FAYETTEVILLE — A new law aims to ensure the city doesn’t facilitate the sale of animals raised in large-scale, commercial breeding facilities.
City Council members on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve a proposal that prohibits the retail sale of dogs and cats unless they are first obtained from and in cooperation with the city’s animal shelter or another animal rescue organization.
While there are currently no pet stores in Fayetteville that sell dogs or cats, city staff said the goal is to prevent any future stores from selling pets that might be raised in inhumane conditions.
Fayetteville’s two largest pet stores – Petco and Petsmart – have corporate mandates against the sale of dogs and cats. And while people can sometimes adopt animals from those stores, the pets are made available in conjunction with local animal shelters or animal welfare agencies.
Justine Lentz, the city’s animal services superintendent, said the idea of a ban was first discussed by the city’s Animal Services Advisory Board after a Petland pet store franchise that has been accused of selling puppies from large-scale breeders opened a new location in Rogers in 2019.
Since the store has opened, Lentz said it has been associated with backlash from customers who said they purchased sick puppies with a wide variety of health issues from severe worms to Parvo.
Lentz told the council she wanted to act quickly after recently hearing about a new Petland store coming to town.
“We did get wind that perhaps somebody was thinking about opening such an establishment here, and we wanted to get ahead of that,” said Lentz.
A sign for a new Petland store was recently installed at 637 E. Joyce Blvd. next to Newk’s Eatery in north Fayetteville, and a crew was seen Tuesday cleaning and preparing the new space.
Lentz told the council her department has seen several animals come through the shelter that were raised in large facilities – often referred to as puppy mills – where the health of animals is often disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.
“If you’re not familiar with a puppy mill, count yourself lucky,” Lentz said. “The conditions found there are usually pretty deplorable.”
Animals raised in those conditions, she said, often have health problems and an inherent fear of humans because they’re typically treated like livestock.
Lentz said the animal services board researched and discussed the proposal, and ultimately voted in favor of recommending that the council institute a ban on the retail sale of dogs and cats. She said in the board’s research, the group did not discover any bans in Arkansas, but did find similar legislation in more than 300 cities in 26 states across the country, including a new law that was passed in Dallas, Texas in May.
“We’re not trailblazing here, but I think we’re definitely setting a good example,” Lentz said.
The new law won’t have any affect on small-scale, non-retail breeders in town.
“If you’re breeding in a very small operation, like maybe you have a couple of dogs and you want to breed them in your backyard and you’re responsible about it, the city is fine with that,” Lentz said.
During public comment, several residents spoke in favor of the proposal. One couple who spoke said they had a great experience with a puppy they bought at Petland.
Karen Barker, a representative for Petland Inc., said the parent company does its best to make sure the puppies sold at its franchises get plenty of interaction with humans before being sold.
“We have procedures and protocols in place,” Barker said. “We are always focusing on the one priority, which is the health and happiness of the puppies while they’re at the store.”
Barker said in order for a breeder to sell a puppy to a pet store, they have to be licensed and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.
“I have visited hundreds of our breeders, all who are licensed by the USDA,” Barker said.
Samantha Boyle, who owns a Petland franchise with stores in Joplin, Missouri and Rogers, said she hopes to soon open the new Fayetteville store.
Boyle said the claims about her Rogers store were unsubstantiated. She said she knows for a fact that none of the breeders she’s ever worked with would be considered puppy mills.
“A lot of the breeders we use are families just like you,” she told the council.
Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, said the council could be overstepping its boundaries by trying to regulate what can be offered based on the manner in which it is being offered rather than its legality.
City Attorney Kit Williams said this wouldn’t be the first time the council has put regulations on the sale of dogs or cats. He said the city once allowed pets to be sold in parking lots, but that’s no longer the case.
Clark said he was also discouraged to hear that the new Petland store in Fayetteville has gotten through nearly all the processes required to open and is now facing a potential new regulation.
Councilmember Teresa Turk asked if the ordinance could be held for a few weeks to allow the Petland owners some time to talk with the city’s animal services department about their specific practices and prototcols.
Councilmember Sloan Scroggin said regardless of when a decision is made, it should be independent of the new Petland store.
“I feel like this can’t be about Petland,” Scroggin said. “It needs to be about whether we want a certain type of business prohibited or not.”
Councilmember Mark Kinion agreed, and said while the local Petland franchise owners might run a clean shop, that doesn’t mean other stores won’t act in a way that facilitates large-scale breeders.
Councilmember Holly Hertzberg, who co-sponsored the measure along with Councilmember Sarah Bunch, said she was ready to make a decision immediately.
“For me, this is not to do with any particular business,” Hertzberg said. “This is about the care of animals.”
Hertzberg moved to send the ordinance to the third and final reading, and Bunch seconded. That motion passed 5-2 with Scroggin and Turk voting against.
In the final decision, the council voted 8-0 to approve the measure.
Tuesday’s proposal came with an attached emergency clause motion that would’ve put the new law into immediate effect instead of the standard 30-day delay, but the motion failed after Kinion, Turk, Scroggin and Councilmember Mike Wiederkehr voted against. An emergency clause requires a supermajority to pass.
Before the vote, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said had it come down to a tie, he would’ve voted to support the proposal.
“I believe that this type of ordinance needs to be passed, not because of any particular business, but because it’s the right thing to do,” Jordan said.
The full text of the ordinance is included below (download PDF):
AMEND §92.04 SALE OF DISEASED ANIMALS; KENNEL AND PET SHOP REGULATION:
AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND § 92.04 SALE OF DISEASED ANIMALS; KENNEL AND PET SHOP REGULATION TO PROHIBIT THE RETAIL SALE OF DOGS, CATS, PUPPIES, AND KITTENS UNLESS OBTAINED FROM AND IN COOPERATION WITH THE FAYETTEVILLE ANIMAL SHELTER OR ANOTHER ANIMAL RESCUE ORGANIZATION, AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY
WHEREAS, the City of Fayetteville has an interest in maintaining the public safety and welfare of citizens and residents of Fayetteville and its visitors; and
WHEREAS, Ark. Code Ann. § 14-54-103(7) provides that cities shall have the power to prevent cruelty to animals; and
WHEREAS, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, fewer than 3,000 of which are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture; and
WHEREAS, according to the Humane Society of the United States, puppy mills are high volume dog breeding facilities that churn out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers; and
WHEREAS, according to the Humane Society of the United States, puppy mills commonly sell through retail pet stores and the majority of puppies sold in pet stores are from puppy mills; and
WHEREAS, current state and federal regulations do not adequately address the sale of puppy and kitten mill dogs and cats in retail pet shops; and
WHEREAS, Petco and Petsmart, the City’s largest pet supply stores, have corporate mandates against the sale of dogs and cats and both work with local pet rescues and shelters to allow pet adoptions through those organizations at their store locations; and
WHEREAS, it is in the interest of the City of Fayetteville to promote and ensure humane approaches and standards for animal disposition and ownership by encouraging the adoption of rescue dogs and cats.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS:
Section 1: That the City Council of the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas hereby amends § 92.04 by enacting a new subsection (C) as shown below:
“(C) It shall be unlawful for a pet shop to offer for sale or to display any dog, cat, puppy, or kitten unless obtained from and in cooperation with the Fayetteville Animal Shelter, a government or nonprofit animal shelter approved by Fayetteville Animal Services, or a nonprofit animal rescue organization approved by Fayetteville Animal Services. Every pet shop offering for sale or displaying any dog, cat, puppy, or kitten shall display a label stating the name and address of the organization supplying said animal on the animal’s cage.”
Section 2: That the City Council of the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas hereby determines that this ordinance should become effective without delay because it will help prevent the sale of sick animals from puppy mills and other commercial breeding facilities in which the health of the animals being bred is disregarded, which is necessary for the public peace as well as the health and safety of Fayetteville residents. Therefore, the City Council hereby declares an emergency exists such that this ordinance shall become effective immediately upon its passage and approval.