Animal Welfare

'It's Traumatizing': Dallas Could Soon Ban Puppy Sales in Pet Stores

Animal advocates say puppies will be protected by a proposed ordinance.
Animal advocates say puppies will be protected by a proposed ordinance. Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash
When Bill Allen first met the puppy, he knew something was wrong.

“The poor little dog never had a chance,” the 71-year-old Richardson resident said.

Allen said his son, a disabled veteran, had purchased a cane corso from Dallas’ Petland and named him Blue. But to Allen, the puppy looked emaciated, so his son took him to see the family veterinarian.

Soon, Blue started suffering from seizures and was subjected to various treatments, Allen said. After only having him for just over three weeks, they made the terrible decision to put Blue down.

“It’ll bring a tear to your eye,” Allen said. “Matter of fact, it’s hard not to be emotional when you talk about it, you know? … It’s traumatizing.”

Last week, Dallas got one step closer to prohibiting puppy and kitten sales in pet stores, a move that advocates say would protect puppies and consumers alike. But some pet store owners say it could also spell the end for their business.

The proposed ordinance would prevent the transport of hundreds of sick pets from out-of-state puppy mills, said Shelby Bobosky, executive director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network (THLN). Switching to a humane pet store model would mean that puppies and kittens can only be adopted from stores, rather than sold.

In some cases, these animals are carted more than a thousand miles without proper air conditioning and heat, according to a presentation that Bobosky helped to deliver on Monday in front of the Quality of Life, Arts and Culture Committee. There have also been reports of feces- and urine-filled cages and dehydrated, sick or even dead puppies.

The ordinance "takes the cruelty of the puppy mills out of the equation, and it stops the puppy-mill pipeline to Dallas," she told the Observer.

During the 13 years that Dallas’ Petland has been open, it’s helped connect thousands of kittens and puppies with loving families, a Petland spokesperson said by email. The cases of puppies becoming sick are “very, very rare,” and the store only works with breeders who are held to a high standard.

"It’s traumatizing." – Bill Allen

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Petland supports the goal of eliminating puppy mills, the spokesperson continued. Still, the proposed ordinance “will not accomplish its stated goal of putting puppy mills out of business, but it will put one honest, upstanding Dallas small business out of business.”

Bobosky notes that out of 33 Dallas pet stores, only Petland is selling puppies and kittens.

Plus, pet stores don’t have to sell puppies to make a profit, said Lauren Loney, Texas state director for the Humane Society of the United States. On Monday, she told the council committee that only one of the top 25 pet retailers across the North American continent still offers puppies for sale.

Nine Texas cities have also passed similar ordinances, including Fort Worth, The Colony and San Antonio, among others.

“It’s clear that industry best practices and acceptable standards have shifted away from this inhumane and deceptive business practice,” Loney said, “and that this ordinance would serve to bring puppy-selling pet stores in line with the dozens of other Dallas pet stores that already don’t sell puppies.”

Certain customers may be able to buy the dog outright, but others wind up getting stuck in a loan, Bobosky added. They may think they’re signing up to pay a certain amount each month, but hidden fees and high interest rates could skyrocket the total.

On top of protecting dogs, the proposed ordinance would save customers from getting locked into a deceptive financial commitment, Bobosky said. As a Dallas attorney, she’s represented consumers who have signed confusing pet-store contracts with Petland.

Bobosky knows of others who bought a puppy from Petland, only to have it get sick. Then, they’re left paying off their loan on top of sky-high veterinarian costs.

Allen said his son had signed a complex contract to buy Blue. It took more than a month of “back and forth” with Petland before the family was able to get some money back, but the store’s attorney had Allen’s wife and son sign a non-disclosure agreement, he said.

Petland also refused to cover the $2,000 they’d racked up in veterinary costs, Allen added.

Sometime after Blue’s death, Allen and his wife bought their son a cane corso from a responsible breeder, he said. Even though they were the same age, the new dog was around three times the size and twice the weight of Blue.

People pay tons of money on these cute puppies and quickly form a bond with them, Allen added. He hopes the city will pass the ordinance to help make puppy mills — where he suspects Blue was born — a thing of the past.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter