By Andrea Cordle
The city of Grove City’s pet sales restriction law was supposed to take effect at the start of 2017. Now, council members are voting on a plan to repeal the ordinance.
At the Jan. 3 meeting, council had a first reading of an ordinance to repeal legislation approved last year that would restrict the sale of companion animals in the city.
Council will vote on the repeal because in December of 2016, Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 331 into law, which states that the regulation of pet stores is a matter of statewide interest requiring statewide regulation. The bill preempted local ordinances.
Councilman Ted Berry, who sponsored the pet sale restriction ordinance, said the bill is disheartening.
“This amounts to corporate bullying,” said Berry. “It shows that if you have enough clout and enough money, you can change the law.”
The city’s pet restriction law came about after council approved a special use permit to allow Petland to sell animals. Petland opened a store on London-Groveport Road and part of its business model is to sell pure breed puppies.
Though council approved the permit, some council members disagreed with retail pet stores selling companion animals for profit, alleging the retail company sources the puppies from high volume breeders, also known as puppy mills. The city’s ordinance, which was approved with a majority vote, said that retail pet stores could only sell companion animals that came from rescue organizations or shelters.
According to Petland President Joe Watson, dogs sold come from two sources – regulated or unregulated. He said Petland only works with regulated breeders and distributors who receive government oversight. He said the company supports responsible breeders.
The pet sales restriction legislation in Grove City was heavily debated for months. Berry said council passed a law that residents overwhelmingly supported.
The new state law was sponsored by Sen. Bob Peterson, (R) who represents the 17th District, which includes Ross County where the Petland headquarters are located.
The law states that a retailer can sell companion animals that come from an animal rescue, an animal shelter, a humane society or a qualified breeder. According to the legislation, a qualified breeder can mean a private breeder who breeds a small number of animals or a high volume breeder located in or out of state that is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture who has not been issued a violation for three years.
“This law basically legalizes what they were already doing,” said Berry. “This law affects only one company. There is no other company in the state that sells dogs from high volume breeders.”
After council approved its pet restriction legislation, Petland filed a lawsuit against the city and against Berry. Since the state law was passed, the lawsuit has been put on hold.
According to Stephen Smith, law director for the city of Grove City, Petland’s case against the city has been stayed until it is determined if there will be a challenge at the state level.
The lawsuit against Berry has been dismissed without prejudice, which means the company could refile the suit.
Smith said the city could argue a case against the state on home rule grounds.
“The city has not indicated that they want to go down that road,” said the law director.
Berry said the city cannot do much to prevent the Petland store in Grove City from selling pure breed dogs, but the zoning code and special use permits can keep the company from expanding or relocating within the city.
The state law will go into effect in March.
Council will hold a second reading and public hearing on the repeal of the city’s pet sale restriction ordinance at the next council meeting, 7 p.m. Jan. 17 at City Hall.