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Should Lexington ban sales of cats and dogs in pet stores? Council set to debate issue

Lexington may become the next Kentucky city to ban the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores.

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Councilwoman Jennifer Reynolds put the issue into the council’s Social Services and Public Safety Committee earlier this week. A date for a hearing on the topic has not yet been set.

Reynolds said she and other council members were contacted by various animal welfare groups about sponsoring a local ordinance.

“We have an overpopulation of stray animals so it doesn’t make sense to be selling them at a high price,” Reynolds said.

An ordinance has not yet been crafted but Reynolds said it will not prohibit the sale of dogs from breeders. It will only apply to pet stores. Sales of other types of pets at pet stores, such as lizards or fish, will still be allowed.

“Stores can also develop relationships with adoption organizations to adopt pets,” Reynolds said.

Elizabethtown, Radcliffe and Louisville have passed similar bans on pet stores selling cats and dogs. Louisville passed its ordinance in September.

The move is designed to crack down on puppy mills, which mass breed animals often in deplorable conditions, according to animal welfare groups. There is little federal oversight over mass breeding operations.

Many area humane societies and animal shelters are currently at capacity and need people to adopt pets, said Meghan Hawkins of the Lexington Humane Society, Central Kentucky’s largest pet adoption agency. Dozens of pets arrive daily.

“The best humane society is a humane community, a community that values and respects animals, prioritizes the care and treatment of animals, and refuses to support the ’puppies for profit’ trade, which inhumanely exploits dogs and cats. This ordinance is a step in the right direction,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins urged pet owners and future pet owners to be cautious of all types of for-profit breeders.

“We promote adoption as the best option when selecting a pet,” Hawkins said “This means selecting a pet from a 501(c)3 animal welfare organization, not a commercial breeder, ’backyard breeder,’ online broker, auction, pet store, or flea market. Where there is demand for specific dog and cat breeds, only responsible breeders should be considered; breeders who adhere to careful, purposeful breeding and placement practices.”

Some states have also moved to ban sales of cats and dogs.

California was the first to do so in 2017. Other states with bans include Maine, Maryland, Illinois, New York and Washington. More than 400 cities nationwide have also passed bans, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an animal welfare group that encourages cities to enact local ordinances.

Reynolds said several other council members will also be working on the local ordinance. Debate will begin sometime in 2024.