Ashlee Straka gets a kiss from her 7 year-old rescue Gator at Woof Life pet store in Crown Point Friday November 5, 2021. Straka has been the manager of the store for six years. (Andy Lavalley for the Post-Tribune)
Ashlee Straka gets a kiss from her 7 year-old rescue Gator at Woof Life pet store in Crown Point Friday November 5, 2021. Straka has been the manager of the store for six years. (Andy Lavalley for the Post-Tribune)
Pet stores in Crown Point won’t be allowed to sell puppies and kittens, which officials say will stop pet stores from selling animals from mills and protect consumers from buying animals under false pretense, following the passage of an ordinance.

Crown Point pet store owners say they support the ordinance. Leslie Cook, owner of Woof Life, said her business does not sell animals.

“We’re thankful for that ordinance. We would not sell puppy mill animals and we don’t sell any animals,” Cook said.

Jeff Hixon, assistant manager of Crown Point Pet Store, said the business also supports the ordinance. The business works with a humane society to help customer adopt cats, Hixon said, but all the proceeds go to the humane society.

The ordinance, which passed in a 7-0 vote Nov. 1 by the Crown Point Council, now states pet stores can’t sell dogs or cats. Pet stores can partner with animal organizations to offer space to showcase adoptable dogs and cats.
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Councilwoman Dawn Stokes, D-2nd, who proposed the ordinance, said she did so after learning that officials in various humane societies have been working toward getting similar ordinances passed throughout Lake County because there are businesses in Hobart, Hammond and Schererville that buy from puppy mills, Stokes said.

The ordinance not only protects animals, but consumers as well, Stokes said.

“These kinds of stores sell puppies at a premium and make you feel they were from a responsible breeder ... and that’s not true,” Stokes said.

According to the ordinance, “a significant number” of puppies and kittens sold at pet stores come from large-scale breeding facilities where the animals are not “adequately provided for.” Federal and state laws do not go far enough to address the sale of animals from mills at pet stores, according to the ordinance.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 10,000 puppy mills produce more than 2.4 million puppies a year across the country, and that most dogs and cats from a pet store come from mills, according to the ordinance.

There are documented cases of abuse inside the mills, including overbreeding and lack of adequate and nutritious food, water and shelter, according to the ordinance. All these factors lead to health and behavioral issues in the animals, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance does not stop someone from buying an animal from rescue organizations, shelters or from a hobby breeder “where the consumer can see directly the conditions in which the dogs or cats are bred,” according to the ordinance.

The Humane Society of the United States Indiana Director Samantha Morton urged the council to approve the ordinance because in Lake and Porter counties, over the last several months, several pet stores have opened that sell animals.

“This is a real threat to communities,” Morton said. “It can be a real drain on resources for our animal welfare community. “

Elizabeth Oreck, the national manager of puppy mill initiatives for Best Friends Animal Society, told the council that puppy and kitten mills are in business to supply pet stores. While the mills are regulated by the USDA, “the federal care standards do not ensure quality breeding or a humane life for animals,” Oreck said.

“They are really merely survival standards. This substandard breeding means that unsuspecting buyers are often faced with a pet having physical, genetical and psychological problems that can result in pets being surrendered to overcrowded shelters when the emotional toll and the medical bills become more than the buyer can manage,” Oreck said.

St. Joseph County, Dyer, Highland and more than 415 other cities, counties and states have enacted similar ordinances or laws, Oreck said.

The Crown Point ordinance does not impact business or stop people from going to “responsible breeders” or even prevent someone from adopting an animal from an organization. The ordinance does stop “an endless supply of poorly bred pets from being imported into the community so that consumers are protected and fewer animals will have to suffer in order to supply the retail pet trade,” Oreck said.
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