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Encinitas bans ‘puppy mill’ sales

A spayed female pit bull up for adoption at the San Diego Humane Society. Those against “puppy mills” encourage adoption at places like the Humane Society.
A spayed female pit bull up for adoption at the San Diego Humane Society. Those against “puppy mills” encourage adoption at places like the Humane Society.
( / San Diego Union Tribune file photo)

Encinitas joined a list of more than 80 cities banning the sale of commercially bred pets — known to critics as “puppy mills.”

The city doesn’t have any stores that sell commercially bred pets. But the Encinitas City Council on June 24 unanimously approved an ordinance with the goal of stopping so-called puppy mills from setting up shop.

“I think it’s much better to pass it preemptively,” Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said.

The cities that have passed puppy mill ordinances prior to having such stores haven’t faced legal challenges, Blakespear stated.

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The ordinance prohibits the retail sale of dogs and cats, except if they’re from an animal shelter or nonprofit humane society. But the legislation exempts breeders who sell dogs and cats at the location where the animal was born and reared.

Supporters of the ban packed council chambers, saying pets and dogs from puppy mills are often treated poorly and kept in cramped cages.

Leslie Davies said animals trucked to pet stores across San Diego County come from puppy mills as far as 2,000 miles away. They’re not properly cared for during the journey, she added.

Dale Bartlett from the Humane Society of the United States said the pet industry is taking notice of cities’ anti-puppy mill ordinances, and that’s going to improve how dogs are treated and acquired.

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Greg LaFave, the sole speaker against the ban, said puppy mills are a problem, yet added an ordinance isn’t necessary.

“There is a reason Encinitas doesn’t have a puppy mill ordinance,” LaFave said. “It’s because the problem is not here.”

Councilmembers said they received hundreds of emails asking them to adopt the ban.

Councilman Tony Kranz, who initiated the agenda item, urged the public speakers to also advocate for anti-puppy mill legislation at the state and federal level. He noted that former state Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 vetoed AB 241, which was aimed at curbing puppy mills.

AB 241 would have forbid individuals or businesses in the pet breeding market from owning more than 50 unsterilized dogs and cats.

Schwarzenegger said the legislation was an arbitrary cap and could penalize reputable breeders.

Mayor Kristin Gaspar said she typically favors education over bans, though not in this case. She added education alone won’t change the puppy mill business model.

Encinitas city staff recommended that the council wait to pass the ordinance until lawsuits challenging anti-puppy mill legislation are resolved.

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Notably, a store called Puppies ’N Love filed a federal lawsuit after Phoenix, Ariz. prohibited the sale of commercially bred cats and dogs, according to the staff report. Although in Arizona, a ruling could be binding locally, since Encinitas is in the Ninth Circuit court’s jurisdiction.

Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said the risk of the Arizona lawsuit is negligible.

“Whenever the court rules, however they rule, we will take their ruling into consideration,” Shaffer said. “If we have to make adjustments to our ordinance we can consider what adjustments have to be made at that time.”

Encinitas’ ban follows similar legislation in Oceanside, Chula Vista and the city of San Diego.

Four Encinitas businesses offer rescue dogs and cats for adoption: Petco, PetSmart, Pet Haus and Rancho Coastal Humane Society.

The vote in favor of the ordinance was 4-0. Councilman Mark Muir was absent from the meeting.

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