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Talking Cats and Dogs

Sandy approves ordinance to ban sale of dogs, cats and rabbits—unless they come from reputable source.


  • Ravizza via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday night in Sandy, it was all about the cats and dogs.

More than one year after the Sandy City Animal Shelter transitioned to a no-kill facility, the city council unanimously approved a new ordinance to ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits from pet stores within city limits in order to encourage better adoption practices.

The proposal, District 3 Councilwoman and sponsor Kristin Coleman-Nicholl told City Weekly, is “just another step in creating an animal-friendly community.”

“You can have a pet store in Sandy but the animals have to come from a shelter or rescue,” she said. “This doesn’t prevent anyone from picking a dog they want from somewhere else.”

The ordinance will make it unlawful for any person to sell a dog, cat or rabbit unless it came from a “city or county animal shelter or animal control agency, a humane society, or a non-profit animal rescue organization.” The seller will also be required to keep documentation on where the pet came from.

No existing pet stores would currently be affected by the proposal—it’s more of a preemptive measure, Coleman-Nicholl said.

The Humane Society of Utah, Best Friends Animal Society and other animal supporters also supported the ordinance Tuesday. Deann Shepherd, communications director for the Humane Society, said places such as Petco and PetSmart work with the local shelters to adopt these types of animals as opposed to bringing them in from puppy mills or “backyard breeders”—puppies or kittens that might not come from professional breeders and could be more susceptible to diseases.

“We’ll bring [our] animals to these offsite locations,” Shepherd said. “The reality is, people still find the shelter kind of a depressing place to go, but they can go to the pet store and adopt it for that same adoption fee [as at the shelter].”

Coleman-Nicholl said she received more than 40 emails—all voicing support—about the ordinance and opposition has been minimal to none ahead of the City Council’s meeting Tuesday night. Residents expressed concern in February when a pet store applied for a permit with the city but was not approved. That pet store, Puppy Matchmakers, ultimately opened in West Jordan.

“There are residents that are concerned there will be a pet store coming and they are adamantly against it,” Coleman-Nicholl said.

More than 10 people spoke in support of the ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting.

In 2015, Salt Lake County passed a similar measure to prevent any types of these pet stores from opening in unincorporated parts of the county. More than 200 cities in the U.S. have similar laws that regulate the sale of companion animals, according to a news release from the Humane Society of Utah.

People can also still purchase from breeders. The worry, Shepherd said, is the potential for puppies to be brought in from a puppy mill and sold for a profit from a store. Then, if the puppy became ill shortly after purchase, the new owner would be responsible for all of its costs. On the other hand, if the pet is secured from a place such as the Humane Society, they can bring it back within 10 days. It’s a “buyer-beware world,” Shepherd said.

“When you’re looking to purchase a purebred dog from a reputable breeder, it wouldn’t stop them from selling from their home,” she said. “It’s just to encourage responsible behavior.”