Oscar the puppy

Oscar, a 4 month-old boxer/terrier mix is held at the North Myrtle Beach Humane Society on August 20, 2019. Photo by Christian Boschult 

Dogs and cats are not for sale in the city of North Myrtle Beach. 

City councilors on Monday passed final reading of an animal welfare ordinance banning all commercial businesses from selling cats and dogs, although businesses are still allowed to host adoption events with rescue organizations and shelters. Several other animal welfare laws were also included in the ordinance. 

“North Myrtle Beach is growing by leaps and bounds and we had some room to improve,” said Tina Hunter, the executive director of the North Myrtle Beach Humane Society. “Basically, the ordinances are just strengthening what we already have; just to make North Myrtle Beach is a more humane area.”

The biggest change driving the ordinance was the commercial cat and dog sale ban. While no pet stores in North Myrtle currently sell cats and dogs, the new rules ensure that no pet store or commercial business ever sells a puppy-mill animal.   

“Puppy mills are a concern because they’re essentially factory-produced animals,” said Kelsey Futeral, the South Carolina State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “The people breeding dogs in puppy mills are trying to put out as many puppies as possible.”  

Puppy mill animals aren’t socialized, and the unsanitary conditions are a breeding ground for plenty of dangerous communicable diseases. 

“When you have these really sick puppies in these really nasty environments, that’s the kind of issues you get,” Futeral said. She added that there’s nothing wrong with buying animals from a reputable breeder who treats their animals well, but that it’s usually cheaper to adopt because the animals often come spayed and neutered with some vaccines already administered. 

The city is also the first in the state to pass such a ban on commercial sales of cats and dogs. 

“To my knowledge, North Myrtle Beach is the first municipality in the state of South Carolina to restrict the commercial sale of cats and dogs,” the state director said. 

The non-profit advocacy group Best Friends Animal Society keeps a running list of all jurisdictions with pet sale bans. No city from South Carolina is currently on the list.  

The new ordinance got its start when Hunter wanted to update the city’s ordinances.

“I approached Nikki Fontana on city council with some ideas about strengthening the ordinances, just to bounce the idea off of her, and she was 100 percent in support of it,” Hunter said. 

Soon, the rest of the council was on board as well. 

“We are the very first in the state of South Carolina to ban the sale of [cats] and dogs,” Fontana said. “So we made strides today. We hope surrounding areas and other cities in the state and the state as a whole will do the ban themselves.”

Aside from the ban on commercial cat and dog sales, the new ordinance includes a host of new rules related to cats and dogs to protect them from hot cars and poor tethering. It also includes some new rules dealing with exotic species.

Under the new law, it will be illegal to keep any animal in an unattended vehicle where circumstances could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death.

Animals are also not allowed to be left outside and unattended for more than 15 minutes during periods of severe weather, and owners will need to follow some more new guidelines when tethering their furry family.

“People come and they don’t realize how hot it is here,” Fontana said. “They come from up north and they may not know what the humidity can do down here, because it’s very different. This just gives our public safety department another tool to be able to rescue that animal if they see one in distress.”

Tethering between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is no longer allowed, according to the new ordinance. Tethers must be at least 10 feet, or four times the length of the dog’s body, whichever is greater. 

In addition, dogs cannot be tethered in a way that lets them cross the property line of wherever they’re being held, and any material that could cause pain or injury to the dog because of the material’s weight or size can’t tether them. Tethers may not be attached to an ill-fitting collar, a choker chain, pinch collar or prong collar. 

“It’s protecting the animals,” Fontana said. “We’re the voices that they need. I was very excited, and council, we’re basically all pet owners up here, so we all understand the protection and the love that a pet needs.” 

The city also tacked onto the ordinance language dealing with “exotic” animals, defined as several species that include, but are not limited to, pythons, boas, monitors, mambas, cobras, pit vipers, alligators, crocodiles and caimans. 

Under that section, it’s illegal to buy, sell, trade, give away, display in public, or release from captivity into an unconfined area any “exotic” animal.

The ordinance gives an exception to the prohibition against display for zoos, non-profit educational or research facilities and private businesses that display the animals but do not buy, sell, barter, trade or give them to the public.  

Releasing exotic snakes into the wild hasn’t been a problem locally, said Mayor Marilyn Hatley, but “it was more of a protection.”

For more specific information about the ordinances, visit the city website where meeting agendas are posted. 

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