After a two and a half hour meeting and listening to more than 27 speakers on the issue, members of the Mobile City Council’s Public Safety Committee did not make a decision on whether or not to recommend moving forward with changes to the city’s animal control law to ban future animal sales at the flea market.
Councilwoman Bess Rich, who chairs the committee, told those in attendance that at least one more meeting would be held before the body made a recommendation on the amendment proposed by Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration.
“We will call another meeting and continue to move on this,” she said. “We’re all in agreement that this needs updating.”
Many of those who spoke, on both sides, told councilors that the ordinance needed to be amended. Those who spoke in opposition to it, mostly dog breeders, asked that the provision banning sales at the flea market be reconsidered. Some said banning the sales would infringe upon their right to free enterprise, while others said they enjoyed working with the animals at the market.
Those in favor of the amendment complained about the health of dogs and other animals by vendors at the market, as a reason to ban the sales.
Ruth Stewart, a breeder and dog rescuer, told councilors she’s in favor of banning the sale of dogs and other animals at the flea market because “responsible breeders” don’t puppies from a flea market, but from their homes.
“Responsible breeders show proof of healthy puppies,” she said. “Breeders take dogs back. Flea market vendors seldom do that.”
Dana Baker, a flea market vendor and dog breeder, said she stopped selling puppies from her home on Schillinger Road South when her mother was robbed at gunpoint.
“I don’t sell out of my home for safety reasons,” she said.
Baker said she takes care of her puppies. They get fresh food, water and blankets twice a day. She said the puppies she sells get exercised and have regular shots.
Rachel Stewart, an Animal Rescue Foundation volunteer and local vet tech, told councilors that many of the vendors are from out of town and the puppies they bring to Mobile help contribute to the overpopulation of the animals.
“I visited the flea market on Sunday and saw a breeder selling intact mutts …,” she said. “We have more than enough intact mutts in Mobile.”
She said breeders only care about money and not the puppies.
Johnny Stringer, a flea market vendor and breeder, agreed that something has to be done, but he was against prohibiting animal sales at the flea market.
“The market does a very good job to make sure we do the right thing,” he said.
Stringer invited councilors to come to the market.
Rich is joined on the committee by Councilmen Levon Manzie and John Williams. They will be tasked with making a recommendation to council on the amended ordinance before a vote of the larger council body is taken.
While the amended ordinance bans the sale of animals and birds at the flea market, or “public street, roadway, right-of-way, sidewalk, park or swap meet,” it does not ban sales “at the fair, animal exhibitions and sales, or 4-H activities.”
Besides the banning of animal sales, speakers brought up other issues with the amendment. For instance, Mobile Kennel Club representative Brian Carberry asked the council to reconsider a provision mandating dogs have a rabies shot once per year. He said three-year shots are available. He added that exemptions to this mandate should be allowed for dogs that are ill and can’t have a rabies vaccination.
Also at issue for Carberry was a provision to get a pet licensed each year and a requirement for a license tag to be affixed to the pet’s collar. He said he wouldn’t mind paying the money for a five or 10-year license for a dog. As for attaching the license to the collar, he said his dogs have separate leashes and collars for various activities. He asked councilors to consider allowing owners to carry a tag, or license on their person to show to an animal control officer at the appropriate time.