No-kill animal shelter ordinance wins full City Commission support on first reading this week

Commissioner Arroyo proposed new law

It took only about 2 minutes on July 3 for the members of the Sarasota City Commission to unanimously approve, on the first reading, a new ordinance that allows for only no-kill animal shelters in the municipality.

The law says, “Animal shelters that do not operate as no-kill shelters in accordance with subparagraph (b) … are prohibited.”
That subparagraph defines a no-kill shelter as one “that does not euthanize healthy or treatable animals based on time limitations or capacity, and reserves euthanasia for terminally ill animals, animals suffering poor quality of life, or those considered dangerous to public safety. No-kill shelters strive to save at least ninety percent (90%) of the animals that they take in and to find them loving, permanent homes

or provide them with sanctuary until they can be placed in a suitable environment.”

Among its findings of fact, the ordinance says, “Best Friends Animal Society, which runs a Utah animal rescue sanctuary and holds annual animal welfare conferences, has led the way with advocacy for the entire nation to convert to ‘no kill’ shelters only by 2025 …” Best Friends also points out, “No-kill means that an end-of-life decision for a pet is an act of mercy rather than one done for convenience or lack of space,” as noted in another finding of fact.

A second reading of the ordinance will be necessary before it goes into effect.

During the board’s regular meeting on May 1, Commissioner Erik Arroyo won his colleagues’ full support for City Attorney Robert Fournier to draft such a proposed ordinance. Arroyo pointed out during the discussion that the issue of no-kill shelters “touches on the hearts of many in our community … First and foremost,” he added, “the core principle of animal welfare should be guiding our decision making.”

Arroyo further pointed out to his colleagues, “Animals, like humans, are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain, fear, suffering. It is our moral obligation to be sure they are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”

Then he said, “There’s been rumblings of some of these businesses coming back to Sarasota, especially as some of the other ones are going out of business.”

After City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs read the title of the ordinance before the July 3 vote, Arroyo said, “I just want to commend our staff and our city attorney’s office and our clerk and our city manager for taking this and expeditiously addressing and drafting something.”

He referenced the short amount of time between his bringing up the topic in May and the fact that the item was on the July 3 agenda. (The commissioners were on their summer break during the month of June.)

Fournier did explain that, although he had told the commissioners in May that he believed the no-kill shelter ordinance would have to be incorporated into the city’s Zoning Code — meaning the city Planning Board first would have to address it, before the City Commission voted on it — he “decided that it would better be placed in the ‘Animals’ chapter of the City Code, as a matter of policy. It didn’t really need to be in the Zoning Code.”

“Next to the ‘Chicken’ policy,” Arroyo responded, prompting laughter from Griggs. “We do have a chicken policy,” he added.

(Years ago, the City Commission authorized the raising of chickens within the city limits, under specific conditions laid out in the City Code.

Arroyo made the motion to approve the new ordinance on its first reading, and Vice Mayor Liz Alpert seconded it.

With no members of the public having signed up to address the topic in May or this week, the item could be on the July 17 City Commission agenda for a second reading.