In a unanimous decision hailed by animal welfare activists, Roseville has become the first city in the state to forbid the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores.
The City Council acted late Monday after months of hearings and debate, provoked by news reports on the findings of a federal inspection of the Har Mar Pet Shop.
Gary Papineau, the store’s owner, said Tuesday: “I’m very disappointed by this decision.”
But Christine Coughlin, Minnesota state director for the Humane Society of the United States, was thrilled.
“The community really came together around this issue,” she said. “We are grateful to the Roseville City Council members for their compassion and for taking a stand against the pet store sale of dogs and cats from puppy and kitten mills.”
Citizens testified Monday night that the action was needed to protect consumers from unknowingly purchasing troubled animals reared in poor conditions.
But owners of pet stores elsewhere in the metro area have expressed concern that Roseville is setting a precedent that other cities will follow.
“I would ask that you not ban the sale of pets,” Kristin Smith, owner of Four Paws and a Tail in Blaine, told the Roseville council Monday night. “Maybe work on the problem you are having with the store, without affecting other stores in the state that are doing a good job.”
Smith urged the council to look to ordinances in Bloomington and Shakopee for guidance. But Roseville Mayor Dan Roe called that a “regulatory model that we feel we can’t undertake,” given the cost and complexities.
“I am hearing universal support expressed by folks I’ve talked to from a variety of different backgrounds,” Roe said.
Sarah Johnson of St. Paul, who went shopping Tuesday for a pet at the Har Mar store, said she forced her boyfriend to go with her and fell in love with an adorable French bulldog. He cost a bit too much.
“Every time I go to the store the employees are nice and good to animals,” she said, “but I do feel they need more space.” As for Roseville’s new prohibition, she said that “overall it’s a good thing. When so many animals need adoptions, why are we breeding more? I just feel for the animals here right now. They need good homes.”
A humane model
Council Member Bob Willmus told colleagues at Monday’s meeting that he had heard from “literally dozens and dozens of Roseville residents,” and felt that “adoption is the more humane model.”
Some on the council agreed with Council Member Tammy McGehee, who said the biggest problem with the new law was that “it falls short of providing protection to other animals in the system. Birds are highly social and are taken out of the wild and put into these situations. We should ensure that every animal in commercial channels in Roseville has adequate space, food, care, socialization, ventilation. ...”
One option for the Har Mar store is to follow the example of other stores in helping customers buy rescue animals. Papineau said he hadn’t decided what to do next. “I haven’t gotten that far. It’s a possibility,” he said.
The Har Mar store owner asserted last year that he was unfairly maligned by sensationalized accounts of what a government inspector found there early in 2016. Talk of a “dead baby hedgehog rotting in a cage,” he said, referred to a dime-sized offspring missed in a cleanup after an animal abandoned her litter.
But council members said complaints about the store stretched further back than just last year.
“The humane model of pet stores working with shelters and rescues to offer animals for adoption is a proven one, both locally and nationally,” said Coughlin of the Humane Society. “It’s exciting to see Roseville join over 200 other jurisdictions [across the nation] that have enacted similar policies.”