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New Bloomington pet store policy proposal causes dispute over animal sourcing


A range of puppies and cats are for sale at Delilah’s Pet Shop, a local pet store in Bloomington. The Animal Control Commission introduced a policy proposal that would only allow pet stores to get their animals from shelters or rescue organizations in an effort to eliminate puppy mill usage. Ty Vinson

For a bunch of dog lovers, the discourse surrounding pet protective policies has gotten ruff. 

The Animal Control Commission of Bloomington introduced a policy proposal in early July that would only allow pet stores to get their animals from shelters or rescue organizations in an effort to eliminate puppy mill usage. 

“The goal is to move animal care forward, and we believe our community does not want animals come up from puppy mills,” said Rebecca Warren, the head of the commission and executive director of the Monroe County Humane Association. 

While the proposal was passed unanimously by the commission, it is still in the early stages of development. The commission has done similar work in the past, such as providing policy recommendations to keep dogs out of hot cars and to not allow pets to be outside in inclement weather. 

The proposal has been sent to the mayor’s office to be reviewed, and Warren said the commission is reaching out to local pet stores to get feedback. 

“It’s a direct impact to their business,” Warren said. “I’m hoping through conversation we can find better sourcing for animals in our community.”

One Bloomington pet store, Delilah’sPet Shop, has not taken the proposal well. Previous owner and founder Karen Kidwell said the proposal could cause them to not sell animals anymore. 

“Shelter dogs aren’t for everyone,” Kidwell said. 

Kidwell said it was important for families to buy dogs that are socialized when they are puppies. Shelter dogs that were abused could cause harm to new families that buy them, she said. 

“They never forget anything,” Kidwell said. “They’re going to be wary of that group.”

Delilah’s recently received public scrutiny when Facebook users accused the store’s employees of keeping puppies in inhumane conditions in the basement, saying they left the dogs there to die. Many of the Facebook comments alleging the abuse have since been deleted.

Kidwell said she received hateful messages, including one telling her she “should have a bullet put between her eyes.” 

Kidwell said a puppy had a disease that staff members did not want to spread to the other animals. A veterinarian recommended brief isolation, so staff kept the dog in gated area in the basement of their newly built store while it received treatment. 

Kidwell said she was worried the proposal would put Delilah’s out of business. Employees have created a petition against it directed at the City of Bloomington. 

According to the petition, Delilah’s only get its animals from humane individual breeders across the state and resell them at the store. It said people should at least have an option when they are looking to purchase a pet.

“We just want to educate people that not all pet stores are out to just make money but instead provide an option to those who don't have the means to adopt or rescue,” the petition read. 

As of Wednesday, the petition had almost 400 signatures, with a goal of 500. 

Virgil Sauder, the director of Animal Care and Control at the Bloomington Animal Shelter, said a policy proposal targeting bad breeding practices is something that aligns with the shelter’s goals.

“As an animal welfare shelter, we want to help support good care for the animals,” Sauder said. “We want to have healthy pets coming from good sources.” 

Although this would stop to pet stores working with breeders, inhumane or not, he said the proposal would not put breeders out of business since they could still independently breed and sell their pets. 

“It’s the start of a process,” Sauder said. “The proposal is just one recommendation.” 

He said he is working with the commission to help guide its work with the local pet stores and pet shelters.

Warren said more work needs to be done on the proposal before the commission votes on it. 

“There’s lots of footwork that needs to be done, we need to figure out what it’s going to look like in action,” Warren said. “I hope that everyone realizes there are great animals in shelters and rescues situations.”

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