Pet shop

Puppy mill bill? Pierce County seeks to regulate pet stores

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A protester stands outside the Puppyland pet store in Puyallup in this undated photo. Pierce County Council is considering enacting an ordinance that would restrict where the business could obtain puppies.

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Pierce County Council is considering tightening regulations on the sale of dogs in pet stores in a decision that would ultimately affect just one store.

The proposed county ordinance would prohibit retail stores from selling puppies under 10 weeks old. Stores would also be required to obtain dogs directly from a breeder licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compliant with state regulations.

Additionally, the bill requires pet stores to display information about the origin of the dogs and disclose their price, including information on funding. The council was due to vote on the proposal on Tuesday, but lawmakers delayed hearing the order until May 31 to consider recent amendments.

In meetings and public comments, supporters viewed the potential move as a step toward ending so-called puppy mills, where breeders raise a high volume of dogs, often in deplorable conditions, with the intent to make profit.

County Councilwoman Jani Hitchen said Monday the bill was simply intended to lift the curtain on pet store operations. It was spurred on by organizations who contacted her, she said, with concerns about Puppyland, based in Puyallup, the only store in the county that sells puppies.

“It’s about transparency for those who want to do business with them,” she said, adding that the new rules weren’t meant to attack the store.

A Puppyland representative was not immediately available for comment.

The order, which could still change, comes as the county faces an increase in the number of dogs abandoned to the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County, a nonprofit that contracts with the county to provide shelter services.

The number rose from 188 in February 2021 to 272 last February, according to the proposed order, with nearly 80% of dogs being strays. As the shelter population grows, so does the cost: Veterinary spending has skyrocketed 94.8% since 2018, according to the county.

County officials cited studies that showed animal behavior problems stemmed from pet stores and were attributable to dogs being turned over to shelters. The proposed ordinance is expected to reduce the number of abandoned dogs and save the county about $339,000 annually, according to a county staff report.

This story was originally published May 17, 2022 5:00 a.m.

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Shea Johnson joined The News Tribune in 2022. He previously covered city and county governments in Las Vegas and Southern California. His work has been recognized by the National Headliner Awards and repeatedly by the California News Publishers Association, including as a finalist for investigative reporting. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Cal State San Bernardino.