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Ducey signs ‘puppy mill’ bill over objections of pet advocates

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Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Thursday to kill the ability of cities to keep pet stores from selling commercially bred animals.

The new law that takes effect on Aug. 6 most immediately voids existing regulations in Phoenix and Tempe which allows pet stores to sell only rescue and shelter dogs and cats. Those laws are designed at  least in part to reduce the number of shelter animals that have to be destroyed.

But it also smothers an ordinance already adopted in Tucson that had been placed on hold awaiting a federal appellate court decision on the rights of cities to enact such rules. Ducey, with his signature, makes the outcome of that case legally irrelevant — and the Tucson measure permanently unenforceable.

While overriding local regulation, the measure does have some concessions for animal rights activists. That includes requiring pet stores to ensure they are obtaining their dogs and cats only from breeders who comply with standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, who opposed the deal, said those standards allow breeding animals to be kept in cages round the clock that are only six inches larger than the dog or cat itself. Those cages also can be stacked three high, he said, and need be cleaned only once a week.

Tucson councilman Steve Kozachik was more blunt, calling the standards “an absolute farce,” blasting the legislature — and the governor — for relying on that agency to ensure humane treatment of animals.

“The USDA is in business to inspect meat in Safeway, not to protect the welfare of dogs in stores,” he said. “The governor needs to understand that by signing this bill he’s embracing ‘puppy mill’ standards that the USDA has admitted in its own documents that they are unable to enforce.”

Ducey, clearly defensive about his position, issued a letter citing his own dog ownership.

“Animal welfare is an issue that is close to my heart and of great personal importance,” the governor wrote. “Animal cruelty is disgusting and morally reprehensible.”

But Ducey said he agreed to sign the legislation because it imposes new penalties on pet store owners who do not take steps to ensure that their animals are from breeders that the USDA considers acceptable. Anyway, the governor said, he sees no purpose in telling legitimate pet store owners that they can sell only animals that came from shelters or were rescued.

“Shutting down the good guys will do nothing to stop the bad actors,” Ducey wrote. “Rather, it will open the doors for more puppy sales through unregulated sources, where abuse and inhumane conditions are more likely.”

Kozachik also had harsh words for the Humane Society of the United States which agreed not to oppose the measure.

“It’s an absolute sellout,” he said.

But Kellye Pinkleton, the organization’s state director, said that decision simply reflected the political reality that there were the votes to override local ordinances. That left her group to negotiate the best deal it could.

“Disclosure was a big thing to us so that consumers could know what breeder the dog was coming from so they can look up that breeder,” she said.

The new law requires dealers to put information on each pet’s cage and in any marketing materials about the name of the breeder, the USDA license number and the federal web site where would-be buyers can look up information about that breeder, including disciplinary action.

It also spells out that cities and counties can go after pet stores who sells a dog or cat that they knowingly or should have known came from an unlicensed breeder or a breeder with multiple violations of USDA regulations.

A first-time offense carries a maximum $1,000 penalty, with a $2,500 cap for a second within five years. And any store with three violations within that five years can be not only fined $5,000 but can be prohibited from selling anything but rescue and shelter dogs for up to three years.

But there is as defense: A pet store can argue that it conducted a search of USDA inspection reports and did not find violations.

Farley, however, said there was no reason for the Humane Society to cave.

He conceded Pinkelton’s point that there may not have been the votes in the House or Senate to block legislation preempting local ordinances. But Farley, using Ducey’s own words, said that’s where the governor should have stepped in and used his constitutional power to veto the measure.

“If you actually do believe that animal cruelty is ‘disgusting and morally reprehensible,’ you can take it upon yourself as one man to stop it,” Farley said. “And he decided not to do that.”

Pinkleton did not disagree that the USDA standards are, from her perspective, minimal. But she said her organization is working with other groups to tighten them up.

As to that veto request, Farley acknowledged that Ducey has signed every bill sent to him this session to preempt local options, including voiding laws limiting use of plastic bags, regulating short-term vacation rentals and requiring employers to offer paid sick leave. But the senator said this is different.

“To do local preemption to allow people to mistreat animals, that’s just a whole ‘nother level of reprehensibility,” he said.

To buttress his credibility, Ducey cited his decision last year to veto legislation that would have weakened protections for animals. And he pointed out that he signed measures this year to protect a herd of wild horses along the Salt River and to end greyhound racing.

He even posted a picture of his own dog, Woody, on Twitter, calling him “a member of the family.”

Pinkleton, defending her group’s decision not to seek a veto, said the new law does contain something else that may help save animals in the long run: a committee to study the breeding of pets by licensed and unlicensed breeders in Arizona and elsewhere. That panel is also supposed to study regulations from other states and look for options to encourage neutering and adoption of animals and “healthy breeding of dogs and cats.”

13 comments

  1. Gov. Ducky also signed the bill to ban live dog racing, a longtime wish of the humane community.

  2. Ooops! Should be Ducey. Ducky is the medical examiner on NCIS. My big fingers are to blame for this mispellinh. Damn, did it again!

  3. Obviously Governor Ducey has never visited a USDA inspected commercial puppy breeding facility. They are all puppy mills and usually have hundreds of dogs that are living in deplorable conditions. Why does he think the City of Phoenix went to all that trouble to pass a law protecting the public, the puppies and the dogs left behind with the commercial breeders? It’s a sad day for dogs and puppies all over this country. The Governor is misinformed and has done great damage.

  4. This governor has lost my vote!!! Our animals deserve better! He is a heartless, cold man!

  5. Maybe the Gov is getting kickbacks from these sales?
    He obviously didn’t visit a facility to gain first-hand knowledge.

  6. Thank you Govenor Ducey for seeing past the all the unfortunate misinformation that has been cycled throughout the country! Shutting down pet stores do not offer any protection to the public at all. Mass importation of dogs being trucked/flown in from out of state and country (in order to keep up with demand) offers no regulations on the health and well being of these puppies. Shutting down these federally and state licensed and regulated American small businesses only creates a monopoly for every type of retail rescue to flourish unchecked…at the expense of the puppies and the people.

  7. Best Friends (not) Animal Society teamed up with the AKC to protect their income source. The AKC makes most of its money from puppy mill registrations, mostly through puppies that go through the pet stores. They also have a microchip program that works hand in glove with the puppy mill registration program. The AKC would go broke if it lost any degree of puppy mill registrations, and they support the most heinous abuse imaginable to keep that money flow coming in to pay for those expensive dogs shows.

    Best Friends Animal Society unfortunately now represents the financial interests of the AKC and its uppy mill allies.

  8. The USDA works with the puppy mill operators. There are few regulations, failures usually go unnnoticed and undocumented, punishments are few and weak, and USDA workers have long been public about allowing the worst animal cruelty and helping puppy mill owners stay in business and keep abusing animals and defrauding customers with sick and genetically defective dogs.

    USDA regulations actually SUPPORT dog abuse.

  9. Arizona republicans complain about the federal government micromanaging the state, but they turn around and do the same to cities and counties in Arizona. They are nothing but hypocrites.

  10. Shame, shame, shame on Ducey. He obviously has never seen a dog that has been the victim of a puppy mill. He’s never had to pick ticks and fleas from these animals or try to hold a dog from one these places or try to get one of these dogs adopted into a Forever home.
    I voted for him but he just lost any future votes from me. He disgusts me.

  11. Why was this not on every news station??? I do not think people know about this! I didn’t until just now. Shame on Ducey!

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