The city of Richmond, B.C., wants to become the first in Canada to ban the retail sales of animals, prohibiting pet stores from selling live animals, especially dogs.

The Vancouver suburb banned the sale of rabbits in February and wants to take its fight for animal protection one step further.

Richmond councillor Ken Johnston said the city wants the ban in place to help stop pet stores from purchasing puppies from backyard breeders and puppy mills.

"There's a local pet store that buys its dogs from a known US puppy mill," he told "And they admit to it."

Johnston also said impulse buys are a problem with pet stores because customers do not realize the responsibility that comes with the animal.

"A person walks into the store and sees a puppy, and then it's returned within the first year," he said.

The Richmond Animal Protection Society couldn't agree more.

"The benefit of the ban will be that it will…stop people from walking into a store and walking out with a pet," said Helen Savkovic, a RAPS employee.

Like Johnston, RAPS wants to put a stop to untrained breeders who are distributing their puppies through pet stores.

"We are worried that a lot of the animals are from backyard breeders and puppy mills from both in Canada and outside," Savkovic said. "Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) breeders have it in their code of ethics that they cannot sell to pet stores."

Savkovic says a significant number of purebred dogs surrendered to RAPS are likely from pet store customers who can't return the dog to the store because of restrictive return policies.

At Pet Habitat, customers only have three days to return a puppy, and will only receive a store credit. Buyers also receive a 10-day viral guarantee and a genetic warranty that covers the costs of inherited, life-threatening defects until the puppy's first birthday.

CKC breeders are required to offer a return or replacement policy on dogs they sell, Savkovic said -- which is why RAPS believes the surrendered purebred dogs are originally from pet stores and not professional breeders.

But Doug So, a sales clerk at Richmond's Pet Habitat, said pet stores try their best to make sure customers don't surrender their animals. He said the store explains the responsibilities of pet ownership to customers before they purchase an animal.

"We don't like to encourage impulse buys. We try to discourage it," he said.

But, he added: "Sometimes people walk in and see a dog with a personality they like and they get it."

There are also concerns about the animal's welfare and well-being while it is still living in the store.

So said most puppies sell quickly, so they aren't in the store very long.

"The sales are fairly consistent," he said. "Some sell right away."

So also added that pet stores offer health guarantees such as Pet Habitat's and are available for consultation with customers after their purchases.

"We're here all the time. We're always in the public," he said. "Some breeder you buy from might not be."

But Nilda Dorini, an occasional Norfolk Terrier breeder in Richmond, said professional breeders offer more security than pet stores because they can introduce the customer to the puppy's parents, as well as provide detailed health records and their own credentials.

"I'm not a great believer in buying pets from a store because you don't know where they come from," she said.

A 2008 Ipsos Reid poll found that 35 per cent of Canadian dog owners bought their animal from a breeder while only 10 per cent purchased theirs from a pet store. Thirteen per cent adopted from an animal shelter.

The potential animal retail ban is currently under review and could be discussed again in one month, said Johnston.