Puppy provision passes at South Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Puppy provision passes at South Lake Tahoe

Sara Thompson / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” By April, it could be illegal to sell dogs and cats from retail stores in South Lake Tahoe.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council voted 4-0 to give initial approval to an ordinance banning the retail sale of dogs and cats by pet stores. Councilman Bruce Grego, who has jury duty this week, was absent.

The ordinance will return to the council for final approval on April 7.

“By adopting this ordinance, we’re honoring the lives of those animals that have no voice,” Councilwoman Kathay Lovell said.

If approved at the next meeting, all pet stores selling dogs or cats would have until May 2011 to comply with the ordinance.

The ordinance is a tool to combat puppy mills ” high-volume breeding facilities that the Humane Society of the United States and others consider inhumane. Most dogs sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, said Dawn Armstrong, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society. About 10,000 mega-breeders have been identified in the United States, but only 6,000 are required to be licensed, Armstrong said. The USDA is underfunded, and only has 60 to 75 inspectors to regulate the industry, she added.

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The issue arose at when Broc’s Puppies opened in May.

During the public hearing before the council voted, Donna Rise commended the council for following through with drafting an ordinance.

“This is not about singling out an individual,” Rise said. “It’s about standing up for those who cannot speak.”

Dennis Franks, owner of Broc’s Puppies, said he opposes the ordinance because he doesn’t carry puppy-mill dogs. He said he has his federal and state licenses, and does everything the state requires.

“I do everything by the law,” Franks said.

Franks said he provided paperwork to the council, which included documents showing where the dogs came from, 24 pages of medical records and an eight-page petition to keep the store open.

If the ordinance receives final approval, the store will have to layoff employees, the veterinarian who examines all the puppies will lose work, the city will lose sales tax revenue and the property owner will lose money, Franks said.

“It will take much longer than two years to recoup,” Franks said.

Jonnie Crawford visited the store, and said the puppies appeared to be healthy, and their cages were clean.

“Is this just to get rid of one store, or are you concerned about all the puppies people buy?” Crawford said.

Jonnie Crawford said she counted 18 classified ads in the Tribune that were selling puppies. She said she loves dogs, and wasn’t in favor of puppy mills, but thought it was unfair to pick on one store when other breeders are free to do as they like.

“You’ve got to reform people, you just can’t get rid of one store,” Jonnie Crawford said.

Hobbyist breeders who are listed in the classifieds aren’t regulated, Franks said. They’re not required to abide by the same regulations that he faces.

Gloria Harootunian said pet stores make animals seem like products instead of living creatures, and that’s a problem.

“I know it’s a tricky subject, and the city may be inviting a lawsuit,” Harootunian said.

Councilman Bill Crawford said he visited the store about two weeks ago for about an hour, and thought the store was clean. He added that he didn’t think adopting the ordinance would stop the inhumane treatment of animals, or animal abandonment.

“People are emotionally charged on an issue like this, and I’m still puzzled on how this shop we’re talking about goes against the general plan,” said Crawford, who voted in favor of the ordinance.

Lovell said the ordinance isn’t about just one store.

“This isn’t about Broc’s Puppies, this is about businesses that might be here tomorrow,” Lovell said.

Lovell said she’s been a breeder for 35 years, and she abides by the breeder’s code of ethics. Under the code, breeders don’t sell to a third party. Breeders interview potential customers and make sure the puppies are going to good homes, she said.

After the public hearing and council vote, Franks said he plans to file a lawsuit against the city for restraintment of trade and conflict of interest, since Lovell stated she was a dog breeder.