El Paso Votes to Regulate Pet Stores

Posted by Tom Linney, Animal Law Program Staff Attorney on October 12, 2010

A wave of loud cheers and clapping erupting inside El Paso City Hall on Tuesday, October 5, as El Paso, Texas joined the growing list of cities across the U.S. that have committed to reducing pet euthanasia rates and animal cruelty by regulating local pet stores. Animal advocates, concerned taxpayers, and representatives from the Animal Legal Defense Fund and local rescue/shelter groups had waited for more than eight hours to get the long awaited decision from city council.

In the last year alone, El Paso euthanized approximately 18,000 cats and dogs. Beyond animal welfare concerns, the cost to transport, care for, euthanize, and dispose of each cat or dog is roughly $50-70. That’s a cost to local taxpayers in upwards of $1.26 million. Concerned about the high rate of dog and cat euthanasia as well as the ways in which puppies and kittens are treated at puppy mills and kitten factories, the city had originally considered a total ban on pet stores. Unfortunately, that complete ban did not get put for a vote before council. But in a 6-1 vote, the city council agreed to put a limit on the amount a pet store could charge for a dog or cat under 1 year of age. These young animals can be sold or transferred only for a price or charge that is based on certain actual expenses incurred by the owners (such as the cost of food, vet services, and microchip and  registration fees). These expenses must be documented. Translation, pet stores can’t charge $1,500 for a dog under one year of age "just because." Equally important, the city also agreed to regulate irresponsible breeding, improve the permitting system for animal welfare organizations and breeders, create better accountability and reporting, increase enforcement and community outreach and education.

While the city could and should have gone much further in tackling this tremendous problem, the amended ordinance passed on Tuesday is a substantial improvement upon the current ordinance. ALDF’s legislative director Stephan Otto assisted in drafting and editing crucial parts of this ordinance and is doing so for other cities around the country.

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