Little Elm officials watched as an investigation into Petland in Frisco became a hot topic last year.

Now they’re looking for ways to keep a similar incident from happening in their town.

Tuesday the Little Elm Town Council discussed ways to regulate pet retail shops.

This comes after Petland in Frisco was investigated by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) this past summer.

Between July and August, an HSUS member conducted their own hidden-camera investigation in the store and reported to the city alleged deficiencies in animal health, record keeping and veterinary care. HSUS described animals as too sick to eat or suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea.

A Petland Inc. spokesperson said the HSUS member was employed in the store for six weeks and states the HSUS claims are “irresponsibly inaccurate and clearly uneducated.”

Since then, Frisco has adopted an ordinance to provide more regulation on these types of stores. The Colony passed an ordinance that will make it difficult for pet stores to come to the city.

Little Elm appears to be headed toward a system in which a pet store must first obtain a specific use permit (SUP) before operating in the town. The town is working on creating a zoning use for the retail sale of animals, and a company would have to apply for the rezoning through the SUP.

Councilman Tony Singh asked that the item be brought forward in part because of the claims of neglect at Frisco’s Petland but also because of the possible impact he said pet shops can have on the town.

“We have an animal shelter,” Singh said. “Opening a business like this has a negative impact on that because people get the pets (at the shops) and then dump them at the animal shelter.”

With an SUP process, the town could place restrictions on where the pet stores are located and could require safety inspections.

“I think we should make it with a specific use permit so that we can decide at that time or a future council can decide,” Singh said.

Initially Mayor David Hillock wasn’t in favor of requiring an SUP, saying it would discourage pet stores from coming to the town because of the rezoning process.

But once officials said the town doesn’t receive many pet store requests he said he was OK with it.

Early on, Singh said he wanted to discuss various options, including a full ban.

But Hillock said he didn’t support that.

“I don’t have a problem pursuing some of it,” Hillock said. “I just don’t want to restrict everyone who’s ever done business related to pets because one place did a bad job of it.”

Resident Rebecca Whitehouse encouraged the council to require a permit for an animal retail shop.

“It’s an issue of retail sales, and the volume of sales necessary to sustain a store involves sourcing from puppy mills,” Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse said the issue in Frisco became a problem because ordinances weren’t in place when the store first opened, so the city had to deal with the problems after it was too late.

“If you can prevent this proactively it saves money for the city and stops the problem from growing to the level it did in Frisco,” Whitehouse said.

She added that dogs that come from breeders are often sick and can transmit diseases to humans.

The town staff is expected to bring forward a draft ordinance at a future council meeting.

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