Importance of local laws to animal welfare
Much of Michigan Humane’s legislative advocacy work is focused on state legislation. But there are some issues that are not likely to gain statewide support, at least not initially. There are many animal-related concerns that are seen as matters more appropriate for local regulation.
Local ordinances, which are laws passed by a city council or county board of commissioners, can be an effective way to improve animal welfare in the city or county where they are passed. They can be tailored to a particular community’s needs, often with direct input from those who will be responsible for enforcing them. Such local laws may also inspire other communities to enact similar animal welfare protections, and if a number of municipalities enact an animal welfare ordinance, that may provide support for a future statewide law.
One example of a type of progressive animal welfare ordinance being passed in Michigan cities is a retail pet sale ban. These ordinances prohibit pet stores in the city in which they are passed from selling dogs and cats (and sometimes other species as well, such as rabbits, ferrets, reptiles, and birds). A handful of Michigan cities have passed such ordinances, including Eastpointe, New Baltimore, Fraser, Royal Oak and Harbor Springs. The purpose of these ordinances is to ensure that the community’s businesses are not an outlet for “puppy mills,” large-scale commercial breeders who put profits ahead of animal welfare, are not well regulated, and sell animals through pet stores.
There are generally exceptions in the ordinances for pet shops facilitating animal adoptions from shelters or rescues. An example of that is Michigan Humane’s offsite adoption partnerships.
Michigan Humane believes that local units of government should have the ability to respond to citizens’ concerns and decide whether they will allow pet retailers in their jurisdictions to source puppies, kittens, and other animals from commercial breeding operations. Cities that have already enacted ordinances preventing the retail sale of animals in pet shops have done so for the sake of the animals and also their residents, as these animals have made people sick and often come with very serious issues that require their new families to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for veterinary care and/or behavioral rehabilitation, and to face the ultimate heartbreak if their efforts are unsuccessful.
When state legislation was introduced in the 2017-18 legislative session to prohibit local communities from regulating the retail sale of dogs, Michigan Humane and other animal welfare groups fought to protect the rights of local units of government to decide whether commercially bred puppies could be sold in pet stores in their communities. Gov. Snyder vetoed that legislation because he agreed that regulating pet sales is a matter for local control, and as a result, local units of government can pass retail pet sale bans.
St. Clair Shores became the most recent Michigan city to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets when its city council passed a retail pet sale ban back in February. Michigan Humane testified in support of the ordinance, which passed with a unanimous vote.
Michigan Humane supports the enactment of strong legislation that, if effectively enforced, can have a long-term, positive impact on animal welfare. We encourage and support the passage of local animal welfare ordinances through a variety of means, including resources on the advocacy page on our website.
We are going to keep working to improve animal welfare and create a more humane community while serving as a voice for the animals through advocacy. Together, we can continue to make a difference in animals’ lives. If you know someone who you think would be interested in this information, please encourage them to sign up for our Legislative Action Network.
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