Senate-approved bills stop Michigan towns from banning pet shops

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Wilbee Daniels, a 150-pound leonberger breed, meets a new friend, a beagle named Grace, while hanging out at City Bark's grand opening in downtown Detroit along with Wilbee's owner Victoria DeMay of Farmington. It’s a great time to be a dog in downtown Detroit. Pet shops, vet services and activities are catering to dogs and owners who live downtown.

Lansing — Bills that would stop local units of government from banning pet shops is headed to the governor’s desk amid opposition that the legislation would decrease oversight of pet shops in Michigan. 

The legislation by Rep. Hank Vaupel, R-Fowlerville, would create new rules for pet shops while banning local cities from prohibiting the shops.  

In 23-14 votes, the Senate approved bills that would rely on the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to respond to animal sickness complaints related to the pet shops and local animal control enforcement to respond to other complaints.

The bill increases standards currently in place, Vaupel said in a May committee hearing, and ensures “that any pet coming from a pet shop would come from a reputable place.”

The bill has been opposed by animal welfare advocates as well as the Michigan Municipal League, which took issue with the bill’s infringement on local control.

Some communities have diminished their animal control services in recent years, making investigations of complaints difficult, said Jennifer Rigterink of the Michigan Municipal League.

Additionally, she said, the bill's limitations on the role of local units of government could make it more challenging to inspect the businesses.

“I know we have very few communities who have actually chosen to regulate the selling of puppies at pet stores,” Rigterink said at a committee hearing on the proposal. “This is not a widespread issue, yet we’re passing sweeping legislation that affects all communities.”

The bill would require qualified pet shop owners to only sell dogs obtained from shelters or qualified breeders, puppies that are older than eight weeks, or dogs that have a pet health certificate and possess a microchip.

In a recorded video message posted to Twitter, Democratic Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel also weighed in on the issue while sitting with a Human Society dog named Newman that had been bred and then discarded by a puppy mill because of a health issue.

“Protecting dogs is a bipartisan issue that we should all agree upon and protecting puppy mills with bills like the ones that are currently considered is not what the people of Michigan want,” Nessel said.

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