LARGO – Legislation filed in Tallahassee has caught the attention of both sides of the Florida state cat and dog retail issue.
Senate Bill 1138 and House Bill 45 would ban the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores statewide. The authors of the bills allege that animals sold in stores come primarily from breeding facilities, more commonly known as “puppy mills,” where their care is less than adequate. The intention of the law is to encourage people to adopt local shelters and rescue groups.
It didn’t take long for those on the sales ban side to take action to support the legislation in the form of a petition, which includes banning the sale of rabbits as well as cats and dogs. . A recent video is also circulating that some say is completely unfounded about how local puppy stores get their pets.
The question remains: do retail stores get their animals from reputable breeders or do they come from puppy mills.
Several speakers from All About Puppies, 7190 Ulmerton Road in Largo, appeared during the public comment period for the October 26 meeting. They say their animals are from reputable breeders and allege the video is misleading with inaccurate and outdated information.
Alexandra Julian said attempts to close puppy shops were “counterproductive”. She said it was promoting the black market. She encouraged Commissioners to have an open dialogue instead of just banning the sale of puppies.
Commissioner Pat Gerard is in favor of going ahead with some type of action and passing an ordinance before legislation is passed at the state level.
County administrator Barry Burton said staff were working on a temporary moratorium on new stores that commissioners could pass to give them time to discuss an order. The moratorium would not affect existing stores.
Commissioner Karen Seel encouraged Commissioners to be thoughtful and to remember that there are two sides. She worries about unintended consequences. She agreed with speakers that a sales ban could encourage the black market as well as online sales where people were more likely to buy unhealthy animals. She preferred to do something different, like more store monitoring.
Seel bought a dog from a hobbyist breeder who had health issues. She said most retail stores that sell animals have warranties.
“I don’t know what we can do legally,” she said, in terms of tighter store regulations.
Commissioner Janet Long also urged caution. She said she was unwilling to eliminate or shut down businesses with a long history in the county. She advocates letting Animal Services work on strengthening existing regulations.
“I don’t know if we’ve had a lot of complaints until recently,” she said.
She wants to make sure all voices are heard, not just the loudest ones.
Commissioner Kathleen Peters said she strongly agreed with the possibility of unintended consequences and the potential to drive the black market. She said existing businesses in the county had been in business for years. She said she could feel the passion for their work in the presentations from the day’s speakers.
Peters supports a moratorium on new businesses while the committee considers the possibility of further measures. It also promotes acquired rights in existing businesses if a ban is enacted.
Commissioners will likely vote on the moratorium in December, then start further discussions next year.
Suzette Porter is the editor-in-chief of TBN in Pinellas County. She can be contacted at [email protected]