Dogs, cats and other domestic animals could not legally be sold or given away outdoors if an ordinance under consideration by the Metro Council gets approved.
Councilwoman Karen Bennett — the bill’s sponsor who represents the Inglewood neighborhood — said entranceways to businesses like the Kroger on Gallatin Road serve as hotbeds for makeshift puppy shops operated by individuals who lack pet care expertise.
Intentions by the operators aren’t necessarily bad, Bennett said, but the absence of proper veterinarian attention means some dogs may often be sold carrying diseases and ailments that could go untreated — disorders such as parvo, a viral disease that attacks a dog’s digestive system.
“Unknowing individuals just purchase them or take them for free and they have medical issues that they don’t realize,” said Bennett, an owner of six rescued dogs herself who volunteers for various animal rescue organizations. “You can receive a pet that is very ill but you have no clue that they’re sick.”
Bennett’s bill would make it illegal to display pets in any outdoor public space, defined in the legislation as “streets, roads, highways, thoroughfares, intersections, sidewalks, public right-of-ways and parking lots.”
Nonprofit organizations which primarily conduct pet adoptions would not be affected by the bill.
Metro Codes, Metro Police and Metro Animal Care and Control could enforce the law, which would not prevent Nashvillians from selling pets from their own place of residence or business.
The ordinance cleared its first Council reading earlier this month and is slated for its second review in January.
“It’s just an extremely important issue, “Bennett said. “Pets need their vaccinations. They need their medical work done and it’s always important to spay and neuter.”
Right now, Metro mandates individuals carry a vendor’s permit when selling pets, but the prevailing thought among most animal experts is that some individuals sell without appropriate documentation.
“Generally, you’re not going to find a reputable breeder that is selling their pets on the sides of the road,” said Mary Pat Boatfield, executive director of the Nashville Humane Association. “That’s not the way you develop a relationship with a new home. It’s not the way that you provide information and education on a particular breed of dog.”
Boatfield, who supports the bill, said she’s stopped to talk with outdoor vendors –– outside the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Gallatin, for example –– and discovered they don’t always operate to the highest level of business ethics.
“Some of them mean well,” she said. “They had a litter and it was a lot harder than they thought to sell those puppies, or they didn’t have the revenue to put an ad in the paper… In other cases, monetary gain was their primary motivation.”
The problem is compounded, she said, because outdoor pet vendors are hard to track down, making it next to impossible for dog and cat owners to track their pet’s medical history.