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Senate rejects puppy mill bill on crossover day

To discourage puppy mills, cities like Sandy Springs and Woodstock have banned the retail sale of puppies.

ATLANTA - The state Senate rejected a controversial bill on Wednesday that would have overturned laws in cities and counties regulating the sale of puppies.

The vote came on crossover day, when much of the legislation proposed this year will fail because bills fail to cross over by passing either the House or Senate.

The bill garnered strong opposition from organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, who argue that puppies sold in chain stores like Petland often get their start in life with high volume breeders.

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To discourage puppy mills, cities like Sandy Springs and Woodstock have banned the retail sale of puppies. Those local laws encourage folks to adopt pets from animal shelters like the Atlanta Humane Society, which sends to homes some 10,000 animals per year.

"As more and more people across the country are learning the source of that cute little puppy in the window, they don’t want those kind of businesses in their community," said Debra Berger, Georgia's director of the Humane Society.

But two bills in the legislature would overturn local laws that ban the sale of puppies. SB 418 was rejected on Wednesday, while no action has yet been taken on the House version.

"It’s about the free market, and for Georgia’s consumers to have the ability to choose what they buy," said the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper).

Jasperse said local governments have no business banning the purchase of otherwise legal retail items, including the purchase of commercially-bred puppies. Berger contends they do.

"Why shouldn’t a local community be able to say that they don’t want to bring in large amounts of commercially bred pets when they're already dealing with a huge homeless pet problem?" she asked.

"Taking away consumer choice isn’t the appropriate way to do it," Jasperse said. Asked if he was standing up for puppy mills, he responded: "Well, I’m not doing that. I’m standing up for consumer choice."

State Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa), who chairs the senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee, was SB 418’s main sponsor.