The Mobile City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to amend the city’s animal code to place more restrictions on those who profit from the sale of puppies.

Under the new regulations, vendors selling puppies must provide a state-issued small animal health certificate and proof of a negative fecal exam to buyers. The certificate must be signed by a USDA-certified veterinarian and it must be dated no longer than 10 days before the purchase. Puppies sold must also come with an identifying microchip. Vendors must also provide a sign that states they have followed all of the regulations.

Last-minute changes made the ordinance applicable to not only flea market vendors, but also pet stores and home breeders, or pet traders within the city limits. A pet trader, according to council attorney Jim Rossler, is any person who sells more than 10 puppies a year.

The city and county animal shelters, as well as any nonprofit organization would be exempted from the regulations.

Punishment for not being in compliance with the ordinance consists of a fine of no more than $300. The associated fines are based on the section of the ordinance that has been broken. Most range from $100 to $150.

After hearing complaints about the proposed ordinance from breeders and flea market vendors alike, councilors agreed that a puppy sold under the ordinance must be at least 9 weeks old. Originally, the ordinance suggested puppies had to be 12 weeks old.

Janice Pierce, of Semmes, told councilors that forcing vendors to sell puppies at 12 weeks would hurt vendors and force many to stop doing business.

Dana Baker, a local home breeder, also complained about the age limit. She said the USDA only requires a 9-week age limit for puppy sales.

During its pre-conference meeting Tuesday morning, councilors discussed the merits of the new regulations.

Councilman John Williams wondered if the regulations went far enough. For example, he questioned the definition of a dog trader being defined as selling more than 10 dogs a year.

“This is almost at a puppy mill level — two litters,” Williams said. “My thought is if you trade dogs, you trade dogs.”

Williams eventually voted in favor of the regulations.

Councilman Levon Manzie said he supported the new measures.

“This is a good compromise,” he said. “We’ve done the best we can. Let’s move forward.”

Municipal judges

By a 6-1 vote, the council tabled a recommendation from the city’s legal department to allow a committee made up of local citizens, lawyers and a judge whittle down the 33 candidates who have applied for municipal judgeships. Councilman Joel Daves was the lone dissenting vote.

City spokesman George Talbot said the recommendation would’ve tasked a committee consisting of two members of the Mobile Bar Association, two citizens selected by council and presiding Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Charlie Graddick with selecting the best three candidates for each of the three municipal judge positions — two part-time and one full-time.

Instead, the council decided to begin scheduling a first round of interviews with all 33 candidates over the next two weeks, despite hearing from two past presidents of the Mobile Bar Association, who spoke in favor of the committee process.

Daves suggested bringing the matter to the appropriate committee to discuss it further, but Williams and Councilman Fred Richardson disagreed.
“I feel like I’m educated enough on this,” Williams said.

Richardson stated it was the council’s job to hire the municipal judges.

“I think this is council business,” Richardson said. “The administration has no dog in this fight. Stay out of it.”

Gregory suggested councilors speak with local attorneys and get input about judicial candidates that way.

In other business

By a 5-2 vote, the council approved a $105,630 contract with Moody’s Electric for lighting upgrades at Hank Aaron Stadium. Gregory and Councilwoman Bess Rich voted against the contract.

Rich said she voted against the proposal because the BayBears owed more than $100,000 in rent to the city for use of the stadium. She had held over the vote for one week before last week’s meeting, in hopes the city and the baseball team would have more information, or a new contract prepared. Neither had been produced by the time of Tuesday’s vote.

The council held over a vote to support the creation, funding and construction of a civil rights park, but the agenda item did spark further discussion.

Sponsored by Councilmen Levon Manzie and Fred Richardson to honor local civil rights leaders, Councilman C.J. Small suggested the city could do more to fix up Africatown as a historic tourist attraction.

Last week, a group of administration officials and councilors were taken on a tour of the Dora Franklin Finley African American Heritage Trail, which had many stops in Africatown. The small neighborhood north of downtown is known for being the site where the last slave ship unloaded its human cargo.

“We have a jewel right here in Mobile and we’re not using it,” Small said. “We have a tourist attraction.”

Small suggested a comprehensive plan be explored for the historic area.

Councilors decided to rewrite the resolution to include the two ideas as a concept. Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said the city would put $22,000 leftover from a Plateau community welcome center capital account toward helping to make Africatown a “world-class tourist attraction.”