Owner of The Pawfect Puppy LLC, a “puppy boutique,” John Thompson, spoke in opposition of any future city ordinance that would restrict the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores in Franklin, during public comments at a city meeting Tuesday.
The Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen is considering putting such an ordinance in place after being approached by the Humane Society and after some aldermen expressed concern about the treatment of animals by some commercial breeders.
Thompson said if the city passed such an ordinance in the future, it would be the “death sentence” to his business.
At a city meeting earlier this month, local animal protection advocate Ashley Cunnyngham requested that BOMA adopt an ordinance to prevent the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores. She said many commercial breeders seem to operate in inhumane ways such as keeping animals in small cages for long periods of time, or "24/7," which is deemed as legal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and also present a health risk to animals and humans.
Such facilities she said have been termed by some as “puppy mills,” which breed dogs for profit in subpar conditions to produce unhealthy animals accompanied by lax regulations from the USDA.
At the last city meeting, Mayor Ken Moore, stopped Cunnyngham during her presentation before she could name any Franklin business during the discussion, stating that he did not want any city business to be unfairly targeted. However, Thompson was given a chance to step forward Tuesday to share his piece.
The puppy store, located at 790 Jordan Road, #104, opened two years ago in Franklin and has sold 700 puppies.
Pawfect is USDA certified and an Animal Kennel Club certified partner store in which puppies are micro-chipped and include a prepaid lifetime enrollment in the American Kennel Club's Reunite System. A staff veterinarian also gives each puppy in the store a medical exam.
“I am not required under state law to offer warranty on puppies, but I do,” Thompson added.
He said his store in inspected frequently by the USDA in order to maintain his certification.
“In all my years, I have never had a problem with any inspection,” Thompson said.
However, in a packet distributed by Cunnyngham to aldermen at the previous BOMA meeting, a letter from a veterinarian at the Williamson County Animal Hospital shows that a puppy obtained from Pawfect by customer Michael Mangiagli, was diagnosed with an abdominal mass and tapeworm, which had to be treated after purchase.
Cunnyham previously argued that this is an example of the condition of many 'puppy mill' animals.
Thompson has a degree in animal behavioral science, has trained dogs and has shown dogs for more than eight years in the past.
“A portion of my life, I have spent around dogs and other animals,” he said.
After a 17-year corporate career, Thompson and his wife decided to follow their dream of opening a puppy business to offer the service to the public.
What concerns Thompson the most is that in the drafted city ordinance, he would be required to only purchase dogs from an animal care facility or an animal rescue organization, which he said would mean a “death sentence” for his business.
With that stipulation, he questions whether he would be able to maintain his federal certifications in order to stay in operation.
“All animal care and animal rescue organizations are nonprofit organizations and not required to be licensed by the state or the USDA and are not inspected on a regular basis like I am,” Thompson said.
He also explained that those facilities would not be able to provide background information on dogs and cats sold or given away.
“It would bother me to learn that your existing license would be jeopardized by trying to obey this ordinance if it passed,” Alderman Dana McLendon, 2nd Ward, said.
Thompson said he offers a veterinarian-approved exercise plan for his puppies.
Alderman Bev Burger, 1st Ward, pointed out that current city ordinance does not allow the store to take the puppies outside. Thompson verified the puppies are not taken outside due to the ordinance.
And Burger also cited that according to USDA regulations, any breeder “never has to let the dogs outside the cages.”
Burger asked for further documentation from Thompson, including a copy of a list of Pawfect’s breeders and the puppy guarantee offered to customers.
“I believe one of your breeders was on a horrible 100 list,” Burger said. “The most responsible breeders are not selling to retail pet stores.”
Alderman at Large Brandy Blanton questioned the city’s role at this early stage of drafting the ordinance.
“I feel like we are bouncing a ball around that we don’t even know if we have possession of,” Blanton said.
“I have a daughter who frequently visited the store, but we decided to go with someone else. I’ve heard horror stories.”
The city is still considering the draft ordinance, and BOMA has not yet cast a vote.