TAMPA — Hillsborough County could be following neighboring Pasco County in banning bunny sales.
Wednesday, Hillsborough commissioners agreed to consider an ordinance similar to Pasco County’s that bans retail sale of rabbits. Introduction of the ordinance and a public hearing in Hillsborough will come early next year.
The commission’s decision to move forward with a potential ordinance followed comments from nine animal advocates who encouraged the county to adopt an outright ban. Previously, commentators sought, at a minimum, a seasonal ban on rabbit sales because of impulse buys during the spring Easter season.
The county stopped short of regulating sales earlier this year and instead tried an education program with retailers. The county’s Pet Resource Center, however, told commissioners in September the public education campaign had not diminished the number of rabbits surrendered to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.
“I think we can pretty much say that has failed,” Commissioner Pat Kemp said Wednesday.
Taking surrenders and fostering the animals falls to nonprofits or volunteers because government-run shelters in the Tampa Bay area do not accept rabbits.
The dilemma is buyer’s remorse that sometimes accompanies pet rabbit purchases. The cute, fuzzy fur balls grow into animals requiring significant cleaning because of their waste output. They also have an appetite for nearly anything chewable, including rubber, plastics, clothing, wood and electrical wires.
Advocates said it leads to owners surrendering animals to shelters or simply releasing them outdoors.
The Pasco County Commission banned retail sale of rabbits in October after earlier adopting an ordinance prohibiting public sale of rabbits intended to stop vendors and breeders from selling the animals at flea markets or roadside locations.
Both Kemp and Commission Chairperson Ken Hagan said following Pasco’s lead made sense because the ordinance had not drawn a legal challenge. Hillsborough County previously banned retail sale of dogs and cats but that ordinance is being challenged in court.
The commission voted 6-1 to consider the retail ban with only Commissioner Joshua Wostal dissenting. He said he feared setting a bad precedent that could apply to other animals in the future. He advocated for continuing the public education campaign.