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New Pasco dog rules stall amid breeder complaints

DADE CITY — Pasco County commissioners stalled again on an effort to pass an animal welfare ordinance restricting puppy mills and tethered dogs.

Commissioners gave initial approval to the new rules in September but stalled on Wednesday after a handful of breeders and a flea market operator complained they were too intrusive.

"You're taking away our rights and restricting free trade by banning the sale at flea markets," said Michele Overbeck, manager of the USA flea market in Port Richey. "We are trying to sell healthy animals at our facility."

Other breeders complained the new rules would restrict them from selling animals online and traveling to meet a customer. Breeders would have to obtain a new health and safety license and would be restricted to selling dogs at a fixed location.

Commissioner Jack Mariano questioned the whole package, saying the tethering restrictions are overbearing.

"To put these people out of business I think is absurd," he said. "You're going to affect a lot of people here in ways that you shouldn't."

Animal Services manager John Malley said he believes the ordinance can be tweaked to allow small breeders to sell animals online. But he said it's critical to restrict most sales to businesses or homes, which can be inspected for safe conditions.

"What we're looking to do is stop people from selling dogs at Walmart or on Massachusetts Avenue when I drive by on the weekends," he said.

Commissioners must still decide about the tethering restrictions.

One option would simply require owners to be outside with their dog if it's tied up. Another would require a certain type of tethering device while ensuring the dog has food, water and shelter. A third option would combine both approaches.

Discussion of the ordinance was postponed until the Dec. 4 meeting in New Port Richey.

In other news Tuesday, commissioners

• Adopted a new ordinance cracking down on synthetic marijuana and other drugs commonly known as "Spice." Instead of regulating specific chemical compounds, the ordinance targets store owners based on the packaging and marketing of the drugs. The ordinance, which takes effect immediately, levies a $500 civil fine for each individual package of the drugs. Deputies could consider a range of factors when determining if a substance is an "illicit synthetic drug." The new ordinance was pushed by Sheriff Chris Nocco's office and also crafted with the help of his defeated opponent, Kim Bogart.

• Endorsed a purchase of the Florida assets of Aqua Utilities by a multicounty government agency. This fall, the utility offered to sell its assets for $95 million. Pasco officials had criticized the agency for providing poor-quality water at sky-high rates, and the utility recently won approval for higher rates from state regulators. Pasco's move only gives the Florida Governmental Utility Authority the opportunity to begin negotiations on the deal, which could close by February.

• Approved speed restrictions on the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico near Anclote River Park. In September, state officials rejected a joint application with Tarpon Springs to create a slow speed zone along the river into the city. But officials said they would approve a smaller no-wake zone at the crowded intersection where the river passes three boat ramps at the park before heading out to the gulf. Pasco parks director Rick Buckman called that the most important portion of the earlier proposal.

New Pasco dog rules stall amid breeder complaints 11/07/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 8:24pm]
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