Aurora bans selling puppies and kittens in pet stores

Pet stores in Aurora will soon be prohibited from selling cats and dogs in their stores unless they have come directly from animal shelters or nonprofit animal rescues, making Aurora the 13th city in the state to implement such a ban as cities try to crack down on puppy mills.

Aurora doesn’t have any pet stores that sell dogs and cats — the city shut down its last one in March 2020 because of unpaid taxes — but the new regulation, set to take effect Oct. 1, will prevent any future pet stores from doing so. Advocacy by Aurora residents prompted City Council members Danielle Jurinsky and Juan Marcano, many times at opposite ends of legislation, to jointly sponsor the proposal.

“The hope is that we don’t have puppy mill dogs coming into Aurora,” Jurinsky said. She added that she thinks the rest of the state should follow suit.

Colorado state lawmakers attempted to outlaw the sale of cats and dogs in retail stores in 2020, but even a significantly watered-down version of the bill failed to pass.

Denver permits selling puppies and kittens in pet shops but does have licensing requirements, including inspections by the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. Of its 49 active kennel licenses in the city, seven marked “pet shop” on their applications, according to the city’s Excise and Licenses spokesperson Eric Escudero.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Springs City Council voted against prohibiting the sale of cats and dogs in retail stores.

The Aurora City Council passed its ban on retail sales of cats and dogs last week by a 7-3 vote, with Curtis Gardner, Dustin Zvonek and Steve Sundberg, in opposition. Fifteen people signed up to speak during the public comment portion of the discussion, with only two people in opposition — the daughter and owner of a pet shop that sells cats and dogs in a store in Centennial.

Owner Jens Larsen said he’s operated his store for more than 30 years and that the breeders he works with sell to reputable people and follow federal regulations. He accused animal rights activists of going city to city to “pretty much extinguish our business.”

Jurinsky said at the council meeting she found it amazing Pet City in Aurora’s Town Center mall closed because of its $86,000 in delinquent taxes, not because it had been cited for improper care of the animals. In February 2020, one of the store’s dogs died from the highly infectious parvovirus, and officials seized two other dogs because of respiratory illnesses, according to a city memo.

Aurora council members who voted against the measure said the city shouldn’t ban a potential business out of fear they would sell animals that have been improperly cared for or bred.

But proponents say residents should turn to shelters and rescues for their next pets, or ethical breeders.

“Pet stores rely on puppy mills because ethical breeders don’t sell to pet stores,” said Elizabeth Oreck, the national manager of Best Friends’ puppy mill initiatives, on behalf of Colorado organizations.

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