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For those who have them, pets are an important part of family life.

They bring joy, companionship, and some research shows, a greater sense of well-being.

But where we get pets is a source of debate. Should they come from pet shops, or breeders, or shelters?

Two years ago, the Las Vegas City Council decided that pet shops should only sell animals from shelters or rescues. Part of the rationale was to combat so-called “puppy mills,” or high-volume breeders that sometimes supply pets to pet stores.

That rule was supposed to take effect in January 2018.

But then an interesting thing happened. Last week, the city council repealed it.

April Corbin is a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun who has been following this story. She told KNPR's State of Nevada there are two pet shops in the City of Las Vegas that would've been affected. Those two shops, Puppy Boutique and Petland, were given two years to comply with the ordinance, but a status check revealed they had not. 

Before the ordinance took effect, however, two city council people acted to repeal it. Michelle Fiore and Steve Seroka, who weren't serving at the time of the original vote, say the ordinance infringed on consumer choice.

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The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, a national pet trade association, agreed with the city council's decision. PIJAC President Mike Bober told KNPR's State of Nevada that while he understands the motivation for the ban, it won't do what people think it will.

"The reality is that pet sale bans don't really do what their supporters and advocates say they are going to do, which is take on the irresponsible, illegal, bad actors that are out there," he said. "Instead what they do is penalize the breeders and the retailers who are operating under the law."

Bober said Nevada has laws in place for the protection of both animals and consumers, and PIJAC supports improving standards in general. He said the only types of breeders allowed to sell to pet stores are commerial breeders that are licensed and inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture, and hobby breeders that are too small to be licensed.

He admits there are bad breeders who keep animals in deplorable conditions, but says those breeders are not allowed to sell to pet stores, and the USDA requires a paper trail that consumers can look through to find out the type of breeder the animal came from.

Bryce Henderson says he has followed the paper trail and found terrible conditions for many animals.

Henderson is the founder of No Kill Las Vegas, an animal advocacy group based in Southern Nevada. His group spoke out against the repeal of the ban. 

He said while there are USDA regulations in place, they are "very loose." He said out-of-state commercial breeders are inspected only once a year, the breeding females are often kept in very small cages, and there is no limit to the number of times they can breed in a year. The state of Nevada limits breeding to once every year and a half.  

"I don't think anyone wants to get a puppy knowing that that puppy's mom was stuck in a cage in Missouri for the rest of her life," he said. "We encourage people not to go to these pet stores. We encourage people to go to the local shelter there's plenty of purebreds there if that's what you're interested in."

Holly Sizemore believes people would be upset about conditions at commercial breeding facilities if they were aware of them.

Sizemore is the chief national programs officer at Best Friends Animal Society. She said people can ask for information about the animals they are going to buy, but most people don't. If they did, she said they might be surprised.

"Unfortunately, often what consumers would find if they do do that due diligence — and believe me that retailers don't necessarily make that easy to do — what they find, sadly, is that a lot of these animals are being sourced by these large commercial breeders and sometimes these breeders that have had infractions," she said.

The Clark County Commission looked into a similar ban to cover pet stores in its jurisdiction, but decided against it over concerns about the impact it would have on local businesses. 

Guests

April Corbin, reporter, Las Vegas Sun; Mike Bober, president and CEO, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council; Bryce Henderson, founder, No Kill Las Vegas; Holly Sizemore, chief national programs officer, Best Friends Animal Society

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