Scott Tibbs

The city council's blanket ban on pet stores

By Scott Tibbs, February 20, 2023

When I was in the College Mall a couple weeks ago, I snapped a photo of Anthony's Pets. The lights are off and the store is empty. No one is working there now. The nine Democrats on the Bloomington City Council voted in December 2021 to completely ban all sales of pets in the city of Bloomington.

It is important to note that the city of Bloomington operates an animal shelter on the south side. The blanket ban on selling pets eliminates competition for city government's animal shelter. In no other scenario would we allow anyone to forbid competition by law. Microsoft was accused of anti-competitive practices in the 1990s. Both Google and Apple have monopoly power over their app stores for Android and iOS. None of them can ban competition by law. The city's self-interest in banning the sale of puppies cannot be ignored.

Beyond eliminating competition, the council's policy reasoning was that selling dogs contributes to puppy mills. It is indeed a bad thing when dogs are over-bred, not given proper medical care, or kept in inhumane conditions. Too much inbreeding by puppy mills produces heath and temperament problems. Government does have an interest in protecting vulnerable animals from abuse and neglect, and even many conservatives would support an approach based on animal welfare.

But there was no attempt by the city council to pass a law that would regulate where animals are obtained, the conditions of the breeders, or the health of the animals. They decided to simply ban the sale of dogs in the city limits instead of working to protect animal welfare while allowing local businesses to operate within the confines of the law.

Note this will do very little to stop puppy mills in the state of Indiana or nationwide. Had this ban been passed in 1991 instead of 2021, it might have had some impact, but the Internet exists. I could go online right now and purchase a puppy, either from a reputable licensed breeder or from an unethical backyard breeder.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with the Democrats who run city government. They believe they know best and seek to outright ban things they do not like. We saw this with the move to ban plastic grocery bags in 2015 before Congresswoman Erin Houchin (then a state senator) stopped them. Instead of regulations to protect animal welfare, they use the law as a hammer. This is why we need new leadership at City Hall. The makeup of the city council will be different a year from now thanks to redistricting, but the basic mentality will stay the same unless Republicans start winning elections.

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