‘A scare tactic’ House bill aims to ban cities from prohibiting pet shops

Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 6:12 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 12, 2023 at 7:12 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A bill making its way through the Missouri House of Representatives would ensure that cities would have no right to prohibit pet shops in their community.

The bill from Ben Baker (R, Neosho), bans cities from prohibiting pet shops.

While there’s no evidence any city is currently trying to implement this policy, Baker told a House Committee this month he wants to be ahead of the curve, as animal rights groups want to see these types of bans.

“Their intention is to regulate them out of business and that’s unfortunate and that’s why unfortunately we have to address this.”

Animal rights activist Bonnie Hoime told News 4 she wants to eventually see pet shops only sell animals that are rescued, not bred to be sold.

But she believes this bill is more about intimidation.

“It’s definitely a scare tactic,” said Hoime, who is president of St. Louis Animal Rights Team.

The most obvious pet shop that currently sells dogs and cats is Petland, with locations in Fenton and Lake St. Louis, as well as other locations in Missouri.

Representatives for the company told lawmakers in Jefferson City they believe these regulations are coming from cities across the state.

Petland reps pointed to Illinois, which banned the retail sale of dogs and cats in 2021, as an example.

“Ordinances are pushed on purpose to cancel our enterprise and to stop our primary business of selling healthy pets,” said Samantha Boyle, who owns Petland in Joplin.

Boyle also said their stores fill a gap as people want purebred animals and will buy them one way or another.

“More people will buy from unregulated breeders who sell from flea markets and online websites such as Craigslist,” said Boyle, who also owns Petland stores in Arkansas.

They also say they only buy from licensed breeders, specifically breeders with little to no violations.

But the Humane Society of the United States says on their website Missouri Petlands bought puppies from at least three major brokers that had citations from the United States Department of Agriculture.

In the last six years, News 4 has reported on at least three examples of dogs dying just days after being purchased by their owners.

“Petland is an outlet for animal cruelty and we want to fight that expanding,” said Boime.

These claims were brought up in the hearing. Vice President of Legislative & Public Affairs for Petland Elizabeth Kunzelman denied the company buys from puppy mills and said the company is always under attack by large national animal rights groups.

“The truth is they don’t want pet stores to exist and it has nothing to do with where we’re getting our animals,” said Kunzelman.

The bill recently made it out of committee and it could make it to the entire Missouri House once lawmakers come back from spring break.