“Don’t Let Clark County Take Away Nevada’s Puppies!” implores the online request posted by a pet store called the Puppy Palace, in response to a proposed ordinance to ban the sale of dogs, cats, pot-bellied pigs, and rabbits from pet stores. In fact, the proposed ban would apply only to pet stores in unincorporated Clark County, and not to the Puppy Palace in Henderson, at least for now.
More than four hundred communities across the nation have ended the “puppy mill to pet store pipeline,” according to the Humane Society of the United States, by banning pet stores from selling the animals. Puppy mills have been found to keep puppies and their parents in filthy conditions. Some dogs are forced to breed for as long as a decade, animal activists say.
Mesquite and North Las Vegas passed bans on pet store sales in 2016. Reno set out to enact a moratorium on new pet store sales in 2020, but passed a ban instead. Six states (California, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Washington, and New York) have enacted bans on pet store sales of the animals. Others are considering similar moves.
“We have been discovering dogs tied to posts and fences on a daily basis – with their toys and food left in a box next to them,” says Annoula Wylderich, founder of Animal Protection Affiliates, adding that pet overpopulation is a “huge issue countrywide . Las Vegas is especially challenging due to eviction-related issues and the transitory nature of our residents.”
The Animal Foundation of Las Vegas takes in approximately 30,000 animals a year. About ten percent of the roughly 10,000 unclaimed dogs received by the AF in 2020 and 2021 were euthanized. The figures are slightly higher for cats, who are less frequently claimed by their owners.
“Are these dogs we sell?” Trevor Duggan, owner of Puppy World in Las Vegas, asked during a commission meeting Tuesday. “Are we the problem?”
Some municipalities require pet stores or breeders to be listed on microchip information. The City of Las Vegas has an ordinance requiring the breeder or seller to be named in the microchip record.
Jeff Dixon, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, says 12 puppy-selling stores in unincorporated Clark County would be affected by the ordinance, and would be encouraged to focus on sales of pet products and services.
Last year, an Iowa puppy mill that was shut down by authorities for filthy and dangerous conditions had sold 20 dogs to Puppy Town in Las Vegas.
Kayleen Olsen says the store, which has been under new ownership since last year, now reviews USDA records of all animals it receives.
“I think it will hurt a lot of small businesses because a lot of these are family-owned,” she says of the ban, adding Puppy Town relies on puppy sales to stay open. “I can only speak for our store and say that we actually do care about our puppies and we actually do our research on these breeders that we buy from around the nation.”
National breeders can set up shop as close as our own backyard.
In April, Nye County animal control officials seized two dozen rare caucasian shepherds from an established breeder in Pahrump, according to KTNV. A rescue organization that assisted with saving the animals is sending some of the allegedly malnourished dogs to adopted homes.
Commissioner Michael Naft, who proposed the ban on pet store sales, agreed to meet with pet store owners, shelter officials and rescues to discuss possible mitigations.
Opponents of a ban say puppies or chosen breeds will be in short supply through rescues and shelters.
“In the last year, we’ve had two pugs under one year-old come through the Animal Foundation,” says Kelsey Pizzi, the non-profit’s Communications manager.
“There are plenty of puppies out there, due to backyard breeders and irresponsible pet owners who don’t neutralize their pets,” says Wylderich, adding there are more than 100 rescues in Las Vegas, many of them specializing in specific breeds.
Wylderich is currently fostering a Havanese, a breed sold for thousands of dollars in pet stores.
“When we say ‘adopt, don’t shop,’ that tagline is to encourage people to look at breed-specific rescues, which there are many for virtually any kind of breed,” says Dixon, adding petfinder and The Shelter Pet Project have an array of adoptable pets, “in all sizes, temperaments, and levels of energy.”
“Hobby breeders who sell directly to individuals and don’t use a third party are not touched by this ordinance,” says Dixon. “We actually prefer those breeders to the pet stores because the conditions, by and large, are far more humane. We understand there’s always going to be breeding, especially for service animals.”
“In addition to alleviating the homeless pet population and the burden on shelters and rescues, this also impacts taxpayers who fund animal control,” Wylderich says.
In 2018, Clark County considered but abandoned to a similar measure. Activists are tweaking their approach this time around.
“We are referring to it as a Humane Pet Store Ordinance,” Wyderich said, hoping it sounds more appealing to lawmakers than a ban. “Though it’s the same.”