FORT WORTH — They’re cute, but they’re illegal.
The city passed an ordinance Tuesday banning vendors who sell puppies, kittens and other animals along roadsides or in flea markets. City animal control officials said the animals spread disease and often come from breeding mills that critics say are a form of cruelty.
Roadside vendors regularly sell litters of kittens and puppies in commercial areas along South Hulen Street, near Ridgmar mall and in the Summerfields area in North Fort Worth.
The animals typically have not been vaccinated for rabies or other diseases, Animal Control Manager Keane Menefee said.
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"It’s a public health situation," Menefee said.
Two years ago, rabies was found in a litter of puppies that was sold at a Wal-Mart parking lot in Wise County. In Fort Worth, another vendor was selling dogs that had parvo, a contagious disease that is usually preventable with a vaccination, Menefee said.
Also, many of the dogs come from quasi-legal puppy mills, which the city has been trying to crack down on.
"These puppy mills are normally residents of other parts of the state that overbreed animals and bring them to the city of Fort Worth to make a buck," he said.
The ordinance, which the City Council approved unanimously, would impose a fine up to $2,000 for violations. It applies only to people who sell animals on public streets. Private owners who sell dogs and cats from their homes would not be affected.
Fort Worth has been working for about a year to crack down on irresponsible pet owners and to reduce the number of unvaccinated, unlicensed animals.
The city passed an ordinance in December making it easier to seize dangerous dogs and another ordinance in January that makes it illegal to chain dogs in yards.
The city has also hosted low-cost vaccination clinics to encourage people to comply with the rules, and animal control officers conducted a sweep of the North Side last week looking for improperly restrained dogs.
Fort Worth impounds about 25,000 dogs and cats a year. About 70 percent are killed because they can’t be adopted fast enough.
"If people need an animal, they can come to the shelter," Menefee said.