Clark Co. Commissioners look to crack down on puppy mills with new ordinance

A dog waits in a cage in an undated image. (File)

For anyone looking for a new cat or dog: change may be coming to the way they are sold in the valley.

Clark County Commissioners said they want to crack down on illegal or unlicensed breeders and puppy mills. Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani is spearheading an ordinance that would restrict the breeding and sale of dogs, cats and pot-bellied pigs, and it's drummed up quite the debate.

When Commissioner Steve Sisolak opened public hearing on the ordinance during Tuesday’s commission meeting there were heated arguments from two sides.

“They’re subjected to egregious neglect that doesn’t border, but crosses over into animal cruelty,” one woman said in support of the ordinance.

“Pet stores ... if they want to be responsible and sell the dogs, they should sell them from breeders.”

Commissioner Giunchigliani said the ordinance will not stop pet stores from selling animals. Instead, she said the purpose is to eliminate illegal breeders and puppy mills from the mix, but that there are still details she has to work out in the ordinance.

“The intent was to prevent pet stores, and we only have three in the entire county,” Giunchigliani said. “(We want to prevent people) from accessing pets more from puppy mills that have come in from out of state.”

One argument from those who oppose the ordinance is that it will be harder to find purebred dogs.

“I don’t think people realize, including the commissioners, that we have 77 different rescue groups and many are breed specific,” Giunchigliani said.

Another argument was whether the temperament of the dogs from rescues will be worse or the same as new puppies.

“The problem that a lot of rescues have and don’t talk about is that the dogs have been traumatized from previous owners or had aggression problems." Christine Barrello, who opposed the ordinance, said. “Shelters don’t really pay attention to that, they just want to find the dogs a home.”

Many shelter workers who spoke up disagreed and said they know their dogs' history when the rescue them.

Within the heated debates, one thing was agreed upon by all sides: The need to stop bad breeders from slipping through the cracks.

Four of five commissioners at the meeting said they were concerned that the ordinance will not do enough, or it will harm small businesses.

“There are some other things that we need to work on,” Giunchigliani said. “What we want is to educate people to never buy animals off of Craigslist. They are almost always coming from a puppy mill in another state.”

No action was taken on the proposed ordinance, but Giunchigliani said she will continue fighting to close the loopholes for irresponsible breeding and pet sales.

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