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Pending bill would undo Fayetteville’s ordinance banning retail sale of pets

Trial over Fayetteville ordinance set by Stacy Ryburn | March 26, 2023 at 3:17 a.m.
Petland, 637 E. Joyce Blvd. in Fayetteville, is shown in this Nov. 23, 2022 file photo. After the Fayetteville City Council voted to ban the retail sale of cats and dogs in July 2022, Petland filed suit against the city. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

FAYETTEVILLE -- A bill that cleared the Arkansas House of Representatives this month would effectively undo Fayetteville's ban on the retail sale of pets, while a lawsuit over the ordinance is set for a jury trial in January.

State Rep. David Ray, R-Maumelle, sponsored House Bill 1591, which would bar cities from preventing pet stores from acquiring or selling animals from kennels, catteries or dealers licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The bill passed the House 86-0, with six members voting present and eight not voting, on March 14 and was referred to the Senate City, County and Local Affairs Committee.

Fayetteville's City Council in July voted 8-0 to ban the retail sale of cats and dogs, unless from or in cooperation with the city's animal shelter, another shelter or a nonprofit organization approved by the city's Animal Services Division. Animal Services staff and members of the public told the council pet stores often get animals from mass breeding facilities, commonly known as "puppy mills." Although mass breeders can be licensed by the Agriculture Department, they go largely unchecked, and animals are kept in deplorable conditions, the council heard.

At the time, Petland had been granted a business license and was weeks away from opening its Fayetteville store southeast of Joyce Boulevard and Mall Avenue. Samantha and Ryan Boyle, owners of the Petland franchises in Fayetteville and Rogers, told the council their animals don't come from puppy mills and are well-documented.

Petland filed a lawsuit against the city in August, and Benton County Circuit Judge Doug Schrantz issued a temporary restraining order still in effect prohibiting the city from enforcing the ordinance. In January, Schrantz declined to grant the city a motion for summary judgment in its favor that would have dismissed the case.

Petland contended in its lawsuit the ordinance conflicts with two state laws. Schrantz agreed with that assertion, adding that "questions remain."

The two state laws are the 1991 Arkansas Retail Pet Store Consumer Protection Act, also known as the Pet Store Act, and the Working Animal Protection Act of 2021.

Ray's bill would "clarify the applicability" of the Pet Store Act. The law requires certain guarantees from retail pet stores to consumers who buy dogs and cats, according to the Arkansas Department of Health website. Breeding kennels and catteries are excluded from the act, as are animal shelters and incorporated humane societies. Retail pet stores are required to register with the Department of Health and to keep the registration current.

In addition to prohibiting cities from regulating pet stores that acquire or sell animals from kennels, catteries or dealers, the bill also would nullify any city ordinance found to be in conflict with the act.

George Rozzell, attorney for the Boyles, said they are monitoring the pending legislation and will reserve comment.

The trial for the Petland lawsuit is scheduled for Jan. 17.

Fayetteville City Attorney Kit Williams said his office will wait to see what happens with the pending legislation, then act accordingly.

"They are the Legislature. If they pass laws that are constitutional, it's up to cities to obey the state law," he said. "We might not like it, but we're going to do it anyway."

Williams contends the ordinance doesn't violate state law currently.

In court filings, Williams said the Pet Store Act had no relevance to the ordinance because the law provides guarantees to consumers, rather than empowering any pet store to operate. He said the Working Animal Protection Act also had no bearing because the law only applies to animals used in commerce to perform a specific duty or function, not pets.


Print Headline: Bill would counter retail pet sales ban


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