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Ban on 'puppy mill' dogs fails to advance in Scarborough

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Ban on 'puppy mill' dogs fails to advance in Scarborough

SCARBOROUGH — By a 2-1 vote, the Town Council Ordinance Committee on Tuesday postponed consideration of a ban on the retail sale of puppies from large breeders.

With committee Chairwoman Carol Rancourt opposed, Councilors James Benedict and Richard Sullivan voted to table the discussion that began at a June 26 meeting.

The committee has not drafted an ordinance for consideration, but has been provided samples of similar ordinances from other towns. Rancourt said the hour-long discussion with public comment Tuesday was for "edification and education."

Rancourt asked speakers not to mention any businesses by name, but any ordinance regulating puppy sales would have only affected Pawsitively Pets on Payne Road.

Store owners Barbara Cross and Jamie Nonni bought the business June 1. Nonni said after the June committee meeting that he and Cross extensively researched the breeders they could use to supply purebred puppies. They eliminated those with consumer and regulatory complaints, he said, and other breeders who did not meet the owners' standards for quality of facilities and care.

But converting the store to sell only dogs that had been rescued or in shelters is impractical, Nonni said, adding that he does not like the suggestion that all large-scale breeders are running so-called "puppy mills."

"Our specialty is high-quality, purebred dogs," he said, and estimated the store gets five customers a day looking for such pets.

The store's previous owners were picketed by protesters from Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills from last summer through early spring.

Organization founder Lynne Fracassi and Carol Reynolds, owner of Wizard of Paws in Bridgton, approached councilors about drafting the ordinance. They said Nonni and Cross meant well, but claimed their research showed the store is still supplied by questionable breeders.

"I feel they have been duped into buying this business," Cross said.

Kathleen O'Shea, a Scarborough dog trainer, said despite Nonni's efforts, she has found training dogs acquired from shelters to be much easier than dogs bought at stores.

"From my point of view, rescue puppies behave much better," O'Shea said.

In other business, the committee agreed to advance a draft of zoning ordinance revisions affecting property owners living within 100-year floodplains, as determined by Federal Emergency Management Agency standards.

Property owners who repair, renovate or rehabilitate residences with projects valued at more than 50 percent of the current value would be required to elevate the building 3 feet above the ground instead of the current 1 foot.

Town Planner Dan Bacon said the ordinance affects residences, not outbuildings or commercial properties, and a recent amendment allows homeowners to build above the 35-foot maximum height for homes if the base elevation has to be increased.

Rancourt, Benedict and Sullivan agreed the changes should be discussed in September and October by the entire council and be subject to a public hearing. The section regarding building heights requires a Planning Board hearing and recommendation after the first council reading.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.