North Myrtle Beach City Council on Monday took the first step toward banning the sale of cats and dogs in pet shops.
The policy is part of a sweeping set of proposed rules designed to protect animals from abusive owners. The ordinance passed first reading after the local Humane Society suggested updating the regulations.
"Basically, all I was trying to do is get stronger laws," said Humane Society of North Myrtle Beach Executive Director Tina Hunter. "The main thing that I wanted to get enacted was the ban on commercial pet sales. I do not ever want a situation where we have a puppy mill pet shop opening in North Myrtle Beach. I’m super excited about it that it passed first reading."
The new rules don’t ban rescue organizations from adopting out pets, and pet shops are still free to sell other types of animals.
“We love our pet shops,” said Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “The biggest issue with banning them from selling dogs and cats is due to puppy mills and the quality and condition of the animals.”
The ordinance prohibits leaving cats and dogs in vehicles under such conditions that would “endanger the health or well-being of the animal,” for a number of reasons including lack of water, lack of ventilation and extreme temperatures. That's an issue, Hunter said, because tourists often travel with their pets and leave them in their car when they go shopping or out to eat − not a good idea in the stifling South Carolina summer.
"The pets in hot cars part of the ordinance, that was something I previously worked on with our last animal control officer who passed away in the fall," Hunter said, adding that the hot car rule would honor the memory of animal control officer Jerry Gordon.
The proposed rules would also make it illegal to leave dogs outside and alone for more than 15 minutes during severe weather advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service.
Tethering policy changes are included as well. Under the new rules, it’s illegal to tether a dog in a host of conditions, including:
Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. when no owner is present
By a tether or less than 10 feet or four times the length of the dog’s body – whatever is greater
By a tether that lets the dog cross the property line
By a tether maid of chain or other material that causes injury or pain to the dog
By a tether attached to a pincher or choker collar
“Anytime that we can improve the quality and the conditions for our pets and animals, I think it’s the right thing to do,” Hatley said.