County board approves model humane pet acquisition ordinance

June 20, 2015 by Thomas Franz – C&G News

MOUNT CLEMENS — At a Macomb County Board of Commissioners meeting on June 11, the board unanimously approved a resolution that provides Macomb County communities with a model humane pet acquisition ordinance.

Due to Michigan state law, counties are not given jurisdiction over the regulation of pet stores, but the board’s model ordinance could influence cities and townships to implement the regulations it advises.

“We felt that the county definitely has an interest in weighing in,” said Commissioner Fred Miller, D-Mount Clemens. “The deeper you dive into this, you don’t have to be an animal lover to understand that we, as human beings, have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of pets and other animals.”

The motivation for the passing of the model ordinance picked up steam after an April 29 Board of Commissioners meeting. At the meeting, several members of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan asked for a resolution in support of a proposal that would prohibit the retail sale of cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, long-lived birds and large reptiles.

The group has spent several years visiting with local governments on the matter, but it had largely been unsuccessful in getting ordinances pushed through in Macomb County communities.

Pam Sordyl, the founder of the group, said that with the county’s model ordinance approved, her group, along with the county commissioners, will work with cities to develop their own ordinances.

“We’re thrilled. I thought I was dreaming that this is really happening,” Sordyl said. “We’ve been waiting for years to develop this and get this model ordinance. We’ve been to city to city on our own asking them to adopt an ordinance.”

The resolution provides numerous statistics to detail why the model ordinance was created.

It states that according to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 10,000 commercial animal breeding facilities nationwide, less than 3,000 of which are USDA-regulated.

The resolution also provides information from an animal shelter activity report from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which lists that 23,000 puppies and dogs were euthanized in 2013, or one in every four canines that arrived at shelters. The report states that open admission shelters have found that less than 10 percent of the dog and cat intake of the shelter is euthanized for health and behavior issues.

Locally, the resolution points out that the city of Warren spent more than $20,000 in 2013 on animal impound and veterinary care for one pet store seizure that brought in more than 200 animals.

“You really don’t realize what an industry pets are. When you step back and think about what that means for life for these creatures, while there are a lot of actors in that industry who do act responsibly, unfortunately there are some who don’t,” Miller said. “To the extent we can remove that kind of stuff from happening inside the boundaries of our little corner of the world, then that’s a great thing.”

The model ordinance itself, Sordyl said, takes language from other cities’ ordinances throughout the country that have been upheld in courts.

The model ordinance provides four major prohibitions, with the top prohibition stating that “no pet store shall offer for sale, offer for adoption trade, barter, auction, give away or otherwise transfer dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, long-lived birds or large reptiles.”

Individuals or businesses would also be prohibited from those activities on a roadside, public right-of-way, commercial parking lot, outdoor special sale, or in a flea market.

Groups that would be exempt from the model ordinance are publicly operated animal control shelters, animal protection shelters, zoological parks, nonprofit humane societies and animal rescue organizations.

“I benchmarked all of the ordinances that were passed at the time, then whichever ones that were upheld by the federal court, like East Providence, Rhode Island, which was recently challenged in court and they won,” Sordyl said. “The court upheld the ordinance, so I’m using that language to make sure it’s language the courts agree with.”

The model ordinance is unique among others throughout the country in that it includes ferrets, long-lived birds and large reptiles.

“Any city that passes the model ordinance will be the first in the country to prohibit the sale of ferrets, long-live birds and large reptiles,” Sordyl said. “We’re really thinking about all of the animals that there’s issue with retail sales.”

The ordinance defines a large reptile as a reptile that grows to more than 72 inches long. A long-lived bird is defined as any bird with a life expectancy of greater than 25 years, which includes, but isn’t limited to, cockatoos, macaws and amazons.

Going forward, Sordyl hopes that with the model ordinance, she and her organization will have more success in appealing to local governments to pass these regulations.

“We can now go to these cities we’ve been talking to and say the county commissioners feel this is very important. This will help us tremendously having the commissioners behind us,” Sordyl said.

Miller said that his goal for the resolution is to reduce to the homeless pet population in Macomb County.

“There are so many animals at our shelter and so many other places that are available for adoption, so that anyone who wanted to adopt a pet, those pets are available,” Miller said. “It’s a way of directing people to the humane way of getting the pets that they want.”