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Purebred pups could become endangered species

In a world populated by pocket-sized pooches and pricey purebreds, at a time the fair-haired canines of the Westminster Kennel Club prance like the Kardashian sisters on national television, I remain a mutt man.

Perhaps this doesn’t surprise you.

I’ve always thought there was something vaguely un-American about purebred dogs and cats, but until now I never thought I’d find myself admitting that in public. I do so in the name of transparency as the Las Vegas City Council, at the request of dogged councilmen Bob Beers and Bob Coffin, prepares to consider outlawing the sale of purebred puppies and kitties at pet shops located within its jurisdiction.

Officially, the summary of Bill No. 2015-98 reads, “Prohibits pet shops from selling or disposing of dogs, cats or potbellied pigs other than those obtained from an animal shelter, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue organization.” It’s on Wednesday’s meeting agenda.

Acquiring a pet from the local animal shelter is a great idea, and I highly recommend it. You’ll get a warm and fuzzy feeling literally and metaphorically. In fact, most city pet shops already devote space for pound hounds.

But should it be mandatory?

Understandably, Jeffrey Fausett is no fan of the proposed ordinance. He owns Petland Las Vegas, a store at upscale Boca Park. Born in Ely, Fausett spent 30 years running various businesses, but is new to the pet trade and city politics. By his count, Petland derives 70 percent of its business from the 1,000 or so puppies it sells each year. Most of them are purebred, not the sort generally found at the pound.

“What just strikes me as a pet shop owner, we’re a very small component compared to the number of pets in the city,” Fausett says, adding that his store donates food to local shelters. “You can’t find the dogs we sell at an animal rescue. If people want a purebred, they’re not going to find one there.”

He has a point. Animal shelters are bursting with pit bulls and Chihuahuas, and I have it on good authority that it’s never wise to question a pit bull’s breeding.

From Fausett’s perspective, any talk of a “puppy mill” constitutes fighting words. He swears his puppies come from bonded breeders and are pampered and papered. His No. 1 seller is the Yorkshire terrier.

Given a chance to address the council, he’ll say, “I agree with you. I don’t want puppy mills. I don’t buy from puppy mills. I would like to help you write the language to that bill.”

But from the sound of things, Fausett’s voice may be a lone howl of protest. Beers says he’s the proud owner of a puppy mill castoff he saved from a death sentence six years ago. It’s a shelty named Shelby.

“I understand his concern,” Beers says after describing his dog’s harrowing rescue. “But on the other hand, I live with the burden of euthanizing 10 animals a day. The city does that. One of the city’s jobs is to deal with stray animals. … We euthanize thousands of animals a year. Him pouring more of them into the valley, isn’t helping. It’s a tough thing. It’s one of the thornier issues we deal with in the city.”

Does this sound like tough old bottom-line Beers to you? Coffin’s soft spot for Spot is more understandable. As a lifelong Democrat, Coffin is supposed to have a weakness for flea-bitten underdogs.

But the conservative Beers’ embrace of bowser is somewhat surprising. He claims to be a libertarian.

Or was that labra-tarian?

“The seminal philosophical question is, are dogs property?” Beers asks. “That will be determined Wednesday morning for the city of Las Vegas, I guess.”

As they say at spay-and-neutering time, I think the fix is in.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Contact him at 702 383-0295, or at jsmith@reviewjournal.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

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