INDIANAPOLIS — Five Indianapolis City-County Council members are proposing a ban on most retail sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits in order to combat puppy mills while also reducing overcrowding at local shelters.

The proposal was introduced at the City-County Council on Monday and is sponsored by councilors John Barth, Zach Adamson, Dan Boots, Jason Larrison, and Ali Brown.

Barth and Adamson are pushing the proposal to decrease the number of irresponsible breeders selling dogs, cats, and rabbits to pet stores. The proposal would also push retailers into working with existing shelters like Indianapolis Animal Care Services and their battle with overcrowding.

Unlike the similar ban passed last summer by Carmel, the Indianapolis ban wouldn’t outright ban the retail sale of cats and dogs altogether but allow retail shops to sell animals from local shelters and humane societies. Barth said allowing retailers to facilitate these pet adoptions would help ease overcrowding problems plaguing shelters and rescues.

IBJ reported that under the new proposal, pet shops in Indianapolis that existed prior to September 2021 would have until May 2025 to comply with the ban. Pet shops established later than September 2021 would have until May 2023 to comply.

We spoke with The Pet Advocacy Network, a nonprofit organization that deals with legislation and regulations for the “responsible pet care community.” Mike Bober, the organization’s president, says these local measures only push people to buy puppies from illicit places.

“Black market situations where you have pet sale scams taking place over the internet, breeders that are operating in violation of federal law as opposed to the federally regulated breeders who supply to pet stores,” Bober said.

The Pet Advocacy Network says the ban could harm reputable businesses because it does not require shelters and rescues to work with pet shops.

“All it would take is shelters and rescues choosing not to make dogs or cats or rabbits available to the pet store,” Bober said. “Then the pet store’s out of luck.”

Indianapolis wouldn’t be the first major city to pass an ordinance banning the retail sale of puppies. The Humane Society of the United States stated that 450 cities and towns have passed similar bans. Several states have also issued bans on the retail sales of cats and dogs including New York, Illinois, Maryland, Washington, Maine and California.

The proposed ban will be discussed further at a Community Affairs Committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 22.