Waco could soon ban retail sales of cats and dogs in an effort to head off disreputable pet shops that could come to the city.
The city’s Animal Welfare Advisory Board recommended the city council pass an updated version of Waco’s animal ordinance that would prohibit the sale of cats or dogs that didn’t come from reputable breeders, a rescue operation or a shelter.
Board member Michelle Nemec, director of the Molecular Biosciences Center at Baylor University, first brought up the issue during a meeting in August.
“We need to be proactive about this instead of reactive once the businesses are there, because then we’ll have much bigger mountains to climb,” Nemec said.
CenTex Kennel Club supports the measure, along with Animal Birth Control Clinic, Central Texas Lost & Found Pets, Fuzzy Friends Rescue, Gray Mutts Rescue & Sanctuary, the Humane Society of Central Texas and Waco Pets Alive.
The ordinance is aimed at pet shops that source their animals from commercial breeding facilities. Currently, the proposed changes wouldn’t impact any stores within city limits. The proposed ordinance makes allowances for private breeders and doesn’t prohibit the sale of animals in a private residence.
The ordinance also stipulates that pet supply stores that partner with animal adoption agencies can continue to do so, but must keep records documenting the source of each animal. Both Petco and Petsmart use the animal adoption model. The proposed version also defines “pet shops” more clearly. The sale of animals in public is banned by the existing ordinance.
Nemec said the animal board’s recommendation focuses on dogs and cats, though some cities also extend the ordinance to rabbits.
“Right now, looking at what impacts our shelter the most, it’s dogs and cats, and that’s where this ordinance would help the most, as far as the burden on the public and on the shelter,” Nemec said.
“I think there are very inhumane breeding practices for commercially produced rabbits and ferrets, and things like that, but we know a very hot topic is dogs and cats,” Nemec added.
Nemec said animals from commercial facilities, also known as puppy mills, can come with genetic health issues, communicable illnesses and temperament issues as a result of abuse and neglect.
Preventing stores that rely on puppy mills isn’t just a matter of preventing animal cruelty. City Councilman Hector Sabido, a member of the animal board, said the ordinance would keep people in Waco from unknowingly purchasing an animal from a commercial operation.
“Also, I think it could help the city save money in the long run by preventing some of those animals from coming through to the shelter that require care and attention because of disease or malnourishment from beforehand,” Sabido said. “I think, in the long run, we can definitely see the city saving money in that way.”
Sabido said there haven’t been many documented instances of non-reputable breeders or puppy mills within city limits, and views the ordinance as preventative.
“We’re in an economic boom right now,” Sabido said. “I think this ordinance is creating some healthy boundaries for businesses interested in coming here, and that can protect animals and our own people as well.”
Nemec said California, Maryland and more than 300 municipalities have bans on retail pet sales.
The recommendation will head to Waco City Council at the same time as a proposed updated version of the city’s honeybee ordinance. During the meeting, the animal board formed a subcommittee to work on an updated bee ordinance.