Any pet store in unincorporated Dorchester County selling a dog or cat could have its business license suspended.
At a Monday night County Council meeting, officials unanimously gave final approval to an ordinance making it illegal for any pet store manager or employee to sell, display or otherwise dispose of any cat or dog in the unincorporated portions of the county.
The new law was introduced earlier this year by Councilman David Chinnis, a local Boykin Spaniel breeder and board member with the animal shelter Dorchester Paws.
Chinnis was inspired to introduce the rule after North Myrtle Beach became the first area in South Carolina to approve a ban on selling dogs and cats in stores.
The aim of Dorchester’s change is to push residents to adopt pets from local shelters, and to prevent the creation of facilities referred to as “puppy mills” and “kitten mills.”
The Humane Society of the United States describes a “puppy mill” as a dog breeding facility that pushes out puppies for profit.
While he isn’t necessarily a fan of going the ordinance route, Chinnis said he couldn’t get pet store owners to commit to only selling healthy dogs and providing more medical history information. He would be happy to repeal the ordinance if he got that commitment, he said.
He hopes the new rule inspires other municipalities to introduce similar standards. This is a very small step, he said.
“I hope the town of Summerville will pass one,” he said.
Joe Elmore, president of the Charleston Animal Society, sees the new ordinance as a nudge at the Petland on Bacons Bridge Road in Summerville. Chinnis agrees.
“That’s the elephant in the room,” Elmore said.
He couldn’t think of any pet stores that sell puppies in unincorporated Dorchester County. The only space Elmore and his colleagues know of is the Summerville Petland.
The new ordinance does not cover pet stores in Summerville, so Elmore sees the new Dorchester law as mostly symbolic and a way to put pressure on Summerville officials.
Summerville Mayor Ricky Warring said the town hasn’t discussed introducing a similar ban. But after the county’s approval, he is sure it will come up.
The new rules do not impact individual breeders. Pet store owners can also still partner with local shelters and promote adoptable dogs and cats.
Chinnis said he hopes the ordinance just makes people more mindful about their dog’s health history.
Potential owners should have the medical history of the dog’s parents so they have a clear understanding of how healthy it is, advocates say.
Maddie Moore, interim executive director for Dorchester Paws, said they hope the new bill will reduce the number of sick animals they receive.
“This is a big step for animal welfare,” she said.