In a big victory for animals, the City of San Antonio voted to prohibit the sale in pet stores of animals from "puppy mills," aka commercially raised puppies and kittens from breeders.
As of January 1, 2021, pet stores in San Antonio will be able to sell cats and dogs only obtained from shelters, animal rescue groups, or animal control agencies.
Four stores in San Antonio will be impacted, including three independent stores and one Petland, which is the only national chain in the U.S. that continues this practice.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the battle in San Antonio was "especially hard-fought." As is frequently the case with animal legislation in Texas, Petland and other pet stores hired lobbyists to oppose it. Most of the public comments in opposition were from out of state.
Nine city council members voted to pass the ordinance, and one was opposed.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg spoke in favor, saying that his family owned dogs that were previously abused by puppy mill breeders. "I have, for the last six years, been waiting for this," he said.
Others testifying in favor included an ex-employee of the Petland store in San Antonio, who described many sick puppies she saw while working there — consistent with what investigators from HSUS found during undercover investigations of Petland stores in eight locations across the country.
Puppy mills breed more than two million puppies every year. A USDA-licensed commercial dog breeder is legally allowed to keep a dog in a small cage for years. The cage only has to be six inches longer than the dog's body. She can be bred every heat cycle and then killed when she is no longer able to have puppies.
Puppies from puppy mills are transported long distances from states such as Pennsylvania while babies still have immature immune systems. According to the HSUS, San Antonio residents have filed dozens of online complaints about buying puppy-mill animals who were sick with kennel cough, giardia, parvovirus, and congenital problems.
San Antonio's Animal Care Services surveyed residents earlier in the year on how they felt about prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores and found that between 60 and 70 percent of those surveyed were in support.
More than 370 localities and three states have already legislated similar bans, including five municipalities in Texas.
The council also approved an amendment to speed up implementation of the ban from July 2021 to January 2021.
According to HSUS, Polly's Pets, a store in Universal City, converted from selling commercially raised puppies to adopting dogs and cats from San Antonio's ACS, a partnership that has saved more than 1,000 lives.
San Antonio's Animal Care Services currently takes in around 1,000 dogs each month.
San Antonio's ban won't affect stores outside the city, nor private sales, but a statement from HSUS says that the longterm goal is to gradually make puppy mills and commercial breeding a less viable industry.
"We are seeing terrific momentum in the fight against puppy mills because consumers are increasingly growing aware of the terrible conditions these operations keep their animals in, profiting off them while denying them the most basic care," their statement says.