Puppy mill pet stores off limits for municipalities

PHOENIX -- Saying its the best deal animal rights advocates will get, a Senate panel voted late Tuesday to bar cities from keeping pet stores from selling commercially bred dogs and cats.

The 5-3 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee came after Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, added what he said are some teeth to the proposal to ensure that pet stores are acquiring their animals only from reputable breeders who comply with all U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. That includes a $1,000 fine for a first violation -- and a ban on selling anything but rescue and shelter animals for a third violation within five years.

And Kavanagh promised to add new provisions when HB 2163 goes to the full Senate. That includes a requirement that pet shops provide the name of the breeder to prospective buyers, allowing them to investigate for themselves the conditions in which the animal was bred.

The changes were enough to convince the Humane Society of the United States, which had opposed earlier versions of the measure, to withdraw its objections. Ditto for former state lawmaker Nancy Young Wright who had been working to get Tucson to outlaw the sale of commercially bred animals and had testified against an earlier version of the legislation.

But none of that satisfied Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.

"The USDA standards that we are now enshrining in law and enforcing in law are laughable if they weren't so sad,' he said.

"They do not protect these animals,' Farley continued, citing provisions which allow animals to be kept in cages day and night that are only six inches higher and longer than the animal itself, "a wire cage with a wire bottom, stacked on top, that only have to be cleaned once every two weeks.'

"We get the drift,' Shooter said of Farley's concerns. "You have somewhat of a valid point.'

But Shooter said the fact remains that there is nothing the state can do to alter the USDA standards. And he said there's no reason to debate them.

Farley does not see it that way. In fact, Farley said if he had his way he would outlaw commercial pet stores entirely.

Kavanagh conceded that the deal pleases both the breeding industry and the pet stores that sell their animals.

"And I think the humane societies think they got as best a deal that they could possibly get here,' he said.

Kavanagh also made it clear that lawmakers were going to vote, one way or another, to preempt local ordinances banning the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats. That would overturn existing ordinances in Phoenix and Tempe and sideline similar proposals being considered in Tucson and elsewhere.

"And if this doesn't go through, animals will be the worse off for it,' Kavanagh said.

Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, wasn't buying it, saying she could not support anything that overturned the ordinance of her home town.

Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford said she had gotten more than 100 calls in opposition to the legislation.

She acknowledged that the final bill is different that what was originally proposed. But Olivia Cajero Bedford said she needs to be convinced the deal is acceptable.

"Unless I get 100 calls before this goes to the (Senate) floor, I'm going to keep my 'no' vote,' she said.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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