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Fate of 'puppy mill bill' now up to Ducey

Whether they are dog people or cat people, pet owners are passionate about their furry friends. For many, they're more like furry family.

PHOENIX - Whether they are dog people or cat people, pet owners are passionate about their furry friends. For many, they're more like furry family.

And just as Arizonans disagree on issues involving human families, they also disagree on pet issues.

The biggest discussion today on pets in Arizona surrounds Senate Bill 1248, which is on Gov. Doug Ducey's desk, awaiting his signature or veto.

The bill would keep cities from requiring pet stores to sell only shelter or rescue animals. It further broadens the sources pet stores can use to include USDA-certified breeders.

Phoenix passed an ordinance limiting pet shops to shelter or rescue animals in 2015, as did Tempe earlier this year.

The intent of these rules is to keep so-called puppy mills from selling their animals to pet retailers in those cities, eventually making inhumane breeding practices less financially viable.

According to Tempe councilmember Lauren Kuby, 119 cities in the U.S. have adopted such legislation.

Frank Mineo, the owner of five pet stores in the Valley, opposed the Phoenix and Tempe ordinances, claiming they also prevent shops purchasing puppies from reputable breeders, lumping them in with puppy mills.

"We are looking for kennels that are taking good care of adult breeding dogs," Mineo said. "We don’t deal with breeders that keep their dogs inside a cage."

Mineo and National Federation of Independent Business state director Farrell Quinlan argue that the proposed state law's allowance for USDA-certified breeders keeps puppy mills from cornering the purebred market.

"If you make it so that [puppy mills are] the only game in town, that’s what you’re going to get," Quinlan said.

But those who, like Kuby, support the local ordinances, say the USDA does not do a good enough job vetting breeders and making certain the animals are treated well.

Nicole Galvan started a petition, which has more than 11,000 signatures, urging Ducey to veto the bill. She doesn't feel a USDA certification does enough to ensure dogs are raised in healthy conditions.

She said her rescue dog June has lingering health issues developed during her upbringing. June was raised by a USDA-certified breeder.

"Nothing illegal had been done to her," Galvan said. "It was legal for her to be in a cage for all her life."

Pet-shop owner Mineo insists his business goes beyond the USDA's guidelines, visiting its breeders twice per year and performing inspections separate from the USDA's, severing relationships with unfit breeders if necessary.

Further, Mineo points out, the bill on Ducey's desk would require pet dealers to post breeders' names and license numbers along with any dogs or cats from those breeders.

Kuby questions the enforceability of standards on breeders, though, noting a list provided to lawmakers by Mineo of all his breeders included none from Arizona.

But pet owners affected by the bill are in the state, and the discussion shows there's a lot to consider when adopting an animal.

Some people may be looking for a specific breed, and the ordinances can make that more difficult. Others are concerned breeders are not scrutinized enough for their treatment of the animals, and the bill would leave that up to groups they don't trust.

Along with whether to sign the scores of other bills on his desk from this legislative session, the decision is now Ducey's to make.