Puppy Mill Free Reno/Sparks/Washoe 2013-2015

Our hard work paid off in getting the Meadowood Mall puppy store to convert to pet supplies with no sales of puppies. We made headway in Reno, Carson City, Douglas County towards bans, but Reno’s ban was pushed-back by a Washoe County employee who was a friend of the stores. He convinced Sparks and Reno that the so-called “Interlocal Agreement” prevented cities from passing ordinances to do with animals. We made a case at meeting-after-meeting that we were requesting a business licensing change, not an animal ordinance.

Everyone decided to let Washoe County Animal Services try passing stronger regulations with stricter oversight, even as we protested that the vast majority in our community (we collected 20,000 local hardcopy signatures) just wanted the stores shut down! But the August 2019 indictments of puppy store owners for animal cruelty brought the issue—as we knew it would time-and-time again—to the forefront of public outrage.

2013

In early July 2013, San Diego passed the 37th ban in the country. Reno and Washoe County were already on the maps as animal friendly when a 2003 referendum by popular vote, directed Washoe County Regional Services to be provided with a new building complex in which the Humane Society of Nevada (founded in Reno in the early 19th century when Reno was the city of Nevada) to have an equal facility provided within the same complex and for both to be “no-kill,” which at the time actually meant “low-kill.”

Thinking a puppy store ban ordinance would be a quick slam dunk, activist Billy Howard set about getting the Reno City Council to get behind a ban. Howard had earlier graduated from the Reno Citizens Institute and the Washoe County Engaged Leadership Academy and had met many of the staff and Council and Commission.

After building an FB page, extensive website and saw how quickly the idea garnered local support through the summer, Howard approached Reno Council Member Sharon Zadra in late August. She agreed to become the champion for the ordinance and brought up a council resolution in October 2013 to be added to the December 2013 Agenda for a vote.

The December agenda item included a moratorium on issuing new licenses to stores while considering the fate of the three local pet stores: one in midtown, one in Meadowood Mall, and the newly opened Puppies Plus on S. Virginia and Neil Road, owned by the former manager of Pets R Us in the mall, Mike Schneider. The resolution was passed unanimously and an ordinance was ordered to be presented.

2014

In late January 2014, KOLO news reporter Angele Chen, with the support of anchor Amanda Schieve, broke a story of employees on camera crying over the situation in the back of the store, where sick puppies were left untreated to suffer and die, alone in a dark room, with no relief for their pain.

The community rallied and the ordinance moved ahead.

Howard began gathering signatures at every puppy adoption and fund-raising event and garnered the support of every rescue, shelter, doggy day care, dog training and pet supply store in the area which all helped get signatures.

In early April 2014, a mass rally against puppy stores on the corner of Neil and S. Virginia, not far from 2 stores, had attendance from 75 people, an astonishing turnout.

The community was clear: end the sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in retail stores.

But a newly elected council member, who had financial interests in Midtown, wanted the pet store there, Best Friends, shut down pronto. She arrived at the store one morning with a battery of code enforcement officers and the owner was charged with not having the proper hot water heater and isolation rooms for sick puppies. The owner spent in the neighborhood of $30,000 to update his store to code. A week later the code enforcers came and cited for more troubles. They were fixed. A week later code enforcement popped the store for having too many plugs in an outlet. The store owner could see the writing on the wall, as there were other tenants in the same building who were not being targeted. He closed the store and doubled down on the Meadowood Mall store, ripe for the impulse purchase.

Howard approached Schieve with the concern that targeting a business could get the city in trouble, and why not get behind the ordinance to end puppy and kitten sales through legislation. Lawsuits that were being lodged against jurisdictions by puppy stores were failing every which way. This could be the win win.

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