City opposes state pet sales proposal

By Andrea Cordle
Southwest Editor

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would regulate the retail sale of companion animals. Grove City council opposes such legislation.

Last month, legislators introduced an amendment  to regulate the sale of dogs to an unrelated tax bill that was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The amendment was dropped and Representative Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) introduced a pet sale regulation bill, House Bill 573. Senator Gary Peterson (R-District 17) also introduced Senate Bill 331, which is a similar companion bill.

Both of the pieces of legislation would preempt any local ordinance, resolution or law adopted to regulate the sale of companion animals.

In March, Grove City council approved an ordinance that says a retail pet store shall only offer for sale dogs and cats that the store has obtained from a rescue group, animal shelter or a humane society. This ordinance came about after Petland obtained a special use permit to sell puppies and kittens at its Grove City location on London-Groveport Road. Many questioned if those pure breed puppies came from high volume breeders, otherwise known as puppy mills.

“Grove City does not need to feed into the demand of designer puppies,” said councilwoman Laura Lanese.

Councilman Jeff Davis said he voted for the legislation because he wants the city to be a piece of the puzzle that brings an end to high volume breeders.

Joe Watson, president of Petland, said dogs come from two sources – regulated and and unregulated. He said the company only works with regulated breeders and distributors who are USDA approved with government oversight.

“Petland supports responsible, regulated breeders,” said Watson.

The proposed House bill says retailers shall only sell dogs that are 8 weeks or older. They cannot sell a dog without a certificate of veterinarian inspection and a implanted microchip.

The bill would also require a pet store or qualified breeder to provide the customer with the name and address of the breeder that bred the dog, as well as the USDA license number of the breeder that bred the dog. The customer would also be provided with the animal’s birth date and the date the pet store took possession of the dog.

If passed, this would become a statewide regulation that would override local laws, like the one recently passed in Grove City. Toledo also adopted a similar law that restricts the sale of companion animals in pet shops. That law says a retail pet store can only sell animals obtained from a animal shelter or non-profit rescue organization.

At a recent Grove City meeting, council publicly voiced their concern over the House bill and with a majority vote, passed a resolution opposing the bill.

The resolution says the city believes that the regulation of pet stores is a matter of local concern and should be left to the local municipalities to determine what is and is not appropriate for their community. It also says any regulation by the state to preempt local regulations are contrary to home rule authority.

“We believe in home rule and home rule is important to us,” said councilman Ted Berry.

Animal activists also oppose the House bills because it allows retailers to continue to obtain dogs from regulated high volume breeders. Many allege USDA regulated breeding facilities are
lax and put profit before the care of the animals.

“The language in both bills is insufficient to adequately protect consumers or the puppies sold in pet stores whose parents live in breeding conditions where profit above care for the facility owner serves as their primary motive for existence,” said Mary O’Connor Shaver, who spoke on behalf or several animal rescue groups including Angels for Animals, Animal Cruelty Task Force of Ohio and Ohio Voters for Companion Animals.

State Representative Cheryl Grossman (R- Grove City) said she has not had time to review the bill proposal in its entirety, but said it is better as a stand alone bill than an amendment. She said the bill has just been introduced and will have to go through committees, the House and the Senate, giving lawmakers time to find middle ground with all the interested parties.

“We can accomplish a whole lot more when we work together,” said Grossman. “There will be time for logical discussions.”

Meanwhile, Berry encouraged residents to contact legislators about this bill.

Since the city passed its pet sale restriction bill, Petland Inc. filed suit against the city of
Grove City and a separate suit against councilman Berry.

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