Pet store owners lose battle against city's pet ordinance

Lawton_The city's fight over the pet ordinance is finally over.  Tuesday City Council finalized a $500 fee for the commercial permit that covers breeding, advertising and transferring animals from one owner to another.  That means pet stores will have to pay $500 for a single permit to sell up to 50 cats or dogs.

Pet stores can renew their permit four times -- meaning they can sell up to 200 cats and dogs per year-- for a potential total of $2,000 in fees to the city.

"I am so frustrated right now I don't know what we are going to do," said Fins & Critters pet store owner Linda McCutcheon.

Pet store owners say they're already paying enough money to the city, with the sales tax on each item they sell and the property tax for their stores.  And, they say a potential $2,000 a year for the BAT permit is way too much.  "Well the $500 fee is not going to change anything," McCutcheon said.  "It's just more money for the city.  That is the bottom line, it is money for the city."

But City Council argues that they are all fighting for the same cause, to save animals from being euthanized.  "This whole ordeal has been about the fact that we spend half a million dollars every year to euthanize more than 4,000 animals," Council Member Randy Warren said.  "That has gotten lost in this whole discussion."

But pet shop owners say this new ordinance is so oppressive that the animal shelter is actually euthanizing more animals than ever before, something they say animal rights activists would never stand for.  And though they're angry about the money, they say they'll pay it if it means they can find a good home for every animal.  "Because whether it's $250 or $500, that has no bearing on the amount of animals that we sell," McCutcheon said.  "So I feel like they have accomplished nothing, other than got a little more money for the city."

City Council argues that they are not targeting the pet shops, they are just trying to control the overpopulation problem and that means controlling the amount of animals that come into the city limits, and making sure they are all spayed or neutered.  "I really feel like the City Council bent over backwards to make sure this was fair," Warren said. "Is it something that they think they got the best deal?  No. But it's all about compromise.  And I think tonight we found a compromise that everybody should be able to live with in the future."

The pet store owners say their next plan of action is to ask their council members to repeal the ordinance so the fee is either lowered, or completely removed, and fewer animals are euthanized.

Now, there has been some confusion about what this means for you as the average pet owner. The adoption fees at the Lawton Animal Shelter are still standard for you as a private owner. The animal shelter will charge you a $15 adoption fee and a $15 city license fee.  That's along with a $35 deposit to neuter or spay the animal and a $15 deposit for vaccinations.  But if you buy an animal from somewhere else -- like a pet store -- you will most likely have to pay extra to cover those commercial BAT permit costs.