Cobb Commissioners have withdrawn a proposal that would have banned the sale of cats and dogs at pet stores over concerns the rule would not hold up in court.
The vote split 3-2 on Tuesday with Commission Bob Ott breaking the tie to pull the ban from consideration.
Commissioners pointed to an opinion by the state attorney general that local jurisdictions could not pass animal welfare ordinances that went beyond state law.
Speaking after the meeting, Ott said in addition to his concern about the legality of the ordinance, he felt the proposal was not well vetted.
“I just didn’t think it was ready to be approved,” he said.
Ott said the county was creating a task force to study a number of proposed changes to local animal welfare laws, including those related to leashed animals and breeders.
But the proposed ban on pet sales has drawn the most attention and garnered broad community support. Dozens of residents spoke in favor of it at Tuesday’s meeting.
Supporters of the ban expressed concern about what they described as unethical practices at pet stores, including sourcing animals from abusive breeders known as “pet mills.”
Petland in Kennesaw, the only pet store that would be affected by a ban, has denied it engages in such practices.
Judy Johnson, a veterinarian with the Good Mews Animal Foundation, told commissioners she has treated scores of sick pets sold by pet stores, including Petland.
“It’s appalling that this type of behavior is acceptable in a community where animal shelters and rescue groups are filled to the brim with pets that desperately need homes,” she said. “I’m very disappointed that some on the board did not have the courage to do the right thing.”
She is the second local veterinarian to express concern over the health of pets sold at Petland.
James Balli, an attorney representing Petland, vehemently denied the veterinarians’ allegations.
“Petland appreciates the Board of Commissioners not allowing organized and misinformed activism to overcome reason, actual evidence and the laws of the State of Georgia,” he wrote in a text message following the vote. “This energy would be better served focusing on attempting to eradicate unlicensed and unregulated breeders.”
Separately, the board narrowly approved changes to county code regarding backyard chickens.
Rather than seeking a special permit, which requires a hearing, homeowners who meet the requirements will be able to simply file a form with the county zoning office.
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