Animal advocates want Ohio puppy-mill bill blocked

By Marc Kovac


Animal advocates are urging state lawmakers to block passage of legislation that would preempt local ordinances aimed at combatting the sale of puppy-mill dogs at pet stores.

Representatives of animal-welfare groups spoke on the north steps of the Statehouse on Thursday, hoping to convince the Ohio House to reject SB 331 and companion legislation.

“We urge the Ohio House to oppose the harmful pet-shop bill, SB 331,” said Corey Roscoe, state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are here to defend communities that have actively sought to prevent cruelty, whose voices sadly have been usurped by big business and special interests.”

But Mike Gonidakis, legal counsel for Petland, defended the suburban Columbus store that has been the focus of debate related to the legislation. The company supports the bill.

“At the end of the day, 2 million people come through our 20 pet stores in the state of Ohio every year,” Gonidakis told reporters. “If we were doing an eighth of the things that they claimed we were doing, we’d have been out of business 20 years ago. It’s just simply not true.”

SB 331 passed the Ohio Senate in May, and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, indicated this week he expected movement on the legislation in his chamber before the end of the session.

The bill would regulate the sale of dogs at pet stores if the animals are obtained from sources other than rescue groups or qualified breeders or retailers.

It would require dogs sold by pet stores to be microchipped, and information about the animals’ breeders, origin and other details be made available to the public. Stores selling dogs also would have to obtain licenses from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

“For the first time ever, pets stores in Ohio will be licensed and regulated,” Gonidakis said. “Never before has that happened. When you purchase a puppy from any store, Petland or otherwise, you’re going to know the full history of that puppy.”

SB 331 includes language stating that “the regulation of pet stores is a matter of general statewide interest that requires statewide regulation,” according to an analysis by Legislative Service Commission. “Accordingly, the bill specifies that it is the intent of the General Assembly to preempt any local ordinance, resolution or law adopted to regulate the sale, delivery, barter, auction, broker or transfer of a dog to a person from a pet store.”

Opponents say the language is directed at ordinances adopted in Grove City and Toledo. Those ordinances are aimed at stopping puppy-mill operations that breed large volumes of dogs and are negligent in caring for the animals, advocates said.

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