Colorado Springs City Council considers ordinance to ban dogs from ‘puppy mills’

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UPDATE: During the Colorado Springs City Council vote on Tuesday, Nov. 9, the ordinance did not pass, and was voted down 5-4.

To watch the proceedings, please click here for part one. Please click here for part two.

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Springs City Council vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would mandate pet stores in the city to source their dogs and cats from nonprofit animal rescues and public animal control shelters.

If passed, the ordinance would mean banning the sale of animals from breeders and puppy mills.

“The concern is that some of the animals that are being brought in today, maybe, from what is known as puppy mills,” City Council President Tom Strand said.

Puppy mills are breeding facilities that operate in conditions that are considered inhumane. Sometimes animals are bred several times per year.

Strand does not believe this ordinance would result in a shortage of dogs in the city, saying there are pure-bred specific rescues and numerous dogs in rescues and shelters.

“I think the supply will be there, I think the demand needs to be there. I think a lot of dogs don’t survive because people don’t adopt them,” Strand said. “I believe this ordinance that we’re going to propose is one that will protect animals.”

Two pet stores in Colorado Springs–Pet City at Chapel Hills Mall and Pet City at the Citadel Mall–oppose the measure, claiming it will put them out of business.

Strand says it has been a three-year process to work with the owners of the stores, but he “hasn’t seen a lot of change.”

The owners are hoping for more conversation.

“Working on transparency and reasonable restrictions for the pet stores as opposed to an outright ban,” Dustin Haworth, owner of the Pet City at Chapel Hills, said is what he hopes will happen.

Bree Maestas owns and operates the Pet City and the Citadel. The two say breeders provide all their animals, and they did a video tour with Strand at one of their breeder facilities in another state earlier this year.

Maestas worries about the profitability of taking in dogs from rescues and shelters, in part because she says her facility is not designed for dogs larger than puppies, and she doesn’t feel comfortable working with dogs with behavioral issues. It’s not clear that those would be the animals transferred to the stores.

“I don’t know that I morally agree with obtaining my animals from unknown places and unknown backgrounds. Let the humane society specialize in that, that’s what they do,” she said.

Maestas and Haworth say that a better solution would be to require breeders to adhere to certain standards, specifically the Canine Care Standards from Purdue University.

Canine Care is a voluntary certification program for breeders that include random check-ins on facilities to ensure compliance.

Haworth admits that not all of the breeders he works with adhere to those standards, but he thinks pet stores have pull over facilities regarding standards of care.

“We are large customers for the breeders, so we can hold them to more standards than an individual may be able to,” he said.

One element of this debate stemmed from a question over whether the Colorado General Assembly would pass a bill to address breeder standards, among other things.

Instead, what passed was a bill requiring pet stores to list prices and information on the breeders who provide their animals.

“In my opinion, this three-page act does little or nothing to protect animals,” Strand said.

The City Council will vote on the ordinance on Tuesday, Nov. 9. Dozens of people are signed up to comment.

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