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Published: Tuesday, 11/19/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

TOLEDO CITY COUNCIL

Council urged to OK ordinance

Activists seek to stop sales of dogs supplied by puppy mills

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A dozen animal-rights activists pleaded with Toledo City Council on Tuesday to adopt a controversial ordinance that would strictly regulate the sale of cats and dogs in the city of Toledo.

The proposed law, drafted after a pet store in Westfield Franklin Park that sells puppies opened, would forbid the shop to obtain animals from unscrupulous puppy mills, proponents said.

On the other side of the debate was a minority of voices, including Councilman Mike Craig and unsuccessful council candidate Ron Johns, who argued the proposed law is not business-friendly.

“The intent is to ban retail sales,” Mr. Craig said during the lengthy hearing before council, which convened as committee of the whole. “If you want to ban sales, then let’s just say we are banning retail sales. Don’t couch this that we are trying to police something, because we are not. … I think that is a terrible idea, but fine.”

Mr. Johns said the law’s proponents are mistaken about the breeders used by the store.

“If there was no demand for bred puppies, this store would not be there,” he said. “If you don’t want a bred puppy, then just don’t buy one.... It’s really ironic you say you want new businesses to come to Toledo, and then you pass laws like this.”

Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins, a district councilman, said the proposed law is good public policy and humane.

The Family Puppy, a southeast Michigan chain, opened in October in the mall amid controversy and protests. John Stottele, who co-owns the Family Puppy with his wife, Deb, said he often goes to Indiana to pick up puppies from about 20 primarily Amish breeders who provide him with dogs to sell.

Mr. Stottele told council that dog overpopulation does not include “adoptable” dogs.

“There is not an overpopulation of adoptable dogs,” Mr. Stottele said. “They are euthanized for temperament failures or aging.”

The law, which if passed would apply to the store that is already open, would ban the sale of a “companion animal” in pet shops, retail businesses, and commercial establishments unless the animal is obtained from a legitimate animal shelter, animal-control agency, humane society, or nonprofit rescue organization.

It would prohibit the display or sale of dogs or cats unless they are at least 8 weeks old and have their deciduous teeth visibly present. The law would require inoculations and that the animals be spayed or neutered.

Susan Robinson, a retired teacher from Woodville who testified in favor of the law, told council that her two dogs came from “Amish puppy mills.”

“The places they came from were horrific, and they will have life-long consequences because of that,” Ms. Robinson said. “The problems with puppy mills is that dogs should never be factory-farmed for someone’s profit. ... Even if it is a better puppy mill, it is still unethical. The people of northwest Ohio do not need to be duped into thinking they have purchased a quality puppy.”

Jean Keating, co-founder of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates, said more than 8,000 people have signed an online petition in favor of the law.

“We have made tremendous strides, not just the city of Toledo but Lucas County as a whole, becoming a more humane community,” Ms. Keating said.

John Dinon, former director of the Toledo Area Humane Society, said reputable dog breeders do not sell dogs through pet shops.

“The number one reason surrender was economic; the number two was behavior,” Mr. Dinon said.

He said animal-rights groups universally agree that animals from puppy mills are more likely to have behavior problems.

“There is an issue of behavior that leads to these animals ending up in shelter,” Mr. Dinon said.

Councilman Tom Waniewski said he would keep an open mind about the law but questioned if clothing retailers should be banned if their products were made in countries with poor conditions for human workers.

Under the proposed law, it would be a first-degree misdemeanor to sell puppy-mill dogs.

Mr. Stottele said he would close the store if the ordinance passes. Council could vote on it during its next meeting Nov. 26.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.



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