The City of Austin Animal Advisory Commission arrived at a unanimous vote on Wednesday evening to propose a ban on retail sales of cats and dogs that are not spayed or neutered -- ones not sterilized to prevent the birth of unwanted litters, which contributes to the overpopulation of animals. The ban was meant to strike a blow against puppy mills and other illegal sources of pets, and against the only retail store in the area that sells cats and dogs, The Petland in South Park Meadows
The City Council asked Austin's Animal Advisory Commission to investigate the source of Petland's dogs and cats, and also make recommendations that do not violate interstate commerce laws. According to the Humane Society of the United States, Petland is one of the biggest purchasers of animals from puppy mills in the country. The advisory commission based then decided to report their findings to the City Council, where a vote will eventually be made.
Larry Tucker, Chairman of Austin's Animal Advisory Commission told WalletPop that his investigation was complete, but that nothing is final until the City Council votes on the issue, sometime between now and October. Tucker and his team had no contact with Petland, but the local South Park Meadows store is under intense media scrutiny, which alone may force them to shut down. The store is already offering discounts. Tucker told us that there are rumors that the local Petland may shut down for good on Sunday. "Petland has a poor business model," says Tucker. If it shuts down, residents will have to go elsewhere for these companion pets. The store owner told KVUE local news that the 19 Petland staff members might be out of jobs.
Austin's Animal Advisory Commission was formed by state law that mandates a commission be formed in each municipality that has a shelter; in this case Travis County. Larry Tucker was appointed by council member Laura Morrison to chair the commission. Tucker, who considers himself an animal welfare champion who runs an organization called the Central Texas Animal Alliance, told us that Petland buys from various puppy mills including those owned by the Hunte Corportaion, notorious in the media and with regulators.
WalletPop reached out to Petland's Corporate Communications department and received this response:
"Petland does NOT purchase from puppy mills...[however] each store is individually owned and operated and is responsible for their own puppy selection. We provide training in the form of classes, manuals and seminars as to how to select a breeder. Our policy is that stores purchase USDA licensed breeders as well as local/hobby breeders. The breeders also must meet any local, state and federal requirements." - Elizabeth Kunzelman, Director of Marketing and Communications, Petland Inc.
We also called the local South Park Meadows Petland which is under pending investigation, but a store employee refused to comment on the issue.
Petland sent official statements to the Austin City Council and the cable network Animal Planet to defend itself from the investigation. The company states that all pets are monitored upon purchase and are given medical care. When a customer purchases a pet from Petland, they are given a free coupon to have their new dog or cat sterilized and checked by one of the store's partnered vet. The company also argues that "HSUS is not the expert on the care of animals and is well-known for its ploys to raise money (visit www.humanewatch.org). HSUS is opposed to the sale of animals in pet stores and advocates extreme views regarding the role of animals in society, including the avoidance of consumption of any animal products."
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