At its Tuesday, June 3, meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.
In effect as of the ordinance’s second passing at the meeting, pet stores and other commercial establishments in East Providence will no longer be able to display, sell, auction or give away live dogs or cats.
Violators of the ordinance will be subject to a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 90 days of community service. Non-profit rescue organizations are not affected by the law and retail establishments may still provide space and appropriate care for animals owned by an animal shelter or non-profit organization.
Prior to the vote, nine citizens spoke in favor of the ordinance, including Debbie Fahrenholtz, a certified veterinary technician and president and founder of the non-profit animal rescue organization Just A Touch Rescue.
Ms. Fahrenholtz recounted a list of parasites she commonly sees in animals that were purchased from pet stores, among other common issues.
“They are selling animals – puppies and kittens – that are underage,” she said. “I have clients that are coming up to me and telling me they bought a kitten at a pet store that was six weeks old. That is illegal.”
Another speaker, resident Rita Falaguerra, argued that reputable breeders would not willingly lose money by selling their animals to a pet store.
“The only thing that I know that requires a middleman is a puppy mill,” she said. “They breed the puppies and they need an outlet and that is pet stores.”
Each of the speakers in favor of the law voiced concerns about the connection between so-called “puppy mills” and retail pet stores.
In opposition to the law were Scott Bergantino, owner of The Perfect Puppy pet store in Scituate, and four of his employees. Mr. Bergantino argued that prospective pet buyers would rather visit a local store than search the internet for a professional breeder and that buyers should be able to make their own choice on the matter.
Mr. Bergantino’s son Ryan denounced the claim that pet stores deal with disreputable breeders.
“We drive to pick up every single dog that we get,” he said. “We do business face-to-face. We pay for the dogs that we see. We don’t order them over the internet. We don’t get them shipped to us on these trucks.”
Scott Bergantino threatened to file an injunction against the council if the ordinance was passed.
Ward 4 Councilman Christine Rossi, who sponsored the ordinance, said she was glad to hear support for the law from citizens who care about animals. She also stated that she hopes similar laws will pass in other cities.
“I really would like to see this ordinance passed in every city in the state of Rhode Island,” Councilman Rossi said.
— By Joseph D’Amico, eastbayri.com intern