SALT LAKE CITY — If there's one thing Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the City Council share a love for, it's animals.
The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve a new city ordinance to prohibit pet stores from selling animals unless they come from shelters or rescues.
"Everybody loves dogs, cats and rabbits," Salt Lake City Councilman Charlie Luke said after Tuesday night's vote.
The ordinance was proposed by Biskupski's administration last month to discourage inhumane puppy mills and encourage animal adoption.
More specifically, the ordinance prohibits commercial animal establishments from selling dogs, cats, or rabbits unless they're obtained from an animal shelter, an animal control agency, a humane society or a nonprofit rescue organization.
The new restrictions are intended to reduce pet overpopulation and ensure animals sold in commercial animal establishments are treated appropriately and humanely, city officials have said.
Tex, Salt Lake County K-9 mayor, and his owner, Sundays Hunt, the Utah state director of The Humane Society of The United States, visited the City Council's chamber Tuesday night in support of the ordinance.
Tex licked at Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall's face as she knelt down to give him a hearty scratch.
Rescue organizations such as the Humane Society of Utah have lobbied cities to adopt similar ordinances.
"By passing this ordinance unanimously it shows the community that they're passing laws that drive the local pet market toward more humane sources such as shelters, rescues and responsible breeders," Hunt said. "This will prevent puppy mill breeders from ever becoming a problem."
"It's a huge benefit to the community shelters because they've got these dogs, these cats, these rabbits available, and yet they're sitting in the shelter," Hunt said.
Salt Lake City Councilman Chris Wharton said the ordinance was "very important to me personally" as an animal lover.
"We do see animals as family and we want to protect them as much as we can," Wharton said.
The ordinance isn't the first of its kind in Utah. It mirrors ordinances already adopted by both Sandy and Salt Lake County.
Puppy mills aren't currently suspected of operating in Salt Lake City, but Biskupski proposed the ordinance to be proactive and send a message that puppy mills aren't welcome in Utah's capital — as well as perhaps encourage other cities to follow suit.
Pet store owners would have 90 days to comply, after which violations would result in a misdemeanor citation. However, city officials have said all current pet stores in Salt Lake City are already in-line with the new ordinance.