not a referendum on pet stores but rather a way to stop the cruel, inhumane puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline. American consumers spend nearly $100 billion dollars per year on pets, with most of that money spent on products and services, not to purchase live animals. In fact, the American Pet Products Association, a leading pet store trade association that formulated the market estimate, did not even measure live puppy sales in pet stores because they were so insignificant.

Transitioning to a humane model based on adoptions, products and services has already proven successful for some pet stores in cities neighboring San Antonio. Polly’s Pets in Universal City made the conversion from selling commercially raised puppies to now adopting out dogs and cats from ACS. This partnership has saved over 1,000 lives and placed loving pets into many homes.

Over 90 percent of pet stores nationwide do not sell puppies and would be in complete compliance with the proposed ACS pet store ordinance if such a policy was extended throughout the country. Only one of the top 25 pet store chains in the United States sticks with this inhumane and outdated business model.

This ordinance is a win for animals, consumers, and businesses. More than 360 localities and three states have already taken this step toward prohibiting puppy mill sales in pet stores, including five municipalities in Texas.

Please show your support for this ordinance by attending the upcoming City Council meeting on Oct. 29 or contacting your City Council member to voice your support for ACS’ pet store ordinance. To learn more, please visit: www.humanesociety.org/nopuppymills

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Katie Jarl-Coyle

Katie Jarl-Coyle is regional director, the Humane Society of the United States. She and her two rescue dogs live in San Antonio.