An ordinance banning the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores in Dallas went into effect Friday.
While animal advocates celebrated the rule, one store says it was forced to close because of the law. The Petland location in North Dallas closed after 14 years, and 30 employees were laid off, the franchise said.
“Our family and employees are truly heartbroken over this,” owner Jay Suk said in a written statement. “We worked very hard to provide happy and healthy pets to the community we serve. We know that pets are a part of the family, and we have always treated them as such.”
The ordinance, which was passed in May, allows a penalty of up to $500 for violations. Dallas is the last major Texas city to enact such a regulation, joining five states and more than 400 localities, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Advocates for the Humane Pet Store Ordinance have said it will reduce support for puppy mills — places that breed female dogs at every opportunity and keep animals in small, dirty pens.
“The ordinance will help stop hundreds of puppies from being shipped in from out-of-state puppy mills and sold to unsuspecting consumers,” Stacy Sutton Kerby, director of government relations for the Texas Humane Legislation Network, said in a written statement.
Advocates also said the ban will protect customers from the emotional and financial toll of spending thousands of dollars on sick dogs, and will instead lead people to rescue groups, small-scale breeders and animal shelters that are often filled beyond capacity.
“Dallas Animal Services is excited to see the Humane Pet Store Ordinance go into effect,” said MeLissa Webber, director of Dallas Animal Services. “It was a genuine community effort that started with Dallas animal advocates and quickly garnered support from DAS and the City Council.”
Webber said in a written statement that she is hopeful more families will choose to adopt, and not shop for a pet, and added that an estimated 20% of pets in shelters are purebred.
But Petland said the ordinance and the store’s closure are an “extreme disappointment” and that the store sold puppies only from federally regulated and licensed breeders.
The company said the closure is “due to Dallas City Council’s decision to shut down a small business.”
Suk said he repeatedly asked the Council to work with him and visit his store. He said families now looking for a specific breed that is the “right fit” at their home will be forced to shop online, from backyard breeders and foreign sources that are not regulated and don’t offer consumer protections.
“We offered to extend our warranty, offer free spay/neuter vouchers and to work with Dallas Animal Services to host two adoption days a month and put pictures of adoptable dogs on their website,” Suk said.
Elizabeth Kunzelman, vice president of legislative affairs for Petland, said in a written statement that ordinances like Dallas’ don’t solve the issues they’re intended to fix.
“There is no evidence that a single puppy mill has been shut down as a result of a ban. None. A ban does nothing to improve animal welfare,” she said.
In May, the franchise, D&J Pets, filed a lawsuit in Dallas County seeking an injunction preventing the ordinance from going into effect and more than $1 million in damages.
A judge denied the store’s application for the injunction last month. The lawsuit — which alleges the ordinance discriminates against the store and violates the Texas Constitution — is ongoing, but the company said Suk cannot sustain his business while awaiting the outcome.
Dallas may ban puppy sales at pet stores
Puppy and kitten sales made up more than 80% of Suk’s annual revenue, the lawsuit says. The store has sold more than 15,000 dogs and cats to about 12,000 Dallas families.
In court documents, the store says the prohibition of cat and dog sales disregarded the store’s willingness to abide by regulations. Meanwhile, “substandard breeders” are allowed to individually sell animals, the business says.
“The ordinance cannot be understood as an effort to improve animal welfare,” the company says. “As a practical matter, it will have the opposite effect.”
The city argued that ordinance was enacted to “address legitimate governmental interests related to the protection of animals and consumers” and said the ordinance works in concert with other areas of city code that regulate the sale and care of dogs by breeders.
The same month the ordinance passed, Suk’s company filed a defamation lawsuit against Lauren Loney, the Texas state director for the Humane Society, alleging she made misleading statements about the store. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in October.