NEW PORT RICHEY —Pasco commissioners on Tuesday gave tentative approval to new restrictions on tethering dogs and licensing animal breeders.
The rules are intended to prevent cruelty cases and reduce animal overpopulation.
"There are sometimes egregious violations," said Animal Services director John Malley. "What we're trying to do is prevent a problem."
The rules passed 3-1, with Commissioner Jack Mariano as the lone dissenting vote. (Commissioner Pat Mulieri was absent during the morning session.) Mariano thinks the tethering rule is too strict and also disagreed with a ban on selling animals at flea markets.
"You're taking someone's livelihood out of their hands," he said.
The proposed ordinance must still be brought back for a final public hearing, scheduled for Nov. 7 in Dade City.
Proposed changes would ban owners from tying up their dogs outside without water and shelter. Owners must also be outside or in view of the dog and use at least a 15-foot trolley or pulley system.
Mariano said he occasionally ties his Maltese bichon to a tree outside.
Sometimes he's out in the yard, and sometimes he's not. "I don't see why I shouldn't be able to do that," he said.
Other restrictions would require breeders to get a license from the county and allow officials to conduct safety and health checks of the business. Selling animals would be prohibited along the side of the road or at flea markets.
Malley said breeders at flea markets have occasionally sold dogs with health problems. Also, they sell on weekends, when county staff has limited enforcement capability.
"We don't want to affect anybody's business," he said. "But the sale of animals at the flea market is linked to a much greater problem."
In other news Tuesday, commissioners:
• Formally adopted the $1.1 billion county budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The budget passed after a brief public hearing Tuesday night. It includes a higher property tax rate to offset higher Medicaid payments required by the Legislature and to avoid further spending cuts. Last-minute items approved in a budget workshop last month include $100,000 to continue to operate the swimming pool at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson and $140,000 to offset transportation costs for the AMIkids alternative school. The final tax rate for general fund and fire services will go from $7.93 to $8.29 for every $1,000 in assessed value. But property values fell an average of 6 percent, so the average property owner will see little change in his or her bill.
• Accepted the "best in construction" award from the Florida Transportation Builders' Association for the $100 million widening of State Road 54 at Interstate 75. Doug Ebbers, the vice president of Pepper Contracting Services that completed the project, said: "The real winners are the citizens of Pasco because of the fast completion time, level of quality and competitive price."