The saying “You can’t help who you love” must have been coined by a dog person, because there’s no way to explain the all-consuming obsession you feel when you’re blessed to know and love a pup. Even if you have a specific preference for Corgi booties or Pittie kisses, sometimes the greatest joy you’ll ever feel comes from sharing your life with a pup whose background isn’t known. But who cares, right? Love is love.
But for dog lovers in Utah’s Cedar City, love may have some conditions. Residents are currently legally allowed to have up to two dogs in a single home, and an amendment to this law will permit folks to expand their families to include a third pup. But before humans flock to their local shelters to find love for the third time, the city may require them to abide by some rules: the third dog must be licensed and registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and must be kept in a kennel.
Some city councilmembers responding to criticism surrounding the law amendment have suggested that a dog owner who spends more money for a registered purebred dog is more likely to be a more responsible dog owner. “Most people who have purebred dogs like this are responsible people. They take care of the dogs,” said Councilman Paul Cozzens during a meeting to discuss the issue earlier last week.
But rescuers and shelter workers who struggle to find homes for countless mixed-breed dogs every year fear that the amendment to Cedar City’s dog law is just another way to discriminate against mixed-breed dogs, which has been illegal in the state of Utah since 2015.
“There’s no indicator that just because someone has an AKC purebred they’re going to be a responsible owner,” said dog rescuer Carrie Haber. “It doesn’t matter the breed or how much you spend on an AKC purebred. It’s all based on if the owner is going to be a responsible owner.”
Statements like those made at the council hearing reflect the general public’s understanding of dogs registered under organizations like the AKC. Traditionally, registration was done to provide proof of lineage for purebred dogs. A dog owner could not show or compete in an AKC or Westminster Dog Show without proof of registration.
It wasn’t until 2009 that the AKC allowed mixed-breed dogs to be registered under their AKC Canine Partners program, allowing non-purebred dogs to compete and earn titles in dog sport competitions. The first mixed-breed Westminster Dog Show didn’t happen until 2014.
“Our job is already hard enough as it is to get dogs out of shelters and into good homes. It’s almost like it’s discriminating against dogs who aren’t purebred. It’s as though they’re saying dogs who aren’t purebred aren’t worth it.”
He believes the City Council should not be focusing on if a dog is purebred, instead making sure pets in the city are taken care of properly. Haber believes this includes not kenneling dogs and exacerbating behavioral issues that ultimately may lead to surrendering the animal to the city. “Our whole goal when rescuing a dog is to get them out of that small space,” Haber said. Councilman Cozzens believes the city should focus less on the number of dogs a person owns, and more on controlling the problems irresponsible owners create for the city. “Really what all these things boil down to is being good neighbors,” Cozzens said. “If you’re a good neighbor and not irritating your neighbor, then that’s really what matters.”
City councilmembers discussed the ordinance on May 4, and will be voting on the issue May 11.