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Fort Smith ordinance prohibiting sale of animals now in effect

The ordinance, which has certain exceptions, prohibits the "transfer of animals" within the corporate limits of the City of Fort Smith.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — The Fort Smith Board of Directors voted unanimously on Feb. 7 to approve an ordinance that will prohibit the "transfer" of animals within the corporate limits of the city. 

According to the new ordinance, "no person or entity shall sell, trade, offer as a gift, or give away any animal at any location in the corporate city limits of Fort Smith." It went into effect on March 7, 2023.

Rick Bennett is the director of operations for the Fort Smith Animal Haven. It's one of the many shelters and rescues that receive stray animals from the city.

"That's going to take care of a lot of that, you know, without- the backyard breeders so to speak," said Bennett. "We see a lot of animals come in. In the last two days, we've received eight one day, and six the next, and the majority of them are pups. So there's there are breeders out there."

Bennett explained there's also the issue of residential pets simply getting loose, adding that "the animal then goes and has the pups and then they abandoned pups. So we get a lot of that too." 

The ordinance also states that a person or entity who intends to "transfer ownership" of an animal must ensure that the animal receives age-appropriate vaccinations from a licensed veterinarian. Keeping or raising small domestic animals with the intent to sell them in residential areas is also prohibited.

Violation of the ordinance is considered a misdemeanor and will result in a $600 fine which will be enforced by the Fort Smith Police Department (FSPD).

"There has to be some money attached to it for them to be able to put a stop to it. So the best place to hit them is in the pocketbook," said Bennett.

Exceptions to the ordinance:

  • A retail animal sales business operated from a permanent physical location owned or leased by the business, properly zoned pursuant to the UDO, and holding a properly issued business license
  • A home business location providing animal ownership transfer activities from a permanent physical location owned or leased by a business, properly issued a home occupation license, and holding a properly issued business license
  • Any governmental, for-profit, or non-profit entity operating an animal shelter that provides animal ownership transfer activities solely from a permanent physical location 
  • A kennel licensed and operated pursuant to Section 4-119(a) of the Fort Smith Municipal Code which provides animal ownership transfer activities solely from the permanent physical location of the kennel
  • A person or entity holding and in compliance with a Breeder License which provides animal ownership transfer activities solely from a properly zoned permanent physical location owned or leased by the person or entity
  • A resident of the City of Fort Smith who owns an animal and transfers ownership of the animal, not in the course of business, but because of inability or absence of desire to care for the animal

Bennett believes the next step to control the stray animal population is to spay and neuter pets.

"Mandatory that any animal that is in the city of Fort Smith needs to be spayed and neutered. Otherwise, then they can get the license, to breed if that's what they want to do," said Bennett.

FSPD advises that anyone who suspects or observes animals being transferred in violation of this ordinance should call the police department at 479-709-5000.

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