The Roseville city council banned pet stores from selling pets this week, a blunt declaration that it considers the breeding of animals for profit inhumane when there are so many animals available for adoption.
The ordinance should drive up adoptions, but it could also lead more people to buy puppies and kittens directly from breeders who may or may not treat their animals well. The public won't be able to know for sure, because Minnesota law deems state inspections of breeding operations to be private data.
Since 2014, commercial breeders with at least 10 adult animals producing more than five litters annually need to be licensed with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The board inspects their living conditions, a basic standard of care, and veterinary records to ensure animals put up for sale are healthy.
The public can be assured that all breeders with licenses have passed all their inspections, says Paul Anderson of the Board of Animal Health. However, some may have received more citations than others.
"If somebody has something that needs to be corrected, like cleaning isn't quite up to snuff, or they don't have quite enough space for each animal, we explain to them what they need to correct," Anderson says. "But just because they do something that needs a correction, it doesn't mean they lose the license."
The board's reports describing what they found at each breeding site must be kept under wraps, which puts a damper on consumers trying to research and compare different breeders to find the ones with the truly sterling reputations.
He isn't sure why that is, Anderson says. It's just the way the law was written.
When people buy from breeders, they should ask to see how the animals live so they can judge for themselves, says Kathy Mock, government affairs officer for the Animal Humane Society.
"[Keeping inspection reports private] definitley has become an issue for folks that want to look at reports," Mock says. "They're not allowed to give that out, which definitely raises an issue. Can you really do your research without actually going out to the facility."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture does similar inspections to make sure they're following federal animal welfare laws. Its reports have always been public, allowing animal rights activists and journalists to oversee the treatment of animals in zoos, circuses, laboratories, and commercial breeding operations.
However, Mock says that under the new White House administration, much of the data that was previously posted online has disappeared.
The Washington Post wrote in February that it may now be impossible for states to require pet stores to get their stock from breeders who are in good standing with the feds.