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Manatee County commissioners banned the retail sale of dogs and cats Tuesday night after around 60 business owners, animal rights activists, advocacy groups and local residents spent hours public contributing.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore has been working on the effort for about a decade and similar measures have previously been tabled to the county despite failing them.
The move comes after Sarasota County banned retail sales of puppies and kittens in 2017, sparking a lawsuit from Petland Sarasota that was settled in 2019.
Commercial pet sales are the right role for local government, wondering if local businesses are being harmed by an issue they say was mainly caused by breeders.
Efforts are intended to curb the sale of animals from commercial breeders who operate unsanitary and inhumane facilities. Animal shelters and animal welfare organizations are excluded.
“I have a personal problem with the business model of buying animals from large farms,” said Whitmore. “This is about animal welfare.”
Does the ban apply nationwide?
There are 10 counties in Florida where retail operations are completely banned, including Sarasota and Hillsborough.
Companies that are already in operation have a year to stop selling cats and dogs, but the regulation allows them to offer space to display pets that are put up for adoption by animal welfare organizations or animal shelters.
Under the Sarasota Ordinance, Petland of Sarasota moved to Manatee County and was bought by new owners four months ago. The store and a few others were the focus of discussion on Tuesday.
Supporters of the store, including many employees, protested against the ban and wore bright red shirts with the words “Save our pet shops. Save our jobs. “
Separated from the island, advocates of the ban are grouped on the other side of the room, many with bright yellow shirts that say “vote yes for puppies”.
“I’ve rescued dogs my entire life, and if you believe dogs won’t be tortured, abused, and injured in puppy mills, you need to visit one,” said Patty Engle, a Manatee County resident. “I have. They can try to come in. Most of the time they won’t let you because they don’t want you to see what happens.”
Background:Sarasota County Settles Long-standing Pet Store Litigation Over Retail Prohibition
Related:Proponents want Manatee County to double the number of new animal shelters
Opinion:Manatee County needs a forward-looking shelter plan
Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge filed a motion from an attorney representing Petland to provide an exemption for retailers who only buy animals from small local breeders or USDA-licensed breeders that have not been found to have been violated in the past three years. The amendment was ultimately rejected.
Tamara Feliciano, an attorney for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, expressed concern about the USDA and the handover of the money to federal or state governments.
She said nothing in state law prohibits the sale of animals raised in a “puppy mill” in Florida, and that the USDA does a subordinate job in enforcing animal welfare law.
“There are over 2,000 commercial dog breeders and dealers, and these dealers are home to a quarter of a million dogs and puppies at any one time,” Feliciano said. “There is absolutely no obligation to inspect a dog dealer even once a year … We continue to see serious animal welfare violations and repeat violations without enforcement.”
Commissioner Reggie Bellamy, who was on the board on the previous two proposals, said he was more comfortable with the impact of the ban on local businesses this time around.
“There are nine other petlands that don’t sell puppies,” said Bellamy. “There are other services that are offered like nail clipping, grooming, training, daycare, and of course you have the health services.”
During the discussion, proponents of the ban criticized the USDA and the federal government for failing to curb improper breeding practices.
“If the USDA did its job effectively for our federal government, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion,” said Commissioner Misty Servia. “I don’t like the local government being put into this situation … I’m so sorry to have to say this, it makes me sad.”