Cobb commission pulls proposal to ban pet store animal sales

Good Mews 30th birthday, Dr. Judy Johnson
Dr. Judy Johnson, veterinarian at the Good Mews cat shelter in East Cobb, criticized commissioners for abandoning a proposed pet sale ban. (ECN file)

The Cobb Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to withdraw a proposed ordinance that would ban the sales of cats and dogs at commercial pet stores.

After that, they heard plenty of complaints from animal advocates, including a veterinarian at an East Cobb cat shelter, for not taking action.

Last month, commissioners were deadlocked 2-2 on the proposed code amendment (read all of them here). Bob Ott, of East Cobb, who missed that meeting, voted Tuesday to shelve the proposed pet sales ban.

During a lengthy public hearing, several citizens and advocates told emotional stories of purchases of pets from Petland in Kennesaw—the only pet store in Cobb that would have been affected by the ban—that were sick or later died.

Animal advocates have long said commercial pet stores purchase animals from puppy mills, sell them to the public at a high price, and don’t address health concerns.

At last month’s meeting, the tie vote occurred after discussion about a ruling from the Georgia Attorney General’s Office that local animal ordinances should not supercede state law.

Some animal advocates argued that the opinion doesn’t have the force of law.

Judy Johnson, a veterinarian with the East Cobb-based Good Mews cat shelter, had been a veterinarian at emergency facilities that treated Petland animals, saying they were ill and little was done when she and others complained to state officials.

“They retain a profit from the purchase, even if the puppy dies,” Johnson said during the public hearing. If pet store animals survive, “they have other health issues, which carry financial burdens.”

She cited growing veterinarian suicide rates, with a leading factor being what she called “compassion fatigue” and eventually left the emergency medicine field.

The pet illnesses and other issues stemming from treating Petland puppies was “emotionally exhausting. . . I had to get away before I became another statistic.”

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Other animal-related measures before the commissioners also are being held for reconsideration.

One is related to a “trap, neuter and release” practice involving feral and stray cats—referred to as community cats—that animal advocates say has proven effective.

Elizabeth Finch, a Good Mews board member and East Cobb resident, said since the shelter took over Cobb TNR cases since late January, it has sterilized 76 cats—45 of them females—who have then been sent back outdoors.

She estimated that has reduced the births of a few hundred kittens.

“Clearly the method works,” said Finch, who said Good Mews’ goal is to neuter or spay 1,000 community and feral cats in Cobb this year.

The commissioners did approve an amendment regulating backyard chickens without a permit, with a limit of one for every 5,000 square feet of lot space on residential lots that are 80,000 square feet or smaller.

The new ordinance permits only hens, which must be kept in a fenced area behind the home and cared for in a manner that eliminates “potential negative effects,” such as odors, pollution, noise and pest and rodent issues.

The new measure also prohibits hens from being slaughtered on the premises.


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