El Paso, Texas recently enacted very mild laws regulating the sales of pets in an effort to combat puppy mills and encourage adoption, a move which caused a local Petland franchise to go ballistic and start suing animal rescuers. Richmond, a town in British Columbia, has gone one better: They have become the first city in Canada to pass a ban on the sale of puppies from local pet stores.

The city council unanimously approved the new law. “This will not end puppy mills, I get that. This is a step in the direction of sending the message to puppy mills that your practices are not acceptable,” said council member Ken Johnston, who initiated the ban. British Columbia SPCA spokesperson Lorie Chortyk added, “What a ban would do is effectively remove one of the venues that [puppy mills] have to sell their dogs … Without that venue, their profits go down and I think it would actually discourage the industry.”

Richmond in particular needs this sort of law. According to The Vancouver Courier, “51 percent of British Columbians annually buy their dogs from a breeder, many via pet stores, rather than adopting, compared to the North American average for a municipality of 25 percent. In Richmond, the average number of residents purchasing puppies from breeders annually is 57 percent.”

Many people buy from breeders because of some bizarre fixation on bloodlines and owning a purebred dogs. It doesn’t always work out well for the animals, though. CTV British Columbia reports that more than half of the dogs adopted from the city’s animal shelter in 2007 and 2008 were purebred — with more than 25 percent of those less than a year old.

It’s still possible something could interfere with the new law going into effect. Some pet store owners are vowing to fight the law so they can still profit from the sale of animals. However, if everything goes as planned, pet store owners will have until April 2011 to sell or remove dogs from their businesses.

Hopefully, more jurisdictions will enact similar laws banning the sales of animals in pet shops to combat puppy mills and encourage adoption. In the meantime, tell big pet store chains such as Petland to stop selling live animals and start supporting rescue.

Photo Credit: The HSUS