County Outlaws Roadside Puppy Sales

You've probably seen them before, people selling puppies and kittens in parking lots and along roadways in Harris County. Starting this Monday, roadside and parking lot animal sales will be illegal in Harris County, the result of a new state law that county officials have now ratified locally. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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The state law banning roadside animal sales took effect September 1st, but it took a vote by county commissioners to make it illegal in Harris County. It's common to see puppies being sold out of cages on roadsides, sometimes dozens at a time. Local animal rights activist Eunice Foltin led the fight to make what she calls roadside puppy mills illegal.

"They're making their living off the backs of these animals. They're put in pens. Every time they can breed, they're bred again and if they're sick, they them in a pile and they let them die. People don't want to hear it. They better want to hear it because it's the truth."

The effort to ban roadside animal sales began in 2003 when Harris County's legislative team called on lawmakers to give local jurisdictions the right to make the practice illegal. A bill sponsored by Houston State Senator Rodney Ellis was passed during the last legislative session. Starting October 1st, Harris County violators could now be fined up to $500. Dawn Blackmar is with the Harris County Office of Public Health and Environmental Services.

"The problem that we have is that if somebody has a litter of ten puppies and they're selling them for $100 a piece, that's $1000. If they get fined $50, what's the cost-benefit ratio there? So what we're going to do is be visiting with the JP's and hopefully convince them to get the fines up high enough where we can discourage the sale, the repeat offenders."

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says the new law will hopefully reduce pet overpopulation and the sale of animals that could have serious health problems.

"The idea of people being able to sell animals on the roadside, the person who buys the animal doesn't know who to go back to. You don't have any recourse if the animal turns out to be sick or diseased. The treatment of those animals is just deplorable. We the county lobbied the legislature to give us the right to ban these sales and the legislature did that for which we are grateful and now we're implementing it."

Authorities say they'll first warn people selling animals along roads and in parking lots, but will then issue Class C misdemeanor citations about a month after the warning phase starts.

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