Ypsilanti Township approves 1st step toward 'backyard breeders' ordinance
The ordinance will come up for a second vote at the board's July meeting.
Under the new ordinance:
â€¢ Residents would be limited to the whelping of one female dog annually. â€¢ Residents would be required to fill out an application and pay a fee to obtain a permit. â€¢ Dogs wouldn’t be permitted to be sold until they are at least 8 weeks old. â€¢ Residents posting signs advertising puppy sales must display their permit number and provide that number to a buyer upon sale of a puppy. â€¢ Building inspectors must inspect the home where the dogs are being bred to ensure it’s up to code.
Breeders also are not allowed to sell dogs in public places, excluding government agencies, pet stores and permitted dog shows.
Dogs used for law enforcement or leader dogs for the disabled would be exempt from the rules. Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Mike Radzik, director of the township’s office of community standards, said reports of “door-to-door sales” of pit bull pups are up in recent years. The Humane Society of Huron Valley has also reported an increase in the number of unwanted, discarded dogs in the township, Radzik said, and their cruelty investigators have found more dogs living and being bred in “horrific conditions”.
Officials say the goals of the new ordinance are designed to help control the dog population, to address concerns over the welfare of dogs and to help officials address blight through the property inspection.
Radzik underscored that the ordinance is not designed to address only vicious dogs or pit bulls, and cited several recent cases where residents were breeding Chihuahuas in foul conditions.
Although the ordinance is currently written to ban pit bull breeding, Radzik said that could be changed because an ordinance passed last October requires all pit bulls be sterilized. No one should be breeding them under current law.
The new ordinance helps with enforcement because it provides township officials, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department animal control and HSHV animal cruelty officers a new tool to address backyard breeders that they previously didn’t have, Radzik said.
Several residents who questioned the ordinance during public comment argued most breeders are responsible and cautioned the township against “punishing the good with the bad”.
Radzik disagreed that a responsible breeder is “punished” by the new ordinance.
“This is an effort to regulate the practice while keeping the health and welfare of the dogs and owners in mind,” he said.
The ordinance is part of a larger effort to address issues associated with vicious dogs, stray dogs, overpopulation and other dog-related problems in the township. Last year, the board approved a controversial ordinance that required pit bull owners to have their dogs neutered and also stepped up efforts to get dogs licensed.
The Humane Society neutered 150 dogs in the first quarter of 2011, which is halfway to its goal of 300 for the year.
Residents also must now license dogs. The township licensed 1,742 dogs in 2010 and already has licensed approximately 1,500 in 2011.
Radzik said officials have gone door-to-door to check if residents have dogs as part of the enforcement effort. If a dog isn’t licensed, the owner is written a ticket and has 10 days to get the dog licensed and present that license to the district court.
HSHV director Tanya Hilgendorf said the organization isn’t opposed to independent breeders, but said they increasingly find dogs bred in “horrible conditions” purely for profit.
“There’s a right way to do it, but the right way isn’t going to make you money,” she said.
Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo expressed similar thoughts.
“This is a business,” she said. “In this economy, more and more people are doing this as a side business and it should be regulated.”
Trustee Mike Martin, who helped develop the ordinance along with the office of community standards and assistant attorney Angela King, stressed that the township was only approving the ordinance’s first reading and said he welcomed any concerns or suggestions to improve the legislation.
West Willow resident Monica Williams said she supported the ordinance. She told the board her neighborhood has a serious problem with pit bulls and loose dogs, and her son's face was recently scarred during an attack by a rottweiler.
She said she understood why some people may not like the new ordinance, but said "something has to be done.”
“The township cannot regulate all owners’ behavior, but they can regulate what happens in the township to the best of their ability - that’s what we elect them to do,” she said. “We have people who can’t walk down the street because of the dogs.”