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Proposed ban on sale of dogs, cats in Louisville pet stores advances

The Jeffersonville Animal Shelter unveiled its new facility this week after a months-long remodeling project.
John Boyle
Louisville Metro Council is considering an ordinance that would prevent the sale of dogs and cats in retail shops.

Louisville Metro Council’s Public Safety Committee voted Tuesday to send a city ordinance that would ban local pet stores from selling dogs or cats to the wider council. It could be discussed among members as early as next Thursday.

Council Member Stuart Benson, a Republican who represents District 20, introduced the local legislation. It would ban dog and cat sales at brick-and-mortar pet stores, as well as vendors in public and outdoor spaces like flea markets.

If passed into law, the ban would take effect in a year, and in the meantime would require stores to provide the contact information of their pets’ breeders in clear view of customers.

It would not affect stores that partner with animal welfare groups and shelters to show animals up for adoption.

Adam Hamilton, an Animal Control Supervisor at Louisville Metro Animal Services, said four pet stores in Louisville currently have permits to sell dogs and cats.

The proposed legislation comes when cities and states across the U.S. have already banned the retail sale of cats and dogs. In Kentucky, Elizabethtown and Radcliff passed their own bans within the last two years, while Shepherdsville is also considering a ban.

These restrictions are centered around concerns over animals’ well-being.

Activists and organizations like the Humane Society of the United States argue that pet stores source dogs and cats from unethical breeders like large-scale puppy mills that treat animals poorly. They allege that shops sell the pets in poor health and deceive customers about it.

Louisville law currently prohibits selling dogs and cats “unfit for purchase,” which it defines as having a congenital or hereditary condition, disease or parasitic infection certified by a veterinarian.

Angela Webster, Council Member Benson’s legislative assistant, said the ordinance would still allow residents to directly purchase animals from breeders. It also wouldn’t affect online sales.

“This is a start,” she said. “It's not going to fix everything overnight. But it will start addressing, and hopefully stemming, the sale of puppy mill puppies in the city.”

Todd Blevins, Kentucky State Director at the Humane Society of the United States, said that Kentucky pet stores usually source their animals from neighbors like Missouri and Ohio.

“Most of the dogs that are being sold in pet stores are coming from puppy mills, but most of those puppy mills are located out of state,” Blevins said.

In a letter to Metro Council, Blevins said HSUS collected 42 endorsements from pet businesses, welfare groups and veterinarians in support of Louisville’s ordinance.

The council has also received letters from Petland, a national retailer that sells dogs and cats, about the proposed legislation.

Elizabeth Kunzelman, the company’s vice president for legislative and public affairs, wrote in one letter that Petland franchisees had signed a lease agreement in Louisville and that a ban would force the planned store to close.

Kunzelman argued it would be impossible for the company to compete against major national retailers if it couldn’t sell dogs and cats. She also said its stores worked with responsible USDA-licensed breeders and not puppy mills.

Animal welfare activists have claimed that current USDA regulations are too loose and not enforced enough.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.

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