Puyallup pet store at center of debate on new Washington law

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Melissa Blake from Tacoma has a pair of rescued German Shepherds, Jericho and Chloe. She is a foster parent for medically disabled dogs. She volunteers for Puget Sound animal welfare organizations.

Last but not least, Blake is part of a growing movement to combat dog exploitation and dog buyers – a problem plaguing the US puppy mill industry, allowed by too many retail pet stores.

Now Blake and other animal rights champions have run out of patience, frustrated that lawmakers have been so slow to properly regulate the commercial sale of dogs in Washington.

The only thing the legislature could agree on in the session that just ended in 2021 is a weak, lean version of a pet facility bill that initially went much further.

Developed after months of negotiations, the original proposal required stores to provide detailed information about dog breeders so that customers could make informed purchases. He also set strict conditions for out-of-state ranchers, in line with what ranchers in the state are already following.

What the legislature passed, and Gov. Jay Inslee enacted the law on April 16, is but a faint shadow of the original.

House Bill 1424 will prohibit stores from selling cats. This part was not controversial, did not draw the howls of the feline crowd.

It will also prohibit any New pet store to sell dogs. This part was very controversial, as it allows retail dog sellers to stay open and possibly thrive, while lacking in consumer awareness provisions or protections against squalid kennels, confined spaces and abuse. inflicted on puppies trucked in from out-of-state breeding farms.

“If you do it the right way, the human way, there shouldn’t be a problem,” Blake told us last week, exasperated by the gutting of HB 1424.

“We’ve been working on this for three years. I understand it’s the government; This is how it works. But to reduce it to a few sentences? “

The legislator who cut is Rep. Steve Kirby, a senior member of the Pierce County House and chairman of the Consumer Protection & Business Committee. Kirby said it was the best he could do this year, given the relentless interests on both sides and an inability to bring people to the table.

The Tacoma Democrat blames what has become politicians’ favorite scapegoat: COVID-19.

“You can’t negotiate something that has so many emotions related to Zoom,” Kirby told us. “The two sides are so far apart.”

May be. But the problem with passing an anemic bill is that it creates an illusion that the legislature made Something to protect dogs and dog buyers, when in fact he has done very little.

Kirby’s judgment has also been called into question by animal rights activists, in light of the $ 5,250 in contributions he received from pet stores when he was re-elected last year. Most of that money, $ 4,000, came from the owners of Puppyland, a Puyallup pet store at the center of activist complaints.

Puppyland opened a second storefront in Renton and looked for other locations.

We wouldn’t go so far as to denigrate Kirby’s integrity. But the optic of accepting campaign donations from pet stores, and then using your influence to protect them, will naturally attract criticism.

Ashly Dale is a Puyallup resident who led protests against Puppyland for contracting with suppliers in the Midwest, known to raise 40 to 60 puppies per week. Dale heads the Washington office of Bailing out Benji, a nonprofit that researches and investigates the commercial breeding industry.

His group is also receiving complaints from families struggling with sick or dead puppies, or dogs with undisclosed hereditary conditions, as well as predatory loans from stores that are setting up payment plans.

“For Washingtonians who unknowingly bought a puppy raised in cruel and inhumane conditions, and their puppy suffered or died as a result, this is truly heartbreaking and can be financially devastating,” Dale said in testimony to legislators.

It could be argued that the breeding restrictions in the original bill were worded too restrictively and may need adjustment. Puppyland owners Justin and Kayla Kerr have told lawmakers that size limits and other constraints will make it untenable to obtain puppies, inevitably leading them to bankruptcy.

But keep in mind that the legislature passed minimum standards for state ranchers in 2009. Dan Paul, Washington director of the US Humane Society, said it makes good sense to enforce standards. similar to out-of-state ranchers.

The most imperative part of the original bill, in our opinion, was the section on consumer protection. This would have required full disclosure in retail stores, including federal inspection reports. Breeder’s license numbers would be prominently displayed on a dog’s enclosure and in all advertising.

Most people who buy a car today wouldn’t think of making a deal without a Carfax report. Why would it be any different when buying a dog, the starting point for a much more intimate bond?

Kirby says HB 1424 is a placeholder; he said he intended to work on more comprehensive rules.

One idea put forward by Kirby and the Kerrs would create a “lemon law” (here we are again with car analogies), giving dog owners legal recourse if their pet becomes ill. But does Washington really want to fill small claims courts with these cases?

No thanks. State leaders should be proactive and non-reactive in ensuring the welfare of dog owners and the four-legged family members they cherish.

Heads of state have spent years looking at how to regulate pet sales and crack down on puppy mills. Meanwhile, cities such as Gig Harbor, Olympia, and Lacey have done it independently.

No more reserved spaces, no more excuses. Anything less than decisive action in 2022 will amount to “the dog ate my homework”.

News Tribune editorials reflect the views of our editorial board and are written by opinion writer Matt Misterek. The other members of the Board of Directors are: Stephanie Pedersen, President and Editor-in-Chief of News Tribune; Matt Driscoll, local columnist; and Jim Walton, community representative. The editorial board operates independently of the newsroom and does not influence the work of the reporting and editorial teams. For any questions about the board or our editorials, email [email protected]


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