By BROOKE WANSER
At the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session Tuesday night, aldermen debated the merits of an ordinance which would prevent the sale of dogs from pet stores.
Ward 1 Alderman Beverly Burger sponsored the ordinance, which she said would not affect animal adoptions, but would curtail breeding through “puppy mills,” which churn out designer dogs in unhealthy environments at a high profit margin.
“More and more people pay thousands of dollars for these dogs and they become sick,” said Burger. “It’s because of the way they’re bred.”
Not only is the environment unhealthy for these mass-bred canines, but a recent bacterial disease outbreak has been linked back to Petland store dogs, which originated from commercial breeding operations.
In the fall of 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a multi-state outbreak warning for the antibiotic resistant strain of Campylobacter, a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Nationwide, 113 people were linked to the outbreak, including two in Tennessee.
The ordinance cites “over-breeding; inbreeding; minimal to non-existent veterinary care; lack of adequate and nutritious food, water and shelter and lack of socialization,” as points against the commercial breeding operations.
Ashley Cunnyngham, the volunteer state political director for the Humane Society, spoke briefly during a time-constrained meeting about three concerns: animal welfare, consumer protection and public health.
“Responsible breeders do not sell their dogs through pet stores,” Cunnyngham said. “They want to know where their dogs are going to end up.” Burger noted that some local pet stores host adoption days in conjunction with the animal shelter.
Cunnyngham brought original copies of the 1,400 signatures she said she collected in favor of a protective pet ordinance by standing outside the Five Points Starbucks. A Change.org petition she created has collected an additional 919 signatures, as of Feb. 14.
While 250 cities across the country have adopted a similar ordinance, Franklin would be the first city in Tennessee to adopt such a law; there are currently no state regulations surrounding dog breeding.
Alderman reactions were mixed. “We are very fortunate to have a no-kill shelter in our community,” at-large Alderman Brandy Blanton said, though she said she had heard “nightmare stories” about the puppy mill business in the area. “Let’s walk this through and see what our options are to protect our citizens.”
Ward 3 Alderman Scott Speedy wondered whether the ordinance would hurt local business owners. “What if the store did want to sell puppies, if they identified it as a responsible breeder?”
“Most breeder clubs have a code of ethics that actually ban that,” Cunnyngham said of selling canines to pet stores.
Speedy said questioned whether illicit animal selling over Craigslist might take place if such a city law were to be passed. “I could see some unintended consequences,” he said.