Society

Pet Shop in Delray Beach, Florida, Fights Back Against Puppy-Mill Pet Ban

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

At the urging of animal advocates, Delray Beach officials are considering an ordinance that would stop dogs from puppy mills being sold in the city. However, any such rule may have an unintended effect that is opposed by many local residents, according to the Sun-Sentinel. It could hurt the iconic Waggs to Riches—the city’s only dog/puppy store.

The controversial puppy-mill ban, which is the hottest new movement in animal rights, was discussed at Delray City Hall Tuesday night, with both elected officials and residents expressing conflicting emotions. They agreed puppy mills are horrible, but many also expressed the belief that having a pet boutique in the downtown area of the business district adds positive vibes and value.

"I have a problem with penalizing a business that has been here for the period it has," said Mayor Cary Glickstein, stating that Waggs to Riches has “become part of the Delray Beach downtown community."

Dozens of residents shared stories of how purchases from the store, which has called downtown home for eight years, changed their lives, the Sun-Sentinel reports. "We have bought two puppies from Waggs to Riches, and we have had nothing but fantastic things from both puppies," said resident Michael Gooch.

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Some shoppers say an onslaught of health problems begins after a while, leading them to believe their new pets came from puppy mills, reports the Sun-Sentinel.

People pop in to pet the tiny designer dogs and often end up shelling out thousands to take them home. But most pet stores that sell puppies admit that the real business benefit from the presence of puppies is the sale of glitzy items that adorn them or make live comfortable for beloved pets. The Sun-Sentinel found that many who just come in to pet the pups pick up custom accessories, stock up on rhinestone collars and leashes and discover they can’t do without a designer doggy stroller.

The city commissioners finally agreed to consider creating a law banning the retail sale of puppy mill-pets, but they still don't want to see the city's only puppy store's sales suffer--especially since it has not been a source of complaints. So they decided they will look at other bans; such as one recently passed in nearby Parkland.

They also want to consider what practices Waggs to Riches follows when making its puppy purchases. If the shop complies with rules set by various agencies that monitor the sale of animals, several commissioners said they would consider grandfathering the store into any rules passed.

LEGAL ISSUES INTERFERE WITH IDEALISM

Although the city has not changed any business rules, all the negative talk about the store has thrown the moral battle into the legal arena . Waggs to Riches’ owner Kim Curler has filed a lawsuit against Delray residents Mindy Farber and Stacy Aberle, who are animal activists, and Commissioner Petrolia, who has publicly supported passage of a ban . Kurler’s complaint contends their comments on social media and protests outside her shop have caused sales to plummet and she is seeking damages for libel.

The complaint says Curler sells "vaccinated, micro-chipped, hand-selected" animals from licensed breeders. But Farber and Aberle counter that Curler has purchased dogs from puppy mills. They refer to Palm Beach Animal Care & Control records, which contain required reporting information by Curler about the source of the animals she sells. Farber said three of the breeders from which Curler reported purchasing dogs are on The Humane Society's national, 'Horrible 100' list. These are puppy-mill breeders that violate U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections.

From a legal perspective, whether the shop sells dogs from so-called "puppy mills" is a moot point, reports the Sentinel, because Delray currently doesn't have rules against doing so.

The viability of the lawsuit is still being determined. The defendants have filed to have the suit dismissed, saying they haven't slandered the business.

LOS ANGELES, SAN DIEGO PUPPY-MILL PET BANS – THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

The City of Los Angeles passed a mill-bred puppy ban for pet shops in November 2012, effective July 1, 2013, touted as an example of overwhelming success in stopping the sale of puppy-mill puppies. But the General Manager of the Animal Services Department admits publicly that there has thus far been no real enforcement of the ban. It appears that pet stores are basically ignoring it. Activists confirm that pet shop owners now claim they are” not selling” but are “adopting” puppies to the public for a price.

California legislators developed very strict and detailed State laws governing pet shops; however, with passage of bans, many stores have subsequently opted out of obtaining pet shop permits and claim to have merely become pet-supply outlets, officials report.

Activists are also now lamenting the predictable fact that anyone wishing to buy a purebred puppy can merely order it over the Internet, and many of those puppy brokers work directly with puppy mills or backyard breeders. Tragically, sales over the Internet are unregulated; thus the animals do not have the protection of the recordkeeping/reporting and inspection that is required of pet shops under the States’ jurisdiction.

The only pet store that sold puppies in the city of San Diego closed his doors and moved to the adjacent city which does not have a ban and is close enough to attract San Diego city residents. Owner David Salinas has filed a federal lawsuit against San Diego and animal activists involved in picketing his store and making accusations about the condition of the animals. He is also alleging violations of his Constitutional rights.

Read also: San Diego Pet Shop Sues City and Animal Activists Over Ban on Puppy Sales

Source: Sun Sentinel