The Dallas City Council has passed a law prohibiting the selling of puppies at pet businesses.
Puppies are shown for sale at Petland in North Dallas.(Brandon Wade / Special Contributor)
The Dallas City Council unanimously enacted an ordinance on Wednesday prohibiting the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores, a decision that will likely result in the closure of one North Dallas establishment.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, Dallas is the last large Texas city to pass such a law. The legislation, which allows for fines of up to $500 for violators, was approved by a vote of 11-0, with four council members voting no or absent.
Following the decision, animal advocates and supporters of the legislation poured outside the council chambers, some in tears after sharing heartfelt experiences.
When one of them, Alison Roche, spoke in favor of the ordinance, she mentioned her dachsund Winston. She claimed she paid hundreds of dollars for the dog at a Petland in North Dallas, and then had to spend much more in veterinary fees.
I never want anybody else to go through the emotional turmoil that my family went through because we fell in love with a sick puppy from Petland, she stated at the conference.
The only store in Dallas that sells pups, Petland, is slated to close as a result of the restriction. According to Elizabeth Kunzelman, vice president of legislative and public affairs at Petland, puppies account for more than three-quarters of business owner Jay Suk's sales.
Omar Narvaez, a council member, said he could see the employees' love for animals. He did, however, say that the restriction was the "proper thing to do for our four-legged companions.
According to Lauren Loney, Texas state director for the Humane Society, the ordinance has been in the works for eight to ten months.
"But that's only the beginning," Loney explained. "All of the legwork and years of establishing support for this has been ongoing for a long time." Residents have been resisting the business for more than a decade, she added.
According to John Goodwin of the Humane Society, similar laws have been passed in five states and over 400 municipalities.
Puppy mills, according to supporters, are places that produce females at every opportunity and hold dogs in small, filthy kennels before transporting them to stores in confined quarters.
They also claim that it would safeguard clients from the emotional and financial toll of spending thousands of dollars on sick dogs sold at inflated rates, instead directing them to rescue organizations, small-scale breeders, and overcrowded animal shelters.
Those opposed to the ordinance claimed that eliminating one business would not solve the puppy mill problem and would instead result in the loss of jobs and tax money.
Jay Suk, owner of the Dallas Petland, poses with two puppies for sale.
Suk said his store generated $2.4 million in taxes for the city over the last three years. (Brandon Wade / Special Contributor) About 30 employees work at the store, and some of them came out in blue T-shirts to talk or express support.
I believe the goal is to put an end to puppy mills, Suk added. I wholeheartedly support this goal. Only reputable, licensed, and approved breeders are accepted.
However, according to Stacy Sutton Kerby, director of government relations at the Texas Humane Legislation Network, licensing does not guarantee that puppies come from humane sources. She claimed that the Department of Agriculture, which issues licenses to out-of-state breeding operations, had failed miserably.
Teresa Heidt, who said she found a humane, kind, caring, and loving" store when she chose to buy a puppy approximately three years ago, said she was delighted with her purchase.
I'm not a big fan of pet stores, Heidt said, but what I found... it wasn't a business, it was a community, and it was packed with the most amazing people who work here.
The store's manager, Lisa Abair, described it as a ally in the fight against puppy mills with a staff dedicated to the welfare of the animals.
Suk takes excellent care of his pets, according to Kunzelman, and there have been no violations. She claims that no one has approached Petland about resolving customer issues.
D&J Pets, Suk's company, filed a defamation complaint against Loney in Dallas County court last week, claiming she made deceptive and misleading remarks about the store. He is claiming damages of between $200,000 and $1 million.
We are still evaluating the materials from D&J Pets, said M. Carrie Allan, a spokesman for the Humane Society, "but we are concerned that this is just another attempt by corporations who profit at the expense of pups to silence animal advocates.