Bitten by Puppy Bans
By Seth Mendelson

What do you do when all that you do is no longer allowed?

That is a question a lot of pet retailers are asking themselves as they are forced—usually by government regulations or local pressure—to stop selling live animals at their stores.

As we discuss in this month’s cover story, retailers have a short list of options once it is decided that they will no longer sell animals—specifically, dogs—in their stores, but completely going out of business does not necessarily have to be one of them.

Pet retailers can reinvent themselves in a number of different ways. One, of course, is to emphasize in-store pet adoptions. Another is to change the merchandise mix to include more unique products that are also more profitable. A third is to add other services, such as grooming, to make up for the loss of sales and profits that came from puppy sales.

There is no denying that pressure is building on pet retailers to do away with the selling of puppies at their stores. As animal-rights advocates gain more support in political circles, as well as with some consumers, many retailers are being forced to walk away from this profitable business model.

Irvine, Calif., may be the poster child for the trend. The city outlawed the selling of pets in stores in 2012 and, as you will read in our story, it had a dramatic impact on at least one pet retailer. Meanwhile, this retailer’s other store, in Newport Beach, about 10 miles away, continues to thrive with no restrictions.

Pet retailers must fight back. Yes, there are some shady breeders and retailers out there who have cast a dark shadow on the entire pet industry. But many breeders, and most retailers, operate efficient and safe operations when it comes to selling live animals. I am certain that no one wants to sell a sick puppy or kitten to a consumer, and I have witnessed, firsthand, retailers refusing to sell a pet to a customer that they deemed unworthy of caring for the animal. It is time that we get this message out to consumers and politicians.

In the meantime, independent pet retailers that currently sell live animals need to have a plan in place to protect their businesses in case they are unsuccessful at changing minds. It is never too early to start in this regard.