Commercial dog breeders win out as Senate passes pet store measure

“Give Grandma a choice,” one senator says

By: - February 21, 2023 7:00 am

Senate approves bill that would stop cities and towns from blocking dog and cat sales in pet stores.(Getty Images)

Indiana’s senators approved a bill Wednesday blocking cities and towns from banning the retail sale of dogs by state-approved sellers. It was a win for a frustrated national pet store chain but went against the wishes of animal welfare advocates.

The 29-18 vote was close for a chamber that usually has larger margins.

Ordinances in communities like Crown Point and Columbus prevent pet shops in those municipalities from selling dogs, and sometimes other animals, sourced from breeders and brokers. Instead, pet stores can only collaborate with animal care or rescue organizations to show adoptable pets.

“If the pet store meets or exceeds these standards, their business is protected from local regulations,” said author Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen. He’s maintained that the bill would still let communities crack down on abusive puppy mills while freeing compliant sellers to do business.

Bill gets pushback

But other lawmakers said Senate Bill 134 still goes too far. It’s retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023, so that it would invalidate any local bans passed on or after that day.

Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen. (Photo from Indiana Senate Republicans)

The bill would originally have taken effect at the beginning of 2024, but Doriot said that once the draft was public, communities “rushed in to ban the sale of dogs, thereby restricting free commerce.” The deadline was instead bumped up but still grandfathers bans adopted earlier.

A proposal banning dog, cat and rabbit sales — introduced just this month — is making its way through the Indianapolis City-County Council, for example.

“This bill preempts local control and interferes with market economics,” said Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis. “… In this instance, the market is working. Communities that like to have these pets for sale from puppy mills, they’re doing it. And communities that do not like it, it has been banned.”

The bill would introduce new quality standards for pet stores to meet — if not, local ordinances passed even after the cutoff would still apply.

A pet store would have to source from dog brokers and breeders that are:

  • Registered with Indiana’s Board of Animal Health;
  • Certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a clean record for at least two years;
  • Certified by a national “science-based” breeder standards program; and
  • Audited by an independent firm following specific international standards.

A pet store would also have to tell customers full, fee-inclusive prices, information on vaccinations and other medical treatments, breeder or broker information and other basic information on dogs for sale.

And a pet store would have to pay up for consumers who unknowingly buy sick or dying dogs. Customers could return the dogs for full refunds, exchange them, or get reimbursement for medical expenses.

Not enough

Some opponents wanted more.

“I have received multiple calls from constituents, animal rights activists, that have extreme concern about the lack of safeguards in this bill on … ensuring health and safety for animals,” Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said.

Multiple advocates testified in committee that shelters are overflowing with adoptable dogs.

But Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, said the bill is about “choice,” adding that people who want to know dogs’ histories or want specific breeds may live too far from breeders.

“Give Grandma a choice,” she said. “Because grandma might not be able to travel all the way down here … to select that little puppy that she always wanted.”


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Leslie Bonilla Muñiz
Leslie Bonilla Muñiz

Leslie joins the Indiana Capital Chronicle after covering city government and urban affairs for the Indianapolis Business Journal for more than a year. She graduated from Northwestern University in March 2021, and has reported for the Chicago Tribune, Voice of America and student publications in Evanston, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Doha, Qatar.