South Lake Tahoe may ban pet sales

South Lake Tahoe moved one step closer to adopting an ordinance to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats within city limits.

On Thursday the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend the ordinance prohibiting the retail sale of dogs and cats by pet stores to the city council.

Commission member Gerri Grego voted against the measure.

The ordinance is seen as a way for the city to do its part in combating puppy mills " high-volume breeding facilities that the Humane Society of the United States and others consider to be inhumane. Most dogs sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, the Humane Society says.

The City Council in December asked the city attorney to draw up the ordinance. Because the Planning Commission approved the ordinance, it could go to the City Council for consideration as soon as March 17.

If approved, the ordinance would give any stores that sell dogs or cats two years to phase out that part of their business.

Grego said she doesn't condone puppy mills, but was concerned about penalizing a business without any proof that the dogs came from puppy mills. Instead, she suggested an ordinance with an expensive penalty if a business was caught selling puppy mill pets.

Commission member Bill Ottman said that would be difficult and time- consuming to control.

City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo said the city can't monitor the sale of animals because that's the role of El Dorado County Animal Services. It can only determine the zoning and land use for businesses, she added.

Local interest in puppy mills increased after the opening of Broc's Puppies on Lake Tahoe Boulevard in May.

Some South Shore animal advocates have alleged the store is selling puppies bred in puppy mills " allegations that the store's operators have denied.

Six community members voiced their opinions on the ordinance, including Broc's Puppies owner Dennis Franks: "I don't buy from puppy mills, and if I found out there was a puppy mill, I'd close it down, too."

Franks provided paperwork to the commission, which included documents showing where the dogs came from, 24 pages of medical records and an eight-page petition to keep the store open.

The Lake Tahoe Humane Society has seen an influx of pet owners seeking help with veterinary bills because they bought puppies from the pet store, said Dawn Armstrong, Lake Tahoe Humane Society executive director.

Other community members voiced there opposition to the store. Donna Rise encouraged commission members to stand up and not tolerate this type of store in the community: "There's only one way to stop puppy mills, and that's to stop the money."

Councilwoman Kathay Lovell attended the meeting, too. A dog breeder, she passed out the code of ethics for dog breeding, and said that reputable breeders don't sell their puppies to pet stores.

Banning the retail sale of dogs would bolster the city's image as a humane community " something that could help draw visitors, according to a report to the commission by DiCamillo. That's consistent with a policy in the city's General Plan that calls for encouraging visitor-oriented development, the report said.

"It's not about Broc's Puppies. It's about what kind of community we want to project ourselves as, and unfortunately it will affect one business," Planning Commission member Mike Berg said.

- Contact reporters Sara Thompson and Elaine Goodman at


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