A proposed ordinance that would restrict sales of dogs and cats in Brevard County pet stores is one step away from final approval.
The order – introduced by Commission Vice Chairman Bryan Lober – seeks to halt local sales of dogs and cats from large-scale out-of-state breeding operations, sometimes called “puppy mills” and “kitten mills”.
On Tuesday evening, county commissioners voted 3-0 to declare “legislative intent” on the proposal. This action signals their support for the measure and sends it to a formal public hearing and final vote on March 26.
County Commission Chair Kristine Isnardi and Commissioner Rita Pritchett joined Lober in supporting the ordinance. Commissioners Curt Smith and John Tobia were absent.
After:County commission to debate restrictions on pet stores and community redevelopment agencies
After:Regulations on the sale of pets to fight puppy mills come back to be rewritten
To gain Pritchett’s support, however, Lober changed his original proposal to be a little less restrictive.
Lober’s original proposal would have prohibited Brevard’s pet stores from selling dogs or cats – unless the animals came from an animal shelter or animal rescue organization. The new proposal, however, would also allow pet stores to sell dogs and cats from “hobby breeders” who breed dogs and cats that produce no more than 48 puppies or kittens per year.
These hobby breeders would also be exempt from the rules that would apply to pet stores, so they could also sell the dogs and cats themselves.
Pet store owners who violate the order could face up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Existing pet stores would be given a one-year “grace period” after the proposed order is passed before being subject to its rules.
The proposed ordinance would affect both the unincorporated areas of Brevard and the 16 towns and villages of Brevard. A municipality, however, could replace the county ordinance with an ordinance of its own.
Commissioners spent about three hours Tuesday on the pet store issue, including hearing from 31 stakeholders. Some supported Lober’s proposal, while others said they believe the county should not place restrictions on where people can acquire their dogs and cats.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey supports Lober’s initiative and helped shape the legislation, along with other members of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office leadership and Humane Society officials the United States.
“Our ultimate goal is to shut down the puppy mills,” Ivey told county commissioners, adding that the BCSO is prepared to provide oversight for the provisions of the order. “You know we’re on board.”
In his resolution, Lober lists “documented abuses endemic to puppy mills and kitten mills” as including “over-breeding; inbreeding; minimal to non-existent veterinary care; lack of food, water and adequate and nutritious shelter; lack of socialization; lack of adequate space and lack of adequate exercise.” Lober called the puppy mill industry “morally wrong.”
“I’m pissed off about this particular issue, but it’s deeply personal to me,” said Lober, who has volunteered with dog rescue organizations.
Lober said his proposal would encourage consumers to adopt dogs and cats from shelters and rescue organizations, “thus saving the lives of animals, while reducing the cost to the public of housing or euthanasia of animals.
Among the shelters that could benefit are the BCSO-operated facility in Melbourne, as well as facilities operated by the Brevard Humane Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Brevard.
Isnardi said more regulation was needed in the sale of dogs and cats because “they are living, breathing creatures that, unlike us, have no voice” – not lawn mower parts or pool supplies.
“It’s not a Republican or Democratic thing,” Isnardi said. “It’s not a matter of capitalist regulation versus government regulation. It’s a small thing we can do” to protect dogs and cats.
Pritchett, however, had qualms about Lober’s initial proposal. Although Pritchett has said she wants to crack down on abusive puppy mills, she doesn’t want to shut down pet stores or hurt hobby breeders who might occasionally seek to sell puppies in pet stores, for example.
“I have a legitimate concern that this might hurt good people who want to do this,” Pritchett said. “I don’t want to take away people’s rights, but I do want to protect dogs. I just have a real concern that we might solve one problem and create another.”
Although Lober felt his original proposal was the best way forward, he accepted the change as a way to push the measure through a formal public hearing. Lober said he thinks allowing hobby breeders to sell their animals to pet stores could expose a loophole that could thwart his initiative. He worried that more pet stores would source dogs from puppy mills disguising themselves as hobby breeders.
“I tried to keep it as tightly matched as possible,” Lober said, discussing his original proposal. “This is going to impact businesses that source animals in a deeply unethical way. If that’s not enough, I’m going to come back with something else, because I’m not satisfied with just adopting a prescription. , saying we’re doing something, if it doesn’t have the impact we’re looking to have.”
Based on initial comments during a county commission discussion of the matter in January — a meeting that Smith and Tobia attended — these two commissioners seemed less likely to be affirmative votes on the ordinance on the Lober’s pet shops.
Among those opposing Lober’s proposal on Tuesday were a group of Tampa-area residents wearing matching blue shirts with the slogan “My puppy, my choice.” They argued that consumers should not be restricted as to where they can purchase a dog or cat.
Another opponent of the order, William Jacobson, owner of pet shop Pets Plus in Melbourne, called the measure “counterproductive”. He said some of the national organizations supporting such measures are “radical animal and vegan rights groups.”
Later in the meeting, Lober went through a 51-slide PowerPoint presentation to question the accuracy of some statements Jacobson made to the commissioners in January and to question the quality of the breeding facilities where Pets Plus acquires its dogs for retail sale.
If the County Commission approves Lober’s order, Brevard County would join more than 50 communities in Florida and 300 nationwide that restrict the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.
Dave Berman is the government editor at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Berman at 321-242-3649
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