Atlanta bans pet stores from selling cats and dogs

Under a new bill signed into law Tuesday, pet stores in Atlanta cannot sell cats or dogs to customers.

The ordinance is a preventative measure, as officials aren't aware of any stores that were selling dogs or cats in the city — a practice that has fallen out of fashion as more pet owners chose to adopt from shelters instead of large commercial breeding facilities.

The law is intended to discourage the operation of puppy and kitten mills, where breeders are often accused of raising animals in inhumane conditions. Animals seized from these mills frequently end up at animal shelters and with pet rescue organizations.

The legislation was proposed last month by Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi, who adopted a dog named Roxie from Rescue Me Georgia last October. It was co-sponsored by Councilwomen Carla Smith and Natalyn Archibong.

“I thought it was best if the city was forward thinking and humane in its policies, alongside our polices for people,” Farokhi said. “It seemed like a simple thing to do that would help our agencies.”

Atlanta is the ninth Georgia city to pass an ordinance prohibiting the retail sale of puppies and kittens, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Last year, Canton became the first Georgia city to enact a local ban shortly after a puppy mill was discovered in Cherokee County; Sandy Springs passed such an ordinance last November.

The issue has also gotten statewide and national attention. More than 250 municipalities across the country have adopted similar pet sale bans, according to media reports. In February, the Georgia Senate defeated a measure that would have stopped local governments from banning the sale of dogs; a similar bill also failed in the House. In some states, that kind of legislation is called Petland Bills, after the Ohio-based franchiser of pet stores that have been active in supporting such measures.

There are no Petlands in Atlanta, but the controversial chain, which has been sued for allegedly selling sick dogs, has locations in Dunwoody, Kennesaw and Buford. During a Nov. 6 Atlanta City Council meeting, Lauren Petz, director of public relations for two local Petlands, sported an orange "No Retail Pet Ban" shirt and urged officials to table the vote and do more research.

The ordinance was unanimously passed 14-0.

Elizabeth Kunzelman, Petland director of public affairs, said the company is “shocked that city leaders would ban the only regulated source of puppies in favor of unregulated, black market, puppy mill operators.”

“By passing this ban, the city is encouraging the 83 percent of breeders who have no oversight and no regulation to advertise and sell within the city and they are punishing responsible regulated breeders,” Kunzelman said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday.

The legislation doesn’t prohibit people from buying from “mom and pop” breeders, or from buying pets from stores outside the city limits. Pet stores in Atlanta may still house and offer dogs or cats for adoption, if they are older than eight weeks and owned by an animal care facility or rescue organization.

“Pet stores have been the primary sellers of cruelly-bred puppy mill puppies, and these unscrupulous retail outlets profit from breeding practices that can cause animals to suffer from illness and congenital problems,”Jennifer Hobgood, Southeast region director of state legislation for ASPCA said in a statement.

If any Atlanta store violates the new ordinance, they’ll face a $500 fine per offense.

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If approved, Sandy Springs would be the sixth city in Georgia to pass such a law.