LARGO – City commissioners often say they would like the public to be more engaged on topics of interest to the community. A proposed ordinance to add regulations for the two Largo pet stores drew a lot of backlash on Jan. 19, as residents across the state pleaded with city leaders to reject the new rules in favor of an outright ban.
Throughout the week, the commissioners also received around 100 emails supporting the ban and spoke to representatives of the Humane Society and Ulmerton Road pet stores – All About Puppies and Sunshine Puppies.
In the end, the flood of comments was not enough to convince them to join Hillsborough County, St. Petersburg or Dunedin in banning pet retailing. But this swayed them enough to vote 7-0 to withdraw the proposed new rules from the ordinance and ask staff to continue the discussion with both sides in the hope of reaching a resolution, which could include rights protection. acquired in both stores and the ban on any future. upon opening.
âI think the best plan we can do would be to come back, allow the two companies that are in Largo to stay in Largo, continue with their business model and not allow anyone else to come in,â said Vice Mayor Jamie. Robinson, who stressed that he preferred the adoption-based model, but didn’t want to close stores.
The problem is with 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 for profit, ignoring the needs of puppies. and their mothers. Puppy mill dogs are often sick and unsocialized.
The owners of the Largo pet store are adamant that they do not buy or sell animals from puppy mills. There are three other stores along Ulmerton Road, the largest of which is Petland across from the Largo Mall, but they are not within the city limits and fall under the jurisdiction of Pinellas County.
âIf you have blinders on, they (animal activists) will say every pet store buys from puppy mills,â said Dan Cohn, owner of Sunshine Puppies. âGuys, if we were buying from puppy mills, we’d be bankrupt because our dogs would be riddled with, riddled with flaws. Because, unfortunately, they (the puppy mills) don’t care. They don’t care about the health of the parents and of course you end up with bad dogs.
Nonetheless, the city was moving forward with new regulations that would have required stores to give consumers more information about where the animals came from. The ordinance also stipulated that owners should only purchase dogs or cats from breeders approved and licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and hold an active state license in good standing.
The USDA is the primary regulatory authority for ranchers who transport animals across state borders. The state of Florida has a pet “lemon law” and breeders must meet minimum requirements. Pinellas County also has definitions and regulations on kennels, hobbyist breeders, and pet dealers. Local ordinances cannot conflict with county, state, or federal ordinances, so the city’s options were limited.
“While we know your intentions are excellent and we appreciate it, the procurement ordinances just aren’t working,” said Kate MacFall, a Tallahassee resident who is the state director of the Humane Society of the United States. âResponsible breeders don’t sell their puppies to stores. We know that.”
She added that a USDA license does not guarantee that they are a cruelty-free breeder, but only means that they have passed a pre-license inspection.
âOne breeder in particular who sold to one of the local stores is a Kansas breeder who has over 1,000 dogs,â she said.
The debate drew comments from across the state.
Michele Lazaro, a city commissioner in Hallandale Beach north of Miami who is helping push for a statewide retail ban on dogs and cats, called to urge commissioners to implement a ban.
âWe know these stores buy from large scale commercial breeders known as puppy mills,â she said. âThis is definitely 100% true. We also know thatâ¦ regulations of any kind for these bans don’t work.
She added that passing such an ordinance would have implications beyond Largo.
âYou might think spending something is better than nothing,â she said. âThis is not the case with this bad legislation. This legislation tends to be scrutinized by other cities. Please don’t spend something just to spend something. Skip something because it’s the right thing.
She also asked them to wait for state lawmakers to vote on the bill in the next legislative session.
Robinson said he wouldn’t.
âI have no interest in waiting for what Tallahassee wants to do with anything,â he said. âSo let me go ahead and bring it out. They’re never going to ask us what we’d like to do here in this city, and I don’t care what they want to do in Tallahassee.
Robinson, who spoke to a member of the Julien family who owns All About Puppies, a store that has been in Largo since 1995, said he didn’t agree with their business model, but it was his personal opinion.
“It is not my responsibility to close a business in the town of Largo that is doing legitimate business,” he said.
This is happening in Hillsborough County, where Alexandria Julien has said her family will likely have to close a store this month after being forced to switch to an adoption-based model where all pets sold must be obtained from rescue organizations or shelters.
Jenna Jensen, public policy specialist for the Stop Puppy Mills campaign at the Humane Society, said the adoption-based model isn’t the death penalty pet store owners say.
She said the company has helped convert dozens of stores from selling commercially bred puppies to working with local rescues and shelters in the area.
âTo say that these stores couldn’t function without selling puppies is a little hard to hear given that the pet industry is a $ 100 billion industry, dominated by products and services,â she said. . âSo these stores could certainly prosper by not selling puppies. “
Commissioner Michael Smith, who cast the only dissenting vote on the ordinance during its first reading, said he sympathizes with the store owners but cannot support their business model.
âI am for an adoption model. I think this is the only way. That’s my opinion. I’m sticking to it, âhe said. “And if that comes down like trying to keep them in this ordinance, I just can’t support that.”
Mayor Woody Brown said the stores provide a service to consumers and would like to find a way for them to keep operating.
“How do we get to the point where we can be sure these puppies aren’t coming from puppy mills?” If we can get an answer to that, that’s what I would like to see in an order, âhe said. âI’m just as happy with the rescue dogs as the next one, but there are people in this community who would rather have a designer dog or a purebred dog. â¦ They want to bring a puppy home for the kids for Christmas, and you can’t always get the proper puppy or the puppy that some people want at a shelter.
The commissioners agreed that more consultation with both parties and the public is needed before a decision is made. But it also emerged that they were leaning towards vested interests in both stores, passing the new regulations to follow and then banning any future stores from setting up.
âThe reason we started this conversation over a year ago was in the best interests of the dogs, our residents and consumers here in the city,â said Brown. âThus, we will continue to work for a successful and good prescription. It may take a little longer, but we’re happy to do it.