UPDATE: Senate Bill 134 passed the Indiana Senate in a 29-18 vote on Feb. 20 and advanced to the House.
INDIANAPOLIS — A contentious set of Indiana bills authored by Republican lawmakers aims to prevent local municipalities from passing bans on retail sales of dogs and cats.
The proposed bills — Senate Bill 134 and House Bill 1121 — follow in the wake of cities, counties and states across the U.S. moving to combat puppy mills and irresponsible breeders by passing ordinances that ban or restrict the local retail sales of dogs and cats. Indianapolis recently proposed an ordinance of its own that would ban most retail sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits outside of those who partner with local shelters or rescues.
Critics of the proposals argue that the bills protect puppy mills and unethical pet stores while also infringing on the rights of local jurisdictions to govern themselves. The bills also face backlash for being backed by Petland, the nation’s largest chain of pet stores, who lobbied on the bills’ behalf.
Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Goshen), who authored SB 134, disagreed that the bill would protect puppy mills and instead stated that the aim of his bill was to bring the breeding industry up to a “higher standard” which would not only raise the level of care for dogs and cats but help protect legitimate pet stores who abide by the new standards introduced in the bill.
“It’s going to hinder the bad actors from continuing,” Doriot said.
Under SB 134, any local government that had not already enacted a ban on the retail sale of cats and dogs prior to Jan. 1, 2023, would be prohibited from adopting or enforcing a ban on retail pet sales as long as the dogs and cats being sold by pet stores were acquired from state-registered or federally licensed breeders. Or from “casual breeders,” defined in the bill as a person who maintains five to 20 female dogs that are at least 12 months old and who is recognized by a kennel society.
Doriot stated his bill would also add protections for consumers. Pet stores would be required to microchip the animals, disclose any medical history and provide refunds to customers — including veterinary bills — if the animal becomes sick or dies within a certain timeframe or has a hereditary condition requiring significant veterinary care.
The Indiana Council for Animal Welfare originally had issue with SB 134 stating would “allow the bad actors in (the breeding) industry to continue their deplorable habits.”
The council had pushed for “humane modeled pet stores” that went beyond the standards required for USDA licensing while also acknowledging that banning pet stores can lead to an increase in online puppy sales — which would create more demand from puppy mills.
Jonathan Lawler, spokesperson for the Indiana Council for Animal Welfare, stated the ICAW now fully supports both bills, however, after the consumer protection and third party auditing amendments were added.
Carmel City Councilor Adam Aasen (R) criticized the bills for taking away local control.
“Let local governments continue to make local decisions that affect local budgets and local communities. Please respect home rule,” Aasen said.
Last summer, the Republican-controlled Carmel City Council passed its own ban on retail sales of cats and dogs.
Senate Bill 134 passed through the Republican-led Senate Committee on Agriculture on Monday on a party-line vote of 7-2. It advances to the Senate for a second reading where more amendments could be added.
House Bill 1121, nearly identical to SB 134, is currently still in committee.