Arizona Republic - Macerich, parent company of one of metro Phoenix's major mall operators, is phasing out traditional live-animal pet stores in favor of animal-welfare adoption centers.
Under a policy adopted last year, Macerich will not renew the leases for any pet stores that sell live animals. The policy reflects national shifts in public opinion regarding pet buying and could benefit rescued animals and the agencies that tend to them.
In recent years, investigations by the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have linked a number of U.S. pet stores to puppy mills, commercial dog-breeding operations that raise animals in squalid conditions without proper care.
Activists across the country have spent years fighting to crack down on the inhumane practice.
In 2010, the West Hollywood City Council in California voted to ban pet stores that sell any live animals unless those stores sell rescued animals or animals bred in humane conditions. The city grandfathered in current pet stores to allow them time to adjust.
Macerich went a step further, forbidding the sale of live animals in pet stores. Instead, only adoption centers with rescued animals are allowed to operate in its malls nationwide.
The trend toward adoption centers, which had begun in some retail locations even before Macerich changed its policy, has accelerated. Many large retailers, such as PetSmart and Petco, already operate adoption programs in their stores in coordination with animal-welfare organizations. PetSmart, for example, reports the adoptions of more than 5 million cats and dogs since 1994.
Many other stores in the industry have advocated for a change in adoption practices as well. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 1,700 pet stores across the country have signed its "Pet Friendly Pledge" not to sell puppies in their stores.
As ideas about pet adoption have evolved, so have consumers' actions.
New Jersey-based Hartz Mountain Corp. found in a 2011 survey of more than 1,000 pet owners that only 4 percent would buy their next furry companion from a pet store.
Rescue organizations believe that storefront locations help them place pets in homes and raise money and awareness about animal overpopulation, reaching people who might steer clear of shelters.
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Image by Michael Schennum/The Arizona Republic