Grove City Council members weren't feeling too merry after Gov. John Kasich signed SB 331 on Dec. 19.

Grove City Council members weren't feeling too merry after Gov. John Kasich signed SB 331 on Dec. 19.

The omnibus bill included a grab bag of legislation, including new state regulations that override the ordinance Grove City adopted in March that would require retailers to acquire the pets they sell from animal shelters, rescues and humane societies.

The state regulations allow pet stores to sell puppies from a "qualified breeder" meeting certain conditions.

"It's what's known in government as a 'Christmas tree bill,' " Councilman Ted Berry said. "It's when you attach all kinds of things to a single bill so you don't have to pass a separate piece of legislation for each item.

"I'm disappointed about the encroachment by the state onto local home rule. They're overriding local rule and that's not right."

The bill was lobbied for by Petland, the Chillicothe-based company whose plans to open a store in Grove City led to dozens of animal-rights supporters attending council meetings expressing concern about where the company obtains its puppies, and then to the resulting local ordinance.

The Petland store opened in February on London-Groveport Road.

Berry and Councilwoman Laura Lanese sponsored the pet-store legislation adopted by City Council.

"We're obviously disappointed about what's happened," Lanese said. "We put a lot of time, effort and research into this. It was an extremely difficult decision. In Grove City we want to be as pro-business as possible.

"The overwhelming response we got from a number of people who were burdened with the dogs (with congenital and other defects) they received from pet stores that get their animals from large breeders or puppy mills was impossible for us to ignore."

Berry said the new state laws were the result of pressure from one company.

"The fact of the matter is this company has bullied City Council members and state legislators to get what they want," he said. "It's all about the money and profits."

After City Council approved the pet-store legislation, Petland filed a lawsuit against the four members -- Berry, Lanese, Jeff Davis and Roby Schottke -- who voted in favor of the ordinance, which was slated to take effect on Jan. 1.

"They've indicated they would drop the suit if we don't enforce the law between Jan. 1 and the time when the state law goes into effect (90 days after the governor signs a bill)," Berry said. "I'm personally 100 percent in support of enforcing our legislation if someone brings a complaint."

He said he plans to introduce legislation Jan. 3 that would approach the issue from another direction.

Berry said he still is finalizing the language, but the legislation would restrict the granting of special-use permits for pet stores that sell dogs from large breeders.

Special-use permits are needed for pet stores in Grove City.

"It's looking at the issue from a zoning perspective," he said.

ThisWeek could not reach Petland spokeswoman Elizabeth Kunzelman for comment, but after Kasich signed the bill, Petland released a statement from Brian Winslow, the company's vice president of animal welfare education.

"Misguided local pet-sale bans that prohibit the sale of puppies from regulated and inspected breeders have failed to improve conditions for dogs at 'puppy mills,' " Winslow said. "Instead, such bans have encouraged unregulated and inhumane pet breeding operations. SB 331 will require all Ohio pet stores to purchase from breeders that meet defined buying standards that encourage improved humane animal welfare."

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