Forsyth County bans the retail sale of cats and dogs

Justine Lookenott
Retail sales of dogs and cats are now illegal in Forsyth County(Image by Getty Images)

(Forsyth County, GA) Retail sales of dogs and cats are now illegal in Forsyth County. The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously during its meeting on June 18 to modify the Forsyth County Animal Control Ordinance to effectively ban the retail sale of dogs, cats and domestic rabbits. This makes Forsyth County the 11th government board in Georgia to do so, according to Best Friends Animal Society.

The hearing was opened up with a few statements from Debra Berger, the state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

She explained how every year the organization collects thousands of documents and consumer complaints proving that most stores selling puppies get their inventory from “inhumane breeding facilities who value profit over animal welfare.”

“I ask for your positive consideration of these proposed modifications to stem the flow of puppy mill dogs in Georgia from inhumane sources,” Berger said. “Passage will further demonstrate Forsyth County as a leader in animal welfare policies in our state.”
Debra Berger, the state director for The Humane Society of the United States, gives a few words in support of the new law(Image by Forsyth County Government)

What are the new laws?

  • “A pet shop may not sell, advertise for the sale of, exchange, offer for adoption, barter, offer for sale, auction, or otherwise deliver or transfer a cat or a dog.”

This modification will not affect pet shops providing spaces for animals from shelters to be

  • If a pet shop does provide space for the adoption of cats or dogs, a sign will be posted stating the name of the shelter from where it came.
  • Roadside sales of dogs, cats and domestic rabbits will also be banned. This will also not affect the roadside display or adoption of animals from a rescue organization or from programs such as state or county fairs or exhibitions, 4-H program or similar programs.
Dogs at puppy mills are often malnourished and suffer from dental problems and skin infections(Image by Susan Bova)

Why were these laws passed?

Ann Margaret Johnston is on the board of the Humane Society of Forsyth County and has recently been asked to be on the Board of Pups with Purpose. She and her husband gained firsthand experience in dealing with puppy mills when they were asked to help with a raid on one a few years ago in a nearby county.

Over 200 dogs were found at that puppy mill with breeds ranging from Chihuahua, Maltese, Boxers and Golden Retrievers. Mothers and their puppies were kept in tight rabbit cages with wires poking at them, often living in their own waste. If some of the cages did have water, the water was green.

Dental problems and skin infections ran rampant throughout the puppy mill and bones were scattered throughout the yard where the bigger dogs roamed free. The rescuers found a small dog with a broken leg that had to be amputated.
Outdoor retail sales of dogs, cats and domestic rabbits are also now illegal in Forsyth County(Image by Getty Images)

“I saw the strain on local law enforcement when we have puppy mills, and the time that it takes away from local law enforcement to secure property is taking away from your county for important issues,” Johnston said. “The local shelters and humane societies were already at their capacity in our situation. So other resources had to be brought in to help…I hope that this County will not be part of the puppy mill pipeline.”

Susan Bova served for three years on the board of Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, has been in companion animal rescue since 2003 and is currently on the advisory council for W-Underdogs.

She showed a picture of her dog, Gracie, who was a breeder dog rescued from a 700-dog puppy mill in 2019.
Gracie was a breeder dog who was rescued from a 700-dog puppy mill in 2019(Image by Susan Bova)

These dogs are often victims of dental and eye disease, broken limbs, infections, congenital problems, malnutrition and behavioral disorders.

“Breeder dogs like Gracie spend their entire lives in cramped cages and are forced to have litter after litter after litter every 63 to 90 days,” Bova said. “Once the puppy mill operators have depleted the breeder dogs, they are either killed or tossed out sick and broken, usually dying shortly thereafter.”

When Gracie was adopted, she weighed just 18 pounds and was able to fit through a four-inch slat in Bova’s fence.

“Gracie had to be fully rehabilitated and taught every skill you can think of," Bova said. “In the picture on the screen. Gracie's nervous fear caused her to chew her injured paw quite severely, which was left unchecked, all while she had to produce litters and litters of puppies to fill the pipeline.”

Peggy McCarthey, who is on the Board of the Georgia Pet Coalition, said that pet store puppies are a documented ongoing health hazard.

She said a 2021 comprehensive study by 25 veterinarians and physicians affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) found that pet store puppies are the primary source for drug resistant zoonotic Campylobacter infections that afflict pet store customers and employees.

The same goes for outdoor pet sales, leading The Georgia Veterinary Medical Association to endorse a bill banning the practice at a state level due to the high numbers of sick animals being sold.

“Serious diseases like parvovirus are common and consumers have no statutory recourse and they can't even often find the seller,” McCarthey said. “Outdoor sales contribute immensely to pet overpopulation and fill our shelters with predominantly bully breeds.”
Peggy McCarthey, who is on the Board of the Georgia Pet Coalition, said that pet store puppies are a documented ongoing health hazard(Image by Susan Bova)

The law went into effect immediately after being passed.

Two more hearings will be held on whether to add a statement to the modifications concerning pet shops providing spaces for the adoptions of shelter animals, which “shall not have any ownership interest in the animals afforded for adoption, and shall not receive a fee for providing space for the adoption of any of these animals,” according to the suggested modification.

The dates for those meetings have not yet been announced.

To view the whole meeting, click here. To view the resolution to the Forsyth County Animal Control Ordinance, click here.

If you have a news tip in Forsyth County, contact Justine Lookenott at

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I cover local news in Forsyth County, GA. My debut into the writing world began at the age of 10 when I won an essay contest in Around Acworth Magazine in which I wrote about spending the summer with my pet goat, Eclair. Since graduating from Kennesaw State University, I have been published in several newspapers and magazines in the Atlanta area including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Atlanta School Guide, What Now Atlanta, Newcomer Magazine, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Cherokee Tribune.

Forsyth County, GA

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