First published on April 3, 2016, 10:27 p.m. MST, at http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2016/04/04/puppy-mill-sb1248/82532418/

Republished with permission.

My Turn: No one wants inhumane breeders to flourish. But puppy mill ordinances have unintended consequences that make matters worse.

Animal welfare is a philosophy that promotes stewardship of species and individual animals. Many of us practice this philosophy day in and day out while engaging others for the cause. Pet owners, breeders, veterinarians, pet store owners, and even Arizona’s elected officials all share one thing in common: we all want to provide humane treatment for animals.

However, when public officials consider legislation or ordinances aimed at addressing animal-welfare problems, they need complete and balanced information about the issues involved to create effective laws. Far too often, what looks good on paper creates harmful unintended consequences and far-reaching repercussions.

Pet-store bans won’t stop bad breeders

So it is with pet-store bans, the current legislative cure-all being offered to eliminate “puppy mills.” Eliminating inhumane breeders is a worthy goal everyone can embrace.

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The problem is, a retail pet-store ban will have no effect on the bad breeders it is trying to eradicate. Instead of eliminating them, it will drive them to Craigslist, the Internet, parking lot and flea market sales, and to retail rescues, outlets where animal care is unregulated and consumers will receive no health warranty.

History has amply demonstrated that banning anything the public wants only creates new unregulated channels of commerce.

In the same way that Prohibition created speakeasies and backwoods stills, banning pet stores will make matters worse. That is why the city council of Carlsbad, Calif., repealed its pet-retail ban a month after the law’s implementation, realizing that unscrupulous actors are the problem, not pet stores.

A better idea: Improve standards of care

Instead of passing outright bans, lawmakers need to target the unacceptable practices directly by enacting laws that require higher standards of care and increased transparency. Those who violate such laws need to be held accountable for their negligence.

Fortunately, the Arizona state Legislature is responsibly and constructively addressing these ordinances banning pet sales, which are often based on incomplete or biased information and without a thorough consideration of potential consequences.

Senate Bill 1248, which is being considered by the Legislature, would improve animal welfare by bolstering the pet industry’s standards, strengthening disclosure, and prohibiting sweeping pet-sale bans in cities.

This legislation will ensure that pet stores acquire their animals only from accountable breeders who comply with all U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. In addition, prospective buyers will be provided with the name and license number of the breeder, allowing them to see the conditions where these animals lived prior to acquisition.

Simply put, SB 1248 is a step in the right direction and its provisions will further efforts to improve animal well-being. Additionally, it will provide Arizonans more assurance when looking for a new family dog.

The National Animal Interest Alliance urges Arizona voters to contact their legislators in support of SB 1248. The alliance applauds Reps. Brenda Barton, Warren Petersen and Bob Thorpe, as well as Sens. John Kavanagh and Don Shooter for their work on this important issue.

By working together to create balanced and effective solutions, we can protect the animals we love and the citizens of Arizona.

Patti Strand is the president of the National Animal Interest Alliance, an animal-welfare organization that advocates for raising standards of animal care and treatment.​ Email her at naia@naiaonline.org.
Patti Strand is the president of the National Animal Interest Alliance, an animal-welfare organization that advocates for raising standards of animal care and treatment.​ Email her at naia@naiaonline.org.