Two payments being pushed by way of Michigan’s lame-duck legislature have animal welfare advocates at odds with pet shop house owners, with each side saying the properly-being of puppies is at stake. 

House Bills 5916 and 5917 would put in place new rules for pet outlets and stop a county, city, village or township from banning them. 

Supporters say the proposal would make it harder for stores to purchase pups from pet mills. Critics, nevertheless, are nervous that cities would lose the power to maintain tabs on the outlets, and that the bills would truly make it easier for pet stores to get animals from unscrupulous breeders. 

“It’s our position, the Humane Society of Huron Valley, that it will be stripping local regulation enforcement of any sort of regulation, investigation or inspection (power)” over pet outlets, stated Melinda Szabelski, supervisor of the society’s animal cruelty and rescue division.  

Sponsor Rep. Hank Vaupel, R-Fowlerville, a retired veterinarian, stated the payments simply tighten present pet store laws. For example, it will require puppies to be microchipped and prohibit pet outlets from buying them from giant-scale breeders that aren’t licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

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“This … makes it so it is virtually impossible for them to get them from a puppy mill,”  Vaupel said. 

The legislation would also prohibit municipalities from “arbitrarily” banning pet shops in local business districts. Vaupel said the proposal wouldn’t stop a municipality from regulating pet shops.

That section has prompted concerns that cities or counties wouldn’t be able to regulate pet shops, a job that officially falls under the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development but in reality is handled, if at all, by local animal control departments. 

Under current state law, the department of agriculture is responsible for regularly inspecting and licensing pet shops. But the agency stopped those activities back in 2009 because of budget constraints, said Dr. James Averill, deputy director of the agency. Today, the department mainly just investigates when there are reports of animals sick with certain diseases, such as rabies. 

Like Szabelski, Jeff Randazzo, the head of Macomb County Animal Control, is concerned about losing local authority. 

“Who would citizens call to make (a) valid complaint about pet stores if the local unit of government cannot enforce local laws?” he said. 

Randazzo testified Tuesday about the bills, which passed the House in November, at a Senate Agriculture Committee meeting in Lansing. The bills were voted out of committee and could be taken up on the Senate floor as early as late this week.  

Bob Darden, president of the Michigan Association for Pure Bred Dogs, supports the bills. He…