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Split Las Vegas City Council votes to repeal pet store ban

Updated November 15, 2017 - 10:34 pm

A split Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday repealed a ban on that would have kept local pet stores from selling animals they didn’t obtain from animal care facilities or rescue organizations.

The repeal came with assurances from city officials that they will work on new restrictions to crack down on inhumane breeders. The 4-3 vote followed hours of comments from passionate public speakers, where those who wanted to keep the ban in place doubled the number of those who wanted it tossed.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who favored the repeal, wants to convene a committee to look at stamping out “puppy mills” — large-scale and inhumane commercial breeding operations.

“We are opposed to puppy mills. Everything they are. This will not affect puppy mills,” Goodman said of the ban. “They’re going to continue to be there.”

Councilmen Steve Seroka and Ricki Barlow and Councilwoman Michele Fiore joined Goodman in voting to repeal the ban, which was slated to take effect Jan. 6.

Pro-repeal speakers pushed for the council to overturn the ban to maintain a choice in animals for city residents. Pet shop owners said it would force them out of business.

Petland in Boca Park and Puppy Boutique in northwest Las Vegas would have been affected by a city ban, which the council approved in 2016, coupled with a two-year delay before it took effect.

“This is not the solution to end substandard breeding facilities, nor will it decrease the number of dogs we have at the shelter,” Puppy Boutique Manager Kathleen Vinluan said.

Council members openly struggled with wanting to stop the pipeline of dogs from Midwestern puppy mills to Las Vegas pet shops while not wanting those stores to close.

Owners of the two Las Vegas stores contend they don’t source their animals from puppy mills, so banning the sale of non-rescue animals wouldn’t curb the underlying issue of inhumane breeding practices.

Repeal opponents urged the council to keep the ban because it can begin to put a dent in the puppy mill business, and there are many unclaimed dogs in shelters in the valley.

Animal Control Supervisor Cynthia Leavitt said there have been complaints about both stores, but subsequent investigations showed the complaints about Petland were “unfounded.”

No specific number of complaints about the stores was provided.

Animal Control has asked Puppy Boutique managers to move an animal to a larger cage or to a different area of the store because they appeared sick, so they weren’t out for public display. The managers complied with the requests, Leavitt said.

Neither shop was issued citations, Leavitt said.

Las Vegas resident Sarika Goode said she visited both local pet shops this month. Using the breeder documentation for specific puppies, she traced them back to out-of-state breeders that have been slapped with violations for not providing dogs with adequate veterinary care or bedding, in some cases.

“They may say that they get all of their puppies from reputable breeders, but it’s just not true,” Goode said. “They’re coming from puppy mills.”

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani sponsored a county ordinance that would have had the same effect as the city’s non-rescue ban, but county commissioners put that measure on hold last month. Giunchigliani said this week she’s formed a work group with City Council members to come up with parallel ordinances in the county and city.

Council members heard from 34 speakers before they cast their votes Wednesday. Councilmen Stavros Anthony and Bob Coffin and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian voted to let the ban take effect in early 2018. All three also supported the ban when the council voted in 2016.

“These two businesses had plenty of time to make a change of some kind,” Coffin said. “I’d like to see this thing have a chance to work.”

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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