LARGO — Just over a year ago, the town of Largo passed new regulations for the commercial sale of dogs and cats. It also banned new pet shops, but grandfathered the town’s two existing shops, All About Puppies and Sunshine Puppies on Ulmerton Road.
While animal welfare activists applauded the city’s efforts, they said two pet stores were still two too many.
Recently campaigners have come back in force to urge commissioners to reconsider whether stores can operate with their current business model.
On September 13, the majority of the commissioners made it clear that they were not moving.
“At the end of the day, my biggest concern and I’ve expressed it to everyone, are the real people who work in these stores,” said commissioner Jamie Robinson, who added that forcing them to move to a adoption-based model would probably put them out of business.
“These are real people that we potentially put out on the street,” Robinson said. “And I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I just don’t.
Activists’ concerns stem from stores that sell dogs from so-called “puppy mills,” which the Humane Society of the United States defines as inhumane, high-volume dog-breeding facilities that produce puppies at lucrative ends, ignoring needs. puppies and their mothers. Puppy mill dogs are often sick and unsocialized.
“We consider the safety of these animals,” said Myriam Parham, co-founder and president of Florida Voices For Animals, a local nonprofit animal rights organization.
She claimed stores are getting animals from breeders who are puppy mills and need to change their practices.
“We would like to work with adoptions at these stores,” she said. “If they just did what PetSmart and others do, they can still sell a lot of stuff – supplies, food, anything that dogs or kittens need. They can be sold in stores and they can do well to support adoptions.
The store owners again refuted the Sept. 6 allegations and said they were following all city and county rules.
These rules require stores to provide detailed information about the source of the dogs they sell, including the name and license numbers of the United States Department of Agriculture breeding facility where the animal was bred and the city where the animal is from.
The ordinance also follows federal law that pet store owners should only purchase dogs from breeders who are approved and licensed by the USDA, have not experienced any direct or indirect violations of the USDA during past two years and have an active state license in good standing. upright.
Alexandria Julien, who owns All About Puppies with her family, said all of her breeders’ licenses are valid and her store has worked hard to comply with city and Pinellas County ordinances.
“We have made appropriate adjustments to be in compliance with both orders without compromising either order as they contain different requirements,” she said Sept. 6.
Chase Bergeron, director of the city’s community standards division, told Tampa Bay newspapers the city conducted three inspections at each store.
The first rounds of inspections took place in October and served as a training exercise for city staff and employees of the respective stores, Bergeron said.
The stores were given a grace period to phase out the use of unlicensed hobby breeders, but the two complied in November.
“The first official inspections were conducted in March 2022 and each store passed without violations,” he wrote in an email to TBN.
Due to citizens’ concern, the city commission instructed staff to increase inspections from two to four times a year. Therefore, staff inspected both stores on Sept. 7 and the results of those inspections are awaited, Bergeron said.
Mayor Woody Brown said the city rules were carefully crafted and made a difference.
“I know we’re more confident that these two stores are at least making meaningful efforts to make sure their dogs come from a good place and are healthy,” he said Sept. 13. .
He added that it was unfair to compare Largo to nearby municipalities that have enacted bans like Dunedin or St. Petersburg because those towns had no operating pet stores and would not put anyone out of business.
Vice Mayor Michael Smith, who originally brought the issue to the city’s attention several years ago, was the only dissenting voice and said he still hasn’t changed his mind.
“I don’t think the grandfather element should be there,” he said, arguing for stores to move to an adoption-based model.
Commissioner Eric Gerard said he was not a fan of the business model, but that the stores play by the rules.
“I wouldn’t frequent these businesses, but there are people who love them,” he said. “They obey the law, so why would I want to change the rules like that.”
He said if activists really wanted to shut down puppy mills or shut down pet stores, they needed to lobby the federal government, not the Largo City Commission.
“It may take five or 10 years, but if you want to end the practice, you have to do it federally, because it’s federally regulated,” he said. “We can close a few stores, and they will just move to the unincorporated area. You’re playing dumb doing that.