State lawmakers advance bill to overturn local pet store regulations

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Butterscotch is among the many dogs up for adoption at Indianapolis Animal Care Services.

Legislation that would in part overturn Indianapolis’ ban on the retail sale of dogs passed out of an Indiana Statehouse committee Monday following testimony from breeders, pet store lobbyists and animal welfare organizations.

The legislation, House Bill 1412, would void 21 municipal ordinances affecting pet sales in cities statewide including Indianapolis, Bloomington and Carmel, while giving more authority to the State Board of Animal Health and encouraging breeder accreditation program with Purdue University.

Representatives from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society testified against the legislation, which ultimately passed out of the committee on a 9-4 vote along party lines.

The bill was authored by Rep. Beau Baird, R-Greencastle. Baird, who raises and breeds Great Pyrenees dogs at his west-central Indiana farm, told IBJ that city ordinances that ban the sale of pets from stores push buyers to more rural, less-regulated areas to purchase animals. Instead of purchasing a canine from a retail store in Indianapolis, Carmel or Bloomington—where the retail sale of pets is restricted—consumers might come to Baird’s Putnam County and buy straight from a puppy mill, he said.

“This bill is in fact anti-puppy mill,” Baird said during Monday’s hearing. “… By implementing statewide protections, we not only safeguard the wellbeing of dogs but we also prevent the emergence of puppy mills in our rural areas where animal shelters are already struggling to manage their capacity.”

Under the bill, pet stores would be required to register with the State Board of Animal Health, which could then conduct random, unannounced inspections. At those inspections, stores could be required to provide records of where their dogs came from going back seven years.

The legislation also establishes mandatory disclosures and warranties for retail pet stores selling dogs.

Breeders and pet store representatives praised the measure because it would encourage breeders to enroll in Purdue University’s Canine Care Certified accreditation program, which has among the strictest standards in the nation, while avoiding the potential business impacts of city ordinances.

Opponents including State Rep. Maureen Bauer, D-South Bend, said the measure could create an unfunded mandate for the board of animal health and does not have a clearly defined enforcement mechanism.

The bill marks is the second time Indianapolis’ ordinance—which was passed in March 2023 and has yet to fully take affect—has been challenged by Statehouse leaders. Legislators advanced a similar bill out of a Senate committee last February, but the legislation died in a House committee without a hearing.

In a statement, City-County Council member John Barth, who co-authored the Indianapolis ordinance, said the new state proposal would “put a halt to” efforts to shrink demand for puppy mills and promote adoptions from animal shelters. Barth said a compromise in the ordinance allows Indianapolis-based pet stores like Uncle Bill’s Pet Centers to slowly transition away from selling dogs.

“Existing pet stores have two years to transition to a new business model that can include the option of continuing to sell animals that are sourced from Animal Care Services or rescue organizations,” he wrote.

Because the Indianapolis ordinance applies to cats and rabbits as well as dogs, the state legislation would only void a portion of the local measure if it were to become law.

Under the state legislation, localities would be able to require that pet stores utilize Canine Care Certified breeders, USDA-licensed breeders or brokers without “direct” violations for the previous two years, or hobby breeders.

According to its website, Canine Care Certified is a nationwide, voluntary program that addresses the health and overall welfare of dogs in the care of breeders in the United States. “It is the only program that not only incorporates measures of the physical health of dogs and puppies raised by breeders, but also strongly emphasizes their behavioral well-being,” the program says.

The certification program is based on standards developed and led by Dr. Candace Croney at Purdue University in 2013.

The Humane Society of the United States said stores “would have no incentive to source from Canine Care Certified breeders” because the legislation also allows them to source from USDA-licensed breeders without “direct” violations for the previous two years and hobby breeders.

The society said breeders and brokers can accumulate serious violations without them being labeled “direct’ violations by the USDA. It also said the definition of hobby breeder was “a totally unenforceable distinction when it comes to out-of-state breeders that no Indiana authority can confirm is actually a hobby breeder,” and “would allow puppy stores to continue sourcing from the same puppy mills they are currently sourcing from.”

Lori Wilson, CEO of Uncle Bill’s Pet Centers and granddaughter of the retailer’s founder, said multiple veterinarians already inspect dogs before they are purchased from breeders. She testified in favor of the legislation.

“Taking away a regulated business and pushing consumers to a black market makes no sense,” Wilson said.

Mark Shublak, an attorney representing national pet store chain Petland Inc., said the Canine Care Certified component would make the legislation among the strongest in the nation. Petland—which does not have an Indianapolis location but does have one in Westfield—has committed to sourcing dogs from just Canine Care Certified breeders, according to lobbyist Elizabeth Kunzelman.

Not all stores are required to register with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kunzelman said in Petlands’ case, “nobody inspects our stores unless its local animal control or state or if there’s a complaint.”

Most dogs at Uncle Bill’s are from Canine Care Certified breeders and Wilson said other breeders are in the process of becoming certified.

A group of Indiana-based breeders also spoke in favor of the bill.

The owners of Family Affair Puppies, the Troyer family, are based in a northeastern Indiana Amish community. The business is Canine Care Certified and sells to brokers, who then sell dogs to pet stores. Members of the family testified in favor of the legislation.

Lobbyists from the ASPCA and the Humane Society pointed to a lack of transparency that exists in the Canine Care Certified program because the list of standards isn’t available to the public, nor is the list of certified breeders.

Sana Azem, senior director of state legislation for the ASPCA, said the organization would be supportive of regulation for hobby breeders. Hobby breeders are defined as canine breeders with less than 20 breeding-age female dogs.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated and corrected with more information about the requirements of the proposed legislation. 

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18 thoughts on “State lawmakers advance bill to overturn local pet store regulations

  1. Baird doesn’t seem too bright and lacks the ability to extrapolate basic findings from data instead of his personal experience running his own puppy mill

    1. In a state with real ethics laws, folks like Baird would recuse themselves from any legislation that affects their business. But we are in Indiana, we claim this is a the benefit of a “citizen” legislature, that “experts” can contribute what they know. Explain some of what’s happened to public schools; total vested interest for a board member at a private school (Behning) to rewrite the voucher rules to benefit schools like his.

      (I mean, we prohibit teachers or school employees from being on the school board. But people who work for private schools can go to the state level and write laws that enrich schools like theirs? Explain how that makes sense.)

    2. Amen Joe B. Baird ought to be embarrassed by his remarks.

      This bill is advanced for one reason–Amish puppy-mill-operators and certain pet stores contributed to the campaign coffers.

      It’s shameful.

  2. Lawmaker, who runs puppy mill, seeks to legalize puppy mills?

    ASPCA and the Humane Society aren’t wrong, this legislation reeks.

    And I’m absolutely exhausted by the anti-democracy Indiana GOP overruling every popular local ordinance or regulation they can.

    1. I love that they used Bills Pet Store as their beacon of morality in the business… the place that has a history of animal abuse and shoddy business practices and if I am not mistaken due to negligence a store burned down and all the animals inside perished?

      Woof

  3. Even as a staunch Republican in the broader sense, our particular group of state Republican lawmakers never ceases to embarrass and disgust me in many ways. The nepotism and lack of caring about animal welfare infuriates me.

  4. It’s really about a more concerning corruption…the effort of the Republican supermajority from the rural areas to make certain that urban areas with Democratic-voting citizens are not able to have laws that reflect their local choices. It’s keeping the large cities under the thumb of the Republican party, even if they can’t win the votes in those areas.
    But if a Republican mayor and City County Council can ever again be elected in Indy, I’m sure Home Rule will return.

  5. In addition to banning the retail sale of dogs we need legislation banning puppy mills, dog fighting and backyard hobby breeders like Beau Baird. The wolves are guarding the sheep here.

  6. I have to agree that this is another example of state-level politicians stepping out of bounds to get themselves ensnared in issues that should be left to local governments.

    But let’s be honest: Dems do the exact same thing. For those who doubt, look no further than our neighbor to the west, where Chicagoland creates the policies that run roughshod over the rest of the state–taxation levels than even Chicago businesses can barely support but are completely untenable in downstate Illinois. 90% of Illinois’s land area is “under the thumb” of Chicago, and the impact in terms of job loss is manifest. Would the hyperpartisans like Tim S and Joe B ever acknowledge this?

    Puppy mills have historically been a huge issue in Indiana, in no small part due to cultural attitudes toward animals widely held among Anabaptists. It’s kind of a weird constituency to placate, since Anabaptists do not usually vote (per their religion), but then there are the folks in the mass-market designer dog business, and regulations in places like Indy are a huge hindrance to their bottom line.

    1. We live in Indiana. Put another way, your comments have as much relevance as if you yelled them into the speaker at the Arby’s drive through.

  7. Will Republican legislators ever tire of trying to control the cities in Indiana where they can’t win city council seats? Let’s see, they’re trying to stop the Blue Line; trying to prohibit “no turn on red” ordinances; trying to allow puppy sales from shady breeders in pet stores; and trying their best to ruin Indianapolis public schools, to name just a few of their attempts. Corrupt politicians who can’t get elected to their respective city councils think that the Legislature should be the super city council for the state of Indiana. It’s disgusting and disgraceful.

    1. “trying their best to ruin Indianapolis public schools”

      Mission accomplished long ago?

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