Out of concern for animal welfare, the Atlanta City Council passed a law that prohibits retail pet stores from selling dogs and cats to customers. According to officials, the law is meant to deter puppy and kitten mills – operations associated with breeding and raising pet animals in inhumane conditions.
City Councilman Amir Farokhi proposed the bill in October, inspired by a dog he adopted from Rescue Me Georgia.
“I thought it was best if the city was forward thinking and human in its policies, alongside our policies for people,” Councilman Farokhi stated.
Public concern about retail pet sales has roots that can be traced back last year when political efforts in the Georgia General Assembly promoted a statewide measure prohibiting local governments from banning retail dog sales. The Georgia Senate and House defeated the proposed legislation, often referred to as “Petland Bills” – named after a national pet store franchiser that actively supports these measures.
Last year, a Petland location in Kennesaw, Georgia was sued in a federal class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Petland customers nationwide by the Animal Legal Defense Fund – a legal advocacy organization for animals. The group has launched several lawsuits nationwide, with allegations ranging from unfair business practices to violations of federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act – a law generally used against organized crime.
The lawsuits accused Petland of knowingly selling sick and unhealthy dogs or cats to customers. Furthermore, health officials conducted an official investigation into a multistate outbreak of bacterial infections that were connected to puppies sold from Petland stores earlier this year. The outbreak ultimately infected 113 people from 17 states between 2016 and 2018. However, the investigation could not conclude as to whether a common breeder was responsible for the infections or if it crossed between infected puppies from other breeders somewhere in the distribution chain.
There are no Petland stores in Atlanta. However, officials claim that the ordinance is a "preventative measure."
Atlanta’s retail pet store ban does not preclude people from traveling outside city limits from buying dogs or cats from small business breeders operating outside city limits. Also, pet stores within Atlanta can still shelter and offer dogs or cats for adoption, as long as they are in the care and custody of an animal rescue facility or organization. Violations of the ordinance will cost businesses $500 per offense.
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