Memphis City Council considers proposal to ban retail pet sales

Proposed ordinance would ban sale of pets in retail stores in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis City Council is considering a proposal to ban the sale of pets at retail stores.

It comes as Petland, a national retail pet store chain, has plans to open shop on North Germantown Parkway.

Animal rights groups in Memphis are pushing to stop the store, and others like it, from being able to sell pets.

“The reason being is there’s a strong evidence base that these animals are coming from puppy mills,” said Alexis Pugh, director of Memphis Animal Services (MAS). “We also know that there are a lot of health concerns that have been presented with animals that are sold in these environments.”

MAS is pushing the city council to adopt an ordinance to ban retail stores from selling pets in Memphis.

Pugh says the ordinance doesn’t just pertain to Petland but any pet retailer with similar plans.

Pugh says no other pet stores in Memphis sell pets. Instead, she says the pet stores work with local animal shelters to help pets get adopted.

“While we encourage everyone and anyone who is interested in providing a loving home for a pet to do so, we think there’s wonderful alternatives to purchasing a pet at a retail location,” said Pugh. “What we don’t want to see is people go into a retail location and make an impulse purchase and then get stuck with exorbitant veterinary bills that they can’t afford.”

The Humane Society of the United States has done several investigations into Petland.

The group says it’s uncovered not only evidence of puppy mills but says it found dogs inside the stores that are very sick.

While many council members seemed to be on board with banning pet retail sales, calling it a “moral issue,” some expressed concerns about targeting a specific business and want to hear directly from Petland.

“I personally would like some additional information before I make this decision. I want to make sure it’s not aiming at a particular organization,” said council member Cheyenne Johnson. “Maybe give the company an opportunity to share what improvements they can possibly make. Maybe they can work with one of the local pet breeders and work out some time of arrangement.”

The proposal was sent out of the committee without a recommendation.

The council will hold the first reading of the proposal at its meeting next week. It takes three readings to become law.

Some have expressed concern that the $50 fine won’t go far enough in preventing Petland, or any retailer, from selling pets.

“We absolutely don’t think $50 is enough, but we are limited pursuant to the Tennessee constitution,” said Pugh. “The Tennessee constitution has a strict provision that prevents any municipality in the state of Tennessee from charging more than $50 for a fine.”

WMC Action News 5 reached out to Petland.

Elizabeth Kunzelman, the director of public affairs for Petland, sent the following statement:

“The franchisees have a very personal connection to Memphis as one of them grew up in Whitehaven and they have family in the area. They have always wanted to come back to the Memphis area. They are very excited to invest in the community by employing folks in and around the great city of Memphis and will take great care in becoming responsible stewards.

Certainly, as we have seen throughout this pandemic, the human-animal bond has been sought out in shelters and in pet stores. (see Washington Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/12/adoptions-dogs-coronavirus/).

Petland’s number one priority has always been the health and welfare of its pets. Each Petland store has a state-licensed consulting veterinarian who examines every puppy upon arrival and establishes a robust Program of Veterinary Care for the store. Petland does not buy from puppy mills, which are unregulated, unlicensed facilities. Our puppies come from three primary sources:

1. USDA licensed breeders and distributors with no Direct or Critical NCIs for the last two years and who have a veterinarian-documented socialization and exercise program and follow veterinarian protocols for skin, coat, nail and dental hygiene. They also cannot have specific Indirect NCIs on their latest inspection report (Section 2.40).

2. Hobby breeders as defined by the Animal Welfare Act, who raise their dogs in a humane manner.

3. Local adoption pets that are vet-checked.

Additionally, our franchisee, like most of our operators, visits breeders and sees firsthand how the puppies and the parents are raised and cared for.

Petland believes consumers have the right to choose where they find their family pet and we pride ourselves on being a responsible choice with full transparency. In our more than 50-year history, we have found that Petland pets rarely end up in a shelter and our store operators often provide strong incentives and discounts for spay/neuter procedures. Petland stores also are eager to work with local shelters and rescues to help with adoption events, coordinate fundraising efforts and donations, or provide discounts to families who adopt at local shelters.

Petland always strives to exceed our customers’ expectations and to provide as much transparency as possible. By doing so, we have been successful in defeating unfounded claims by activists and others. Our goal is to get better each day and if there is any part of our business we can improve, we will do it. We are proud of what we do, and we love to tell our story.

We look forward to serving the community of Memphis with family-friendly pets and pet supplies and we invite members of the community to visit us and see the difference.”

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