FAYETLAND — A Benton County judge denied the city’s motion for summary judgment in the Petland lawsuit, according to documents filed Tuesday.
Benton County District Judge Doug Schrantz said the city’s ordinance banning pet retail “seems to be against” bistate law, but “questions remain.”
“While providing an interesting history of the passage of Ordinance 6587 and the affidavits of many people giving their opinions on puppy mills, intent is one thing, actual language used could mean something else,” Schranz wrote.
The two state laws Schranz cites are the Working Animal Welfare Act of 2021 and the Arkansas Retail Pet Shop Consumer Protection Act of 1991, also known as the Pet Store Act.
The Working Animal Welfare Act states that no regulation or resolution shall be passed by a municipality that terminates, prohibits, effectively prohibits, or creates undue hardship related to the operation or use of a work animal or livestock business in trade, service, legal hunting, farming, animal husbandry, transportation, animal husbandry, entertainment, education or exhibitions. It defines a “working animal” as an animal used to perform certain duties or functions in trade or livestock, including human service, transportation, education, competition, or exhibition.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health website, the Pet Store Law requires certain warranties from retail pet stores for consumers purchasing dogs and cats. Breeding nurseries and kennels, as well as animal shelters and animal welfare societies, are not covered by this law. Retail pet stores are required to register with the Department of Health and keep the registration up to date.
Petland sued the city in August over an 8-0 city council ruling banning the retail sale of pets. The council vote took place in July; at the time, the opening of the Petland store in Fayetteville, southeast of Joyce Boulevard and Mall Avenue, was weeks away.
City ordinance prohibits the sale of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens in retail stores, unless it is from or in association with the city’s animal shelter or other shelter or non-profit organization approved by the city’s department of animal services. Schranz issued a temporary restraining order, which is still in effect, preventing the city from enacting the order.
Much of the discussion at the City Council meeting on July 19 focused on large breeding facilities, commonly known as puppy mills. The city’s director of animal care said that at the time, puppies sold in retail outlets often came from establishments that put the animals in deplorable conditions. Retailing animals helps boost demand, she says.
City Attorney Keith Williams filed a motion for summary judgment on November 14, asking the judge to dismiss the case. Lawyer George Rosell, representing Samantha Boyle and her company, Boyle Ventures LLC, which owns Petland stores in Rogers and Fayetteville, filed a response to the motion on Dec. 8. Boyle, who lives in Rogers, asked that the case be heard in Benton County.
“Petland Fayetteville is grateful for the interest in her case but, given the ongoing litigation, is unwilling to comment further,” Rozzell said Tuesday.
Williams said he was preparing to stand trial unless the city council told him otherwise.
In previous filings, Williams has stated that the Pet Stores Act is irrelevant to the ordinance because the law provides safeguards to consumers rather than allowing any pet store to operate in the state. He said the Working Animal Welfare Act is also irrelevant because the law only applies to animals used in the trade for certain duties or functions, not to pets.
In his response, Rozzell said that Petland cannot follow both the Pet Store Act and the city’s ordinance because the law requires strict animal records and the city’s animal shelter does not keep many of the records that the law requires. In addition, the ruling violates the Working Animal Welfare Act because Boyle Ventures operates a retail store that sells animals to the public and is clearly engaged in animal husbandry, he said.