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Royal Oak to ban sale of cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets at pet stores

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 25, 2019

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ROYAL OAK — On June 10, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets at retail pet stores in the city.

Advocates hope to decrease the demand for animals bred in large-scale commercial facilities for sale to the public.


The ordinance prohibits retail pet stores from sourcing animals from shelters and rescue organizations; however, they may provide space for such organizations to offer pets to the public “provided that the retail pet store shall not have any ownership interest in the animals offered and shall not receive any fee for providing space or for the adoption of any of the animals.”

The ordinance, largely influenced by a sample ordinance provided by the Humane Society of the United States’ Michigan Chapter, would make the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits, plus the addition of ferrets, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

During public comment before the meeting, Dee Gage, who operates a ferret rescue called West Michigan Ferret Connection out of her Grand Rapids home, petitioned the commission to include ferrets in the retail pet store sales ordinance, and the commission agreed.

 Humane Society of the United States Michigan State Director Molly Tamulevich said one of her organization’s biggest campaigns is against puppy mills, where she said animal cruelty and abuse is common, and the most effective strategy is through the passage of local ordinances.

“When we introduce a retail ban like this, we are effectively cutting off the pipeline that pumps puppy mill puppies from the mill into communities,” Tamulevich said. “Royal Oak is kind of a prime real estate for a potential puppy store to open up. You’re an affluent community, you’ve got a lot of storefronts and a lot of dog lovers here.”

By adopting the ordinance, she said she felt other municipalities in southeast Michigan would be more apt to enact similar bans and hopefully set a “great tone” for the state to prioritize animal welfare legislation.

Tamulevich added that approximately 300 such ordinances have been passed nationwide.

“They’re very effective tools for taking a stand against puppy mills,” she said.

Tamulevich said that while puppy mills and commercial breeding facilities are known for inhumane conditions that lead to health and behavior problems in animals, they can also pose a danger to humans.

“They carry with them the risk of disease outbreaks, such as the campylobacter outbreak that was documented by the CDC earlier this year and actually affected someone in Novi, who came down with an infection,” she said. “They’re predatory lending schemes that often take advantage of consumers, and there are often sick puppies that are sold.”

She added that her organization did not include ferrets, which she said are also subject to “pretty atrocious breeding conditions,” in the scope of the ordinance because it only has the public health data for the listed species.

“Ms. Gage did reach out to me on the subject of ferrets,” Mayor Pro Tem Sharlan Douglas said. “I do think the issue of ferrets was well-raised, and I thought it was a very sympathetic email, and I’m happy to see her come all the way from Grand Rapids to talk about this.”

Gage said she has found new homes for more than 600 ferrets since 2001, many of which were impulsively purchased at pet stores and then dumped after their owners realized how much work they required.

Douglas said she was approached about the ordinance by Tamulevich and City Commissioner Melanie Macey at the beginning of the year.

“It does protect the work of legitimate purebred breeders,” Douglas said. “Right now, we have two pet stores in Royal Oak, neither at this time which offers puppies or animals from commercial mills for sale, but that doesn’t mean they won’t or that we won’t ultimately have a pet store that would want to do that.”

She added that she was hopeful that Royal Oak would be a role model to protect both people and animals.

“This is one of those things that it’s good to get ahead of, and we’re grateful for everyone that helped us get ahead of it,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “I’m so glad people are thinking and making sure we’re looking out for the best of our friends.”

The ordinance will take effect 10 days after passage of the second reading, which was on the consent agenda for the June 24 City Commission meeting, after press time.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.