1. News

Ban on puppy sales approved in Hillsborough but not for existing stores

Hillsborough County commissioners approved a ban on stores that sell puppies, but have allowed an exception for existing stores such as Puppies Tampa at 6031N Dale Mabry Highway even though it has recently come under investigation by the state for failing to maintain health records for its puppies. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published May 17, 2017

TAMPA — There won't be any new puppy stores opening in Hillsborough County, commissioners decided Wednesday in an attempt to crack down on puppy mills.

However, three stores already operating here can remain open if they keep close tabs on their breeders and don't run afoul of state or federal law.

That's the compromise commissioners worked out after months of tough deliberations on a proposal to ban the commercial sale of cats and dogs in Hillsborough County.

Consensus only came after one of the longest commission debates in recent memory, prefaced by dozens of speakers who weighed in on whether the county should make an exception for existing businesses.

The room was sharply divided. Animal advocates, wearing red, called for a full ban on puppy sales, insisting that anything less will help abusive, industrial breeders, often called puppy mills, proliferate.

"Why are these stores getting a pass?" said Jennifer Leon. "How is it anybody can believe they'll clean up their act when it has been their MO for years?"

Backers of local puppy stores in powder blue "My puppy, my choice" T-shirts warned such a stance would lead to lost jobs and would shutter small businesses.

"We want to be a business that operates at the highest standard that is fair, and we believe that is completely possible," said Regina Galloway, owner of All About Puppies, which operates stores in Carrollwood and Brandon.

The debate was complicated last week when the owner of the other store, Puppies Tampa, and an employee were arrested by the Florida Department of Agriculture for failing to have health records for some of its puppies. The owner, Michael Lamprea, disputed that before commissioners Wednesday.

The Tampa Bay Times also reported last week that the state has no health records on file for any dogs supplied to Puppies Tampa from outside Florida in the past year. Under state regulations, dogs and cats that enter Florida from out-of-state breeders must have an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection on file with the state.

Meanwhile, All About Puppies had dozens of those certificates on file tracking hundreds of dogs transported to the store from breeders in Kansas and Missouri.

"If all of your puppy sales are legitimate, why would there be zero certificates on file?" asked Commissioner Ken Hagan, who initiated the puppy sale ban. County director of pet resources Scott Trebatoski was at a loss to explain it.

Hagan proposed excluding Puppies Tampa from the provision to grandfather existing facilities, but was rebuked 5-2. Commissioner Pat Kemp joined Hagan in the vote.

To stay in business, existing pet stores will have to personally visit their breeders once a year and they cannot get puppies from breeders with U.S. Department of Agriculture violations within the last two years. They also will lose their grandfather status if they are convicted of a crime by state or federal enforcement agencies or if they have four violations.

The stores will be subject to inspection and must provide for customers the USDA inspection reports for its breeders. Those reports used to be available online, but were recently removed by President Donald Trump's administration.

Dogs and cats can still be sold if they are purchased from a rescue or shelter.

Commissioner Victor Crist, who offered the new regulations as an alternative to an all out ban, said it would still prevent the sale of dogs from inhumane suppliers but without shutting down existing businesses.

Those puppy stores, Crist said, "deserve the opportunity to show they can be a partner in the cause to shut down puppy mills."

In other action, Hillsborough County commissioners voted to require that all employees undergo First Amendment training.

Complaints recently surfaced alleging that county staff told a Christian organization it couldn't hold Bible study at Hillsborough parks. There's no such prohibition.

Commissioner Stacy White said he didn't know if the accusation was accurate or just a misunderstanding. Nevertheless, he said staff should be reminded of the rules.

"I'm not trying to make a big spectacle," White said. "I'm not looking to see anyone reprimanded. I'm not looking to rake anyone over the coals. This is definitely a he-said, she-said situation."

Contact Steve Contorno at or (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.


  1. Nearly a year after it was left abandoned and half-sunk off the Tampa side of the Howard Frankland Bridge, a salvage crew finally raised and towed the Moonraker II to the Courtney Campbell boat ramp. It is slated to be crushed. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The boat was an eyesore to those who live off Tampa Bay. Then it became a political statement. Now it’s been towed and will soon be crushed.
  2. Republican Sen. Joe Gruters said Florida consumers are required to pay the sales tax, but rarely do so if online sellers don't collect it.
    The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously approved the bill Tuesday.
  3. Stephanie Vold, a medical assistant and intake specialist for OnMed, holds the door while Austin White, president and CEO of the company, talks with a nurse practitioner during a demonstration of their new telehealth system at Tampa General Hospital on Tuesday. The hospital is the first to deploy the OnMed station and plans to install them at other locations. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The closet-size “office” with a life-size screen is another example of the changing face of medicine.
  4. A Hernando County Sheriff's deputy talks to students in the cafeteria of Brooksville Elementary School in 2018. Earlier this month, the school district put forward a proposal to move away from a contract with the Sheriff and establish its own police force. On Tuesday, it announced it would drop that idea.
    Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis spoke out this week against the proposal.
  5. Wayne Juhlin was arrested after calling 911 to report his wife's death and is being held in the Sarasota County Jail. Venice Police/Twitter
    Wayne Juhlin told detectives Monday night that he had intended to kill himself, too, but said his gun malfunctioned, and he couldn’t do it.
  6. Students in the Gulf High School class of 2023 show their spirit in a float they created for the annual homecoming parade held Oct. 8 in downtown New Port Richey. Michele Miller
    Annual tradition marches on last week down Grand Boulevard.
  7. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The sides have not set a time to resume discussions on teacher pay.
  8. Census forms have to be printed soon. [AP photo by Michelle R. Smith]
    Citizenship controversy could be a psychological barrier.
  9. An armored police vehicle enters the Town Center at Boca Raton parking lot in front of Nordstrom, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Boca Raton, Fla., as the mall had been placed on lockdown following reports of shots fired. ANDRES LEIVA  |  AP
    Surveillance video shows a janitor popped the balloon in the food court of the Town Center mall on Sunday after it got tangled in his pushcart.
  10. [RON BORRESEN  |  Times].
    The deadline is Friday to submit your employer’s name for consideration.