Inspired by San Diego's puppy sales ban, activist Billy Howard founded Puppy Mill Free Reno on 7/11/2013. Howard immediately reached out to Dawn Armstrong who had just retired as Executive Director of South Lake Tahoe Humane Society. It was Dawn's unflagging determination and ingenuity to get the notorious Broc's Pups store closed in S. Lake Tahoe that sparked an international movement.
Albuquerque passed a broad-based ban in 2006 to curb an animal overpopulation issue and a few municipalities in Florida passed "no dogs can be sold for any purpose" from 1952-2002. Ms. Armstrong spear-headed the first activist ban targeting a store. The language developed for South Lake Tahoe's ban is still in use in contemporary ordinances.
The community reacted strongly in favor of a ban with the largest puppy/kitten store demonstration at the time, in April 2014, with 75 people standing on the corner near the puppy store playing drums, blowing horns and chanting: "What do we want? Puppy Mill Free Reno! When do we want it? NOW!"
Chicago later had a demonstration with 125 people. But as that city's population is 10x that of the greater Reno area, we still hold the per-capita largest demonstration known.
Mr. Howard initiated a local hard copy signature campaign with every animal rescue and shelter in Northern Nevada lending support. Howard asked if certain businesses would host the petition and many pet supply stores, restaurants, art supply stores, grooming businesses and local specialty shops asked if they could be a part of it. Volunteers for PMFR were invited to nearly every faire in the area with no charge for 1½ years, including Earth Day.
Many supporters downloaded the blank sheets supporting a retail sales ban on dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets and got their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to pass the petition around and mail it back in.
By early 2015, Howard had amassed 20,000 hard copy signatures (not an online petition), nearly all from Nevada residents in favor of closing puppy and kitten stores.
In late 2013, Council Member Sharon Zadra, an animal lover, agreed to champion our cause and in Nov/Dec of that year got a 6th month moratorium on new licensing while charging staff to come up with an ordinance to end the sale of dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets in retail stores.
In early 2014, KOLO TV ran a series of exposés on a store in the mall, bought from the owner of Broc's pups who had been arrested on the same day the ordinance passed in South Lake Tahoe and taken out of the store in handcuffs. Franks spent 6 years in prison for trafficking drugs to minors out of the store. The current of owner of Puppies Plus was the manager of the mall store under new ownership, but left after 6 months to form his own business, the now disgraced Puppies Plus in Reno.
In December 2015, Sparks Council member Charlene Bybee declared to the Washoe County Commission, "Sparks welcomes the store with open arms." Certain that Reno was about to pass a ban on puppy stores, Mr. Schneider opened a new store in Sparks, Puppy Love.
Howard and a host of volunteers attended nearly every festival and fair in the 2014-2015 season including all the rescue and shelter organization fund-raising events and the major faires by invitation, including Paws on the Plaza and the NHS walk around the Marina, the NHS Duck Race and many other events, CRCS open house and a week-long festival created by Howard and hosted by the psychology department, Puppy Mill Awareness Week at UNR saw a petition booth where we got over 600 signatures in a day, a workshop on the puppy mill paradigm a talk on Creating Social Change: Using the Science of Human Behavior, a dog(gy) parade through campus with a Human/Dog bonding workshop by a local trainer concluding with a festival on the green with 8 local speakers addressing Activism & Advocacy: Compassion and the Flourishing Community.
Despite a strong will of the community and enough votes on the Reno City Council, Washoe County indicated it would enforce a strict interpretation of 2003's "Interlocal Agreement" § (c) which declares that Reno forthwith gives up writing any new ordinances concerning animals. Though PMFR continued to push for the ban under business licensing, Reno City staff hesitated and the ordinance never came to the Council despite PMFR attending each Council meeting during General Public Comment—with a parade of community members, business owners and non-profit executive directors—as well as the county brainstorming session mandated by the state where puppy store bans garnered overwhelming support (90%), though was often mischaracterized by then county staff as 50/50. We were told new regulations would give County AS more power over stores, but those regulations have only just now been put into place, in August 2019, 5 years later! We join with Mayor Schieve who implied in a statement from the dais on 9/23/19, too little, too late!
In early 2014, newly elected Council member Hillary Schieve lead code enforcement action against the pathetic and disgusting store in Midtown, also owned by the same person as the mall store, Pets R Us. It was then Mr. Howard impressed upon Ms's. Zadra and Schieve to pass the ban sweeping the country to get all stores closed once-and-for-all.
With the advent of more disturbing stories about puppy stores, which we knew would happen, and a change in leadership at Animal Services in Washoe County, the roadblocks to a strict interpretation of County governance has been diminished and the path paved for victory, finally after 6 years.
Billy Howard has also secured an agreement in early September 2019 from Senator Julia Ratti, a former champion for PMFR on the Sparks City Council, to propose a draft bill for a statewide end to puppy store sales in the next legislative session in 2021.
On July 29th, 2020, the Reno City Council voted unanimously to end the sale of dogs and cats in retail stores, citing they would be open to hear arguments on additional animals to be added to the list, including rabbits and ferrets, in a future ordinance update. The Council agreed to our request for the ban amortization period to be reduced from 6 months to effective immediately.
On August 12, 2020, the completed ordinance was read into law and our request that the law be referred to as Grady's Law, in honor of the mayor's older sister who died within hours of the first reading, was agreed to by the Council and Mayor. A very moving and tearful time for so many who have asked for this ordinance for 7 years, nearly to the day.
The ordinance took effect and was enforceable upon publication in the RGJ classifieds on 8/14/2020.
Meetings with Sparks City Council Members have ensued. We are answering all their questions and engaging professionals for support. It will come down to whether members are more interested in supporting someone making a profit over ending animal suffering. In the meantime, we have endorsed candidates running in opposition who have pledged to bring an ordinance to the Council if the first three months if elected.