At the halfway mark of the long 60-day legislative session, legislators in the Senate have moved another preemptive measure that reduces local decision-making at the local level.
On Tuesday, Senate Bill 157 cleared the Senate Agriculture Committee with two-former city council members turned Senator voting ‘no’. The legislation is a local mandate that prohibits retail pet shops from selling a dog or cat less than eight weeks old and to anyone under 18 – it also prohibits local governments from passing ordinances that conflict with the act. Opponents say the reality is the legislation allows terrible actors to continue to sell animals that come from puppy mills.
The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Jason Howell, R-Murray, who did not speak on the bill at the Senate Agriculture Committee, which he chairs. Instead, speaking on behalf of the bill were representatives of Petland, a company that the Humane Society of the United States identifies as the largest retailer of animals from puppy mills.
The Kentucky League of Cities Board of Directors opposed the preemptive measure. Multiple cities across the state have already passed a version of ‘The Humane Pet Ordinance,’ outlawing the sale of dogs and cats of any age in retail stores and public places. The purpose of the local ordinance is to protect consumers from buying sick and poorly bred animals in parking lots and retail stores where they are sourced from puppy mills. Many consumers have purchased these animals and ended up with crippling vet bills and debt.
Several other communities are also considering taking up the local ordinance.
Councilwoman Marylin Parker, R-Louisville, said if the “bill passes, it usurps the home-rule authority of cities and sets a dangerous precedent that won’t be received kindly or well by Kentucky cities.”
Julia Springsteen, an Elizabethtown City Council member, sponsored their local ordinance, which passed in 2021 with unanimous approval.
“Senate Bill 157 will preempt E-Town’s ordinance and will open the door to milled dogs in our community,” she said. “Kentucky is a home-rule state where local municipalities have the right to pass ordinances to protect our residents’ interests. Preemption would make sense if SB 157 protected Kentucky families and encouraged the humane breeding of animals, but unfortunately, it does not.”
Senators Cassie Chamber Armstrong, D-Louisville, and Matthew Deneen, R-Elizabethtown, voted against the bill in committee.
The legislation now makes its way to the full Senate for its consideration.