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Commissioners take steps to ban retail sale of animals

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners made moves to reduce the “inhumane activity” towards dogs, cats and domestic rabbits, beginning a process to ban the retail and “parking lot” sales of the animals.

At a work session on Tuesday, March 22, commissioners voted to direct county staff to create language to possible animal control ordinances that would ban the retail sales of dogs, cats and rabbits.

The modifications would also include the ban of sales and transfers of dogs, cats and domestic rabbits in certain locations such as roadsides, public rights-of-way, parkways, median parks, recreation areas, flea markets or other outdoor markets and commercial or retail parking lots.

The ban would be similar to House Bill 609, which relates to “animal protection generally” and prohibits the “marketing of certain domestic animals at certain locations.”

Commissioners remarked that State Rep. Todd Jones is a sponsor of the bill that has yet to be passed.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard explained to commissioners that these changes would “beef up” current regulations in place, particularly limiting the number of animals coming into the county from mills.

Susan Bova, an animal advocate, presented the proposed modifications to the board, highlighting the reasoning behind the idea.

She said these modifications would not target displays or adoptions of pets at stores, like PetSmart and Petco, since those exhibits are typically through vetted animal shelters and rescue organizations.

The bans would also not affect “licensed and law-abiding” breeders.

Bova explained that the problems driving the proposed modifications were possible undisclosed prices and breeder information, sourcing inhumane breeders, pet overpopulation and high-interest pet loans.

She said that a man from Cumming went to a local business that sells puppies. He was quoted over $4,000 for a dog before tax and pet supplies, and that a financing agreement was offered to him.

While commissioners said the modifications weren’t being proposed to protect consumers, only to protect animals, Bova explained that the high prices of these animals can lead to overpopulation in animal shelters.

Cindy Iacopella, Forsyth County Animal Shelter manager, spoke in favor of the ban. She said she and her staff have seen many surrendered animals because of these sales, usually sick or still intact.

She said these animals can pose a financial burden on the animal shelter, specifically the “huge influx of pit bulls,” which she said were typically surrendered intact and harder to adopt, lengthening their stays at the shelter and medical fees.

“[The bans are] a really important aspect to moving forward in progressive animal welfare,” Iacopella said. “I think we would be leaders … in Georgia.”

During discussion, District 5 Commissioner Laura Semanson said that she believed it was important that animals coming into Forsyth County meet a level of health and fitness so as not to spread diseases such as canine parvovirus, Bordetella and Campylobacter.

She also said that the ban would be beneficial to licensed breeders as residents looking for specific breeds would be “guided towards” them.

Semanson said she also hoped that the ban would help more rescue animals get adopted.

Commissioners voted to direct county staff and Jarrard’s office to work together to come up with language for the possible changes with the directive that the issue be brought back later. The vote passed with a unanimous vote, 4-0, with District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper absent from the meeting.

Board accepts grant

In other news, commissioners accepted the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget Water Sewer Infrastructure Grant in the amount of $32.6 million.

Following the acceptance, the county’s water and sewer department will provide a match of 50% in revenue bonds and capital contributions for the construction of the Fowler Water Reclamation Facility.

According to Barry Lucas, Department of Water and Sewer director, the grant will be used to install a 9-mile-long pipeline and pump station to return “treated effluent” from the Fowler plant to Lake Lanier.

Following the announcement by Gov. Brian Kemp in February that the county would receive $32.6 million for future water and sewer infrastructure upgrades and projects, State Rep. Lauren McDonald III visited the Forsyth County Water Treatment Plant off Antioch Road.

“[The state sees] our needs, they see our growth in Forsyth County and the need for some infrastructure upgrades,” McDonald said during the tour.