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.