By Andrea Cordle
Should pet stores sell dogs or cats for profit?
That is the question posed to Grove City leaders by councilman Ted Berry.
Berry, along with councilwoman Laura Lanese, has introduced legislation that would restrict the commercial and retail sale of companion animals (dogs and cats) for profit.
Council heard the first reading on this legislation at the Jan. 19 meeting where many community members came to voice their opinion on the issue. The second reading and public hearing on the ordinance will be held Feb. 1.
The proposed legislation stems from city council’s decision in December to approve a special use permit for Petland. The permit would allow the company to sell animals. The Chillicothe-based company plans to locate a Petland store at 2740-2744 London-Groveport Road.
Berry voted against the special use permit saying he could not support it because of allegations that some of the pure bred puppies Petland sells may come from puppy mills or high-volume breeders.
“This is a very personal issue for me,” said Berry. “While working in the state legislature, I saw a puppy mill. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. It keeps you up at night.”
Berry said he believes that Petland supports an industry that he is against.
This proposed legislation would affect Petland.
Berry said the proposal is not to keep Petland out of Grove City.
“I’m not saying Petland has to leave,” he said. “I’m just saying they cannot sell dogs.”
The proposed legislation is to restrict the retail sale of dogs and cats, which according to the ordinance, contributes to the proliferation of homeless or unwanted animals that typically end up in public animal shelters. The ordinance does not prohibit the sale of animals such as birds, hamsters and guinea pigs.
The proposed restrictions would not apply to rescue organizations. Many rescue groups keep animals up for adoption at local pet stores or hold adoption events.
Several attendees spoke at the meeting – some had very strong objections to selling puppies or kittens at a pet store, like Petland.
Mona McKinniss, the director of the animal rescue group Colony Cats (and Dogs), alleged Petland would sell a dog to anyone who could pay. She said she has even experienced people surrendering their Petland bought pet to the rescue group, while still paying for the animal.
“It is that lack of responsibility that keeps the volunteers at the rescue groups overwhelmed with work,” said McKinniss.
McKinniss supports pet stores that work with adoption agencies and rescue groups to find good homes for companion animals.
Grove City resident Leslie Cohen Smith said animal shelters are overflowing and selling unaltered puppies and kittens contribute to this problem.
“I hope Petland will partner with rescue groups to help with the overpopulation problem,” she said. “Let’s save lives, not end them.”
Lanese said council members are trying to determine if there is a connection between Petland and high-volume breeders.
Steve Huggins, vice president of business development for Petland, said the company does not support unregulated or backyard breeders.
Huggins said the company has been looking for a Grove City location and has a five-year lease at the London-Groveport site. The store plans to hire about 20 employees.
Huggins said many community members support Petland. He said the company offers a variety of dog breeds and most shelter dogs are pit bulls.
“People are not always looking for those types of dogs,” said Huggins.
The Petland representative said the store only sells puppies that are at least 8 weeks old and every Petland location has a consulting veterinarian who comes to the store each week to examine the animals. The puppies can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000.
When asked where the puppies come from, Huggins said Petland gets their puppies from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved breeders, hobby breeders and distributors.
“No one supports puppy mills,” said Huggins.
Lanese said the problem lies in verifying where the dogs come from. Berry asked the company if they could provide the city with the list of the breeders they work with. Huggins said yes.
Grove City resident and animal rescue volunteer Nathaniel Bollman said he used to work at a Petland. According to him, the dogs come in every week in a large box truck. He said they are from brokers.
“We had no idea where they came from,” alleged Bollman who has purchased a dog from Petland.
Several veterinarians spoke at the meeting.
Michelle Gonzalez, a veterinarian from Rascal Animal Hospital in Dublin, said she has treated dogs that have come out of puppy mills and has seen the horrible conditions in which they were raised. She said some of these dogs are sold in pet stores.
Blake Lloyd, a veterinarian from Ross County is a consulting veterinarian for Petland. He said he has had nothing but positive experiences with the company.
Lloyd said once a week, he goes to the local Petland and examines all the animals.
“My main concern is the health of the pet,” he said. “They receive a high level of care.”
Councilman Steve Bennett voted in favor of the special use permit for Petland and said he supports the business.
Bennett said he went to the Petland in Pickerington to get a feel for how they did business. He said it was clean, the staff cared for the animals and the dogs had plenty of room.
He has also purchased a dog from the company.
“One of the best dogs I’ve ever had we bought from Petland,” said Bennett.
Council president Roby Schottke said there is a great need for adoption groups and animal care, but also said we live in a free enterprise system.
“We can find a common ground,” he said.
Petland plans to open its Grove City location in the spring.
The next council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 at City Hall, 4035 Broadway.