The Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee on Monday discussed prohibiting the sale of animals through pet stores in Wausau. The city does not have a pet store at the moment.
The proposal seeks to prohibit a pet store in Wausau from selling, delivering, bartering, auctioning, giving away, transferring or disposing of cats, dogs or rabbits. However, the proposal, if passed by the committee and subsequently by the City Council of Wausau will not prohibit any pet store from offering their space to animal care facilities or animal rescue organizations “to showcase adoptable dogs, cats, or rabbits provided the pet store shall not have any ownership interest in the animals offered for adoption and shall not receive a fee for providing space.” Some members questioned the reasons for including rabbits in the proposal.
The committee considered an ordinance – ‘Section 8.08.115: Large scale commercial animal breeding prohibited’ – to its municipal code but the members did not take a formal vote on the proposed measure. Instead, they opted to wait for a month when the matter of renewal of kennel licenses comes up next month.
The ordinance proposal comes in the wake of controversy at neighboring Weston where the authorities approved a license to a pet store to sell puppies, leading to calls for ban of the sale of puppies in retail pet stores through brokers, commonly referred to as “puppy mills” .”
A resident, Season Schmitz, formally asked Weston to adopt an ordinance prohibiting such sales and asking that breeder license numbers be disclosed for current pet store owners who may already be grandfathered in. The Board of the Village of Weston did not take any action on the matter.
While addressing the Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee on Monday, Schmitz said the dogs coming straight out of puppy mills need a lot of care since they face horrible conditions in the breeding facilities. They do not come out of cages while in a facility, she added. People only see the cute little puppies but they don’t think about where those adult dogs actually came from, Schmitz said, adding that the ban on the sale of dogs and cats through a pet store will not prevent people from obtaining a pet. People can adopt them from the Humane Society in Wausau or buy from local shelters.
Chair of the Wausau Public Health and Safety Committee, Lisa Rasmussen, said the ordinance would restrict in advance pet stores’ ability to sell animals. She added the ordinance will not affect a private family breeder or the occasional breeder since it defines large-scale breeding to be more than 25 animals per year.
Rasmussen also said it made sense to consider the ordinance since Wausau and Weston have often tried to dovetail a lot of our animal policies between the two communities, “so there is consistency in the way we enforce since we share our humane officer.”
Mayor Katie Rosenberg said that since the city currently does not have a pet store, this ordinance would not affect a business right now, adding it was an opportunity “to discuss the puppy mill stuff.”
The Wausau Police Department, in a memo to the committee, also recommended passing the ordinance, saying “there are well documented abuses related to puppy mills and kitten mills.
According to the Humane Society of the US, most puppies sold in pet stores are from puppy mills. There are more than 10,000 estimated puppy mills in the US with about 500,000 dogs kept specifically for breeding purposes. About 2.6 million puppies are sold each year after originating from a puppy mill, the organization states.