Oregon might ban pet stores from selling dogs from breeders

(Tristan Fortsch/KATU News on Jan. 21, 2018)

SALEM, Ore. — A bill under consideration in the Legislature would prohibit Oregon pet stores from selling dogs purchased from breeders.

If passed, House Bill 4045 would required pet stores source their dogs from animal shelters, dog control districts, a humane society, or rescue organizations. Pet stores would also need to post signs on the dog's enclosure indicating where exactly that dog came from.

State Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, says the bill would hinder puppy mills while helping dogs that languish in shelters. California passed a similar bill that takes effect next year.

Pet stores could be fined $500 if they break the proposed rules.

"We at the Oregon Human Society think that's a good thing because it is another avenue for homeless pets to find a home," said Laura Klink, a spokesperson for OHS.

Klink says several retail stores already partner with a rescue group or shelter, voluntarily. She says pet owners have come to expect that from pet stores.

While the bill would help shelter dogs, Gomberg says it is also good public policy because those facilities are non-profits or tax-supported and cost a lot of money.

"We want the public to know where their pets are coming from. If you've made the decision to go to a breeder, say you have your heart set on a specific breed, we want that relationshiop with the breeder to be direct, not necessarily have that middle man," Klink said.

Several other states are considering a similar bill.

Gomberg does not expect HB 4045 to pass during the short session, but hopes the conversation will continue into the next legislative session.

If the bill passes, Klink says they hope to iron out the details to make sure it works as planned. She also said the humane society hopes to get cats included in the final bill.

Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, is against pet sale bans like this. He says they are well-intentioned, but bad policy.

"Pet sale bans address a topic we all agree is an important one. When animals are raised in inhumane conditions, that is a situation that needs to be addressed," Bober said. "But pet sale bans don't actually do anything to target the illegal operators who treat animals poorly. What they do is penalize responsible small business owners who operate pet stores in oregon and puts them in a position to where they have no way to survive."

Bober says a bill like this will have little impact, especially considering pet stores only account for about four percent of dogs acquired every year. The numbers are likely even lower in Oregon where shelters are popular.

Animal House Pet Shop in Oregon City is one of a few pet stores in the Portland-area that sells puppies. Dave Miller has owned it with his brother for 36 years.

"First of all, if this passes we're going to limit where you can go to get a puppy," Miller said.

He says if you can't get a puppy from a pet store, customers would likely need to look for a breeder which he says is often more expensive. Miller says shelters often don't have puppies, but older dogs instead.

"What I can see is the price of puppies are going to continue to increase where a family can't afford it anymore," Miller said.

Like Bober, Miller doesn't think HB 4045 would do much to solve the problem with puppy mills. If those dogs aren't sold in a pet store, Miller says they will go somewhere else.

"They're going to go to the shelters. The puppy mills are still going to be in business, depending on how they choose to sell their dogs," Miller said.

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