ST. CLAIR SHORES — Last month, the City Council approved an amendment to its animal and fowl ordinance prohibiting retail pet stores from selling dogs, cats, rabbits or ferrets in order to reduce the demand for puppy mills and other commercial pet breeding.
The ordinance was first brought before City Council in early February by Councilman Dave Rubello, who wanted a preventative measure to reduce the demand for dogs from puppy mills. He had received a request from Molly Tamulevich, Michigan State Director of the Humane Society of the United States, for the city to consider such an ordinance.
According to the Humane Society, a humane pet store ordinance reduces the demand for puppy mill puppies, protects consumers and does not impact responsible breeders.
Rubello said amending the ordinance promotes pet adoption, “which is what we’re after right here and does not impact humane breeders.” He hoped the ordinance would close a gap in the current law to protect dogs from being over-bred and young animals from being removed from their parents too soon.
“This makes so much more sense, I think, in terms of the comprehensive animal ordinance we already had in place,” said Councilwoman Candice Rusie Feb. 22. She had said Feb. 7 that she wanted to make sure the ordinance brought before council — a boilerplate from a national animal welfare organization — fit with the city’s existing animal ordinance.
Over the next month, City Attorney Robert Ihrie worked to incorporate language prohibiting the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits within the city of St. Clair Shores. The amended ordinance also indicates that, “nothing in this section shall be constructed to prohibit a retail pet shop from providing space to an animal rescue organization or an animal shelter … to publicly showcase dogs, cats or rabbits available for adoption.”
“This is a good time to (pass such an ordinance) because we’re not taking somebody who’s already doing it and removing their business,” he said, explaining that there were no pet stores in St. Clair Shores currently selling dogs or cats .
Council members decided Feb. 22 to include ferrets in the ordinance, as well.
“Because of the information we’re given, in terms of the types of animals that come from puppy mills … we would not want those health risks coming into the community,” said Councilman John Caron at the Feb. 22 City Council meeting.
Animal-loving residents of the city and throughout metro Detroit spoke in favor of the ordinance at both February meetings.
“People feel that, when they buy a puppy from a pet store, that they’re saving that dog. What they’re doing is creating a vacancy for another puppy mill dog,” said Cindy Lambert, of Grosse Pointe Woods. “You don’t need to get a puppy to bond with a dog. There are so many highly adoptable, highly adaptable dogs that are available in rescues.”
Ann Griffin, of St. Clair Shores, the director of advocacy for the Michigan Humane Society, said commercially bred animals often suffer from genetic and behavior problems.
“(The ordinance) will protect people and animals in the city,” she said.
There are already so many dogs in need of a home due to people not recognizing the work and care puppies require, said Maya Meheidli, of St. Clair Shores, a member of the Statler-Maloof Dog Park Committee.
“(That) often leads to euthanasia of these animals,” she said. “While puppies seem great, they often end up at these shelters due to families not realizing the needs of puppies.”
Many residents will support the ordinance, said Joyce Janicki, of St. Clair Shores.
“This ordinance will, no doubt, benefit our whole entire community because humane laws really help to create humane communities and societies, and that’s the sort of community I want to be a part of,” she said.
Councilman Peter Accica said that preventing the sale of animals from commercial breeders does not stop anyone from getting a younger animal.
“It’s not like you can’t get a puppy from a rescue. You can,” he said.
Council voted 7-0 to approve the ordinance Feb. 22.
“What we’re doing is the right thing,” Rubello said. “We’re doing the right thing for the right reasons with our pets.”