Pet stores will no longer be able to sell “puppy mill” pets in Wellington after members of the Wellington Village Council gave final approval Tuesday to an ordinance to ban the direct sale of dogs and cats in stores.
Instead, pet stores will be encouraged to display and adopt out animals from verified rescue groups.
In a unanimous vote, council members passed the second reading of the ordinance. It drew support from rescue groups and animal lovers, who showed up wearing shirts emblazoned with their mantra, “Adopt, don’t shop!”
Village Attorney Laurie Cohen noted that at the council’s request, the revised ordinance also provided more stringent rules with updated definitions.
“This not only prohibits the sale of dogs and cats, it prohibits the operation of puppy and kitten mills in the village,” she said.
Under the new rules, a property is considered a puppy or kitten mill if it is a commercial breeding operation that meets several criteria, including having more than 20 puppies under 12 weeks or kittens under 16 weeks kept at a single time, not performing health testing for hereditary traits, not offering guarantees of more than one year on the health of the animals, not keeping records of the parent animals and having more than eight dogs or kittens in a single cage or kennel area.
Additionally, properties could be classified as a puppy mill if a female animal is bred every cycle or more than five times. “The properties would have to meet multiple criteria to be considered a puppy or kitten mill,” Cohen said.
She said she compiled the definition from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other humane societies, as well as county ordinances. “We have not had any negative comments on this ordinance as we’ve drafted it,” she said.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig noted that Wellington has many large farms where having 20 dogs would not be completely unheard of, but Vice Mayor Howard Coates said a puppy mill would be defined by its operations, not just its size or having multiple animals. “This doesn’t tie it to a particular size or acreage,” Coates said.
Gerwig said she wanted to protect legitimate breeding operations. “So you could have 40 puppies as long as you didn’t have any of these other issues,” she said. “I really think the conditions at a puppy mill are what define it, and I don’t see anything here to address those conditions.”
Cohen said by regulating the number of times an animal can be bred and giving a minimum size enclosure for them to be kept in, it will prevent some of the terrible conditions puppy mills subject animals to. “I think we’ve addressed it as best we can,” Cohen said.
Mayor Bob Margolis said he had seen firsthand the effects of a dog being bred in a puppy mill.
“My first dog was the product of a puppy mill,” he said. “We bought it at a pet store, and, lo and behold, a week later the puppy developed so many illnesses. The pet store owner said to bring it back, but you can’t just bring it back. You have fallen in love with that dog.”
Though his story has a happy ending — Margolis noted that his dog recovered and lived a long, happy life — he said that many animals do not survive.
“We’re being proactive in preventing this problem,” he said. “There aren’t any pet stores currently operating this way, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be proactive. I think this is a good idea.”
During public comment, rescue volunteers, pet lovers and professionals in the animal industry praised council members for the ban.
Equestrian Georgina Bloomberg said that rescuing animals has been her passion.
“There is a chain that exists, and unfortunately the dogs being put down in pounds every day are the last link of that chain,” she said. “You, sitting here, have an opportunity to break this chain. By allowing pet stores to sell dogs, you’re creating a need for puppy mills. Having been on puppy mill raids myself, I can tell you that no animal should be subjected to those conditions. There is no such thing as a humane puppy mill.”
Resident Lorrie Browne, who pushed for the ban, thanked council members for listening. “I thank you not only for taking up the issue, but for closing any loopholes so that this cycle [of puppy mills] can’t even begin,” she said.
Councilman John Greene made a motion to approve the ordinance, which passed unanimously.