Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Editorials

Don't delay humane animal control rules

Vacillating will not solve an overburdened animal control system in Pasco County. But that is the continued strategy among commissioners who, for the second time in 11 months, declined to act on a proposal to curb puppy mills and prohibit tethering of unattended animals.

This time, the delay is supposed to be for a month, but the commissioner who suggested stalling, Jack Mariano, made no secret of his desire to kill the proposal entirely.

"I think we're doing a mistake with the whole thing,'' Mariano told the board Tuesday nearly immediately after hearing from Dr. Robert R. Hase, chairman of the Pasco County Animal Control Advisory Board, which vetted the proposal and recommended its approval.

It's disingenuous behavior from Mariano. He'll ignore a citizens committee recommendation when convenient, but cite such advisory panels (the Planning Commission's rejection of a homeless shelter outside Zephyrhills) when it suits his political needs to rationalize a controversial vote.

Mariano contends the animal control proposal would be an undue hardship on local businesses — vendors selling animals at flea markets.

But, only Commissioner Pat Mulieri offered a reasonable alternative.

If those vendors' breeding sites already are inspected by the county, then they should display a certificate of approval during their weekend transactions, she said. However, her suggestion of reciprocity with Hernando County, simply to appease a Hernando-based breeder who sells at the USA Fleamarket in Hudson, is unworkable. That county's Animal Control division has been in chaos amid continued budget cuts and it is imprudent to presume it will be willing to tackle new duties.

The intent of Pasco's much-discussed proposal is to cut down on the number of unhealthy animals that eventually make their way to the Animal Services shelter in Land O'Lakes. Licensing and inspecting commercial breeders — defined by the ordinance as anyone producing more than 20 animals annually — is a logical step to weed out puppy mills and it shouldn't restrict the so-called hobby breeders who raised initial objections to this plan.

The anti-tethering component is designed to protect animals from harming themselves and to safeguard humans who come in contact with dogs that can become more aggressive if restricted and unattended.

It is a well-intended proposal to promote humane treatment of animals. Commissioners shouldn't turn a blind eye to that logic for the sake of convenience or out of fear of being labeled anti-business

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