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Despite rescue groups’ concerns, Council OKs ban on pet stores

Friday, December 17, 2010 by Elizabeth Pagano

Council unanimously passed a motion Thursday to ban retail pet sales in the City of Austin. Animal activists say the ban is part of a larger effort to make Austin a no-kill city. However, some opponents worried that the vague language of the ordinance could affect the city’s progress towards that goal and would “kill no-kill.”


“I am totally for an ordinance to stop widespread, irresponsible breeding of companion animals. That is not the question; the question is just the wording,” said Julia Dworschack, director of Oak Hill Rescue.


Dworschack was apprehensive that small rescue operations which pick up some of the slack from shelters will be classified as criminals if they fail to obtain 501(c)(3) non-profit status. She declared the designation worthless.


“I can tell you that a non-profit status has nothing to do with what kind of rescue you are. That doesn’t mean anything,” said Dworschack. “There are bad 501(c)(3)s, and there are exemplary small rescues.”


The vice chair of the Animal Advisory Commission, David Lundstedt  addressed these concerns directly.


“It’s very easy to get a 501(c)(3),” Lundstedt explained. “I have one myself. I’m going to use it to adopt out my animals.” He offered to allow other independent rescue groups to partner with him under his 501(c)(3) status, adding, “Frankly, I think that every rescue group should have it so that they can accept donations and buy supplies tax-free, but that’s their decision.”


He went on to reassure opponents that the ordinance would not harm no-kill in Austin, and stressed the support it had received from most of the animal welfare agencies in town.


Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez echoed Lundstedt’s reassurances.


“We don’t believe that this is in any way going to hurt no-kill. In fact this is going to help us move forward towards no-kill,” said Martinez. “It doesn’t affect any business in town because, as of today, and for quite some time now, there’s not been a retail pet store in the city of Austin.”


The last retail pet business in Austin was the Petland at 9900 S. Interstate 35, which closed in August after it was subject of many protests.


The Council left some concerns unaddressed.


“We feel like there is a national animal rights agenda that seeks to limit and ultimately eliminate breeding and pet ownership,” said Martine Huslig, who spoke on behalf of the Responsible Pet Owner’s Alliance. “The same people that would like to see us all be vegan are the same people that are supporting this type of legislation. We’re seeing it all over the country.”


“I just want to thank all the folks that worked on this,” said Martinez, before leading the vote in favor of the ordinance. “I know that there are still some concerns about it, but the Animal Advisory Commission has done everything they can to alleviate those concerns.”


There will be a minimum fine is $200 dollars for each violation of the new ordinance.

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