Mayor Scott Silverthorne said Thursday he is assembling a working group to explore how Fairfax City can tighten standards for pet shops after he received “countless" emails and phone calls from residents disgusted by the actions of Petland.
On Wednesday, Patch reported that a puppy from the Fairfax City Petland died less than two weeks after being brought home by its new owners — who were then sued by the store for money it said was stilled owed for the puppy.
The death of the puppy, an 8-week-old Maltese named Ty, was the second reported in less than two months.
The mayor said he is unable to shut down the store but would ask for recommendations from the task force, which includes Chief of Police Rick Rappoport and representatives from the Animal Control division, the Washington Humane Society and Fairfax County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
“We are exploring what kind of law enforcement or regulatory approaches we might be able to use,” Silverthorne told Patch. “We’re starting with taking a look at what all other states and localities have done that could apply here.”
Silverthorne said the biggest challenge is that small municipalities are bound by commonwealth law.
“We may not have enabling legislation that allows a locality like us to take stricter standards than the state allows,” he explained. “We can only pass ordinances the state says we can pass.”
One option might be the City’s zoning ordinance, he said - making animal-related businesses like Petland subject to an SUP, or subject use permit, meaning the city would only approve them to do business within the city limits if they meet certain standards of quality and care.
Another option may be conferring with State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Delegate David Bulova (D-Fairfax), to see about sponsoring some type of legislation, if needed.
“My goal was to try and assemble a group of well-informed individuals to help me with this,” he said. “If we have state-enabling authority to pass stricter laws, I want to do that. I will turn over every rock until I figure out just what exactly we might be able to do.”
“This is becoming a problem,” Silverthorne said. “As mayor, I think it’s important that I can take a stand on this.”
Councilmember Michael DeMarco said he supports the approach and agrees that something needs to be done.
“We need to hold business owners to a high standard of ethics and operating protocol - and when it comes to cases like this that involve animals, we need to elevate those standards even more,” DeMarco said. “We need to call this owner out, and talk to him.”
Councilmember Dan Drummond agreed and said he believes it is the city's responsibility to take these animal deaths seriously.
"The City wants to look out for the welfare of all our creatures, whether they're two-legged or four," he said. "We want to make sure animals are treated properly, no matter if in a private home or in a store."
"Even one death of an animal is too many, and it's very concerning that it now seems as though there have been multiple cases," he added.
Councilman DeMarco said citizens can help by informing authorities when they run into problems with such shops.
“Call Animal Control, and get them on your side right away,” he said.
Patch was unable to reach Petland general manager Kareem Koshok for comment.
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