DADE CITY — Pasco County is poised to follow the lead of other Florida communities by banning pet stores from selling dogs and cats obtained from animal breeders.
On Tuesday, the commission gave its initial nod to an ordinance that would prohibit the retail pet sales but would encourage such shops to partner with animal rescue organizations and shelters which often are searching for ways to connect unwanted animals with those seeking pets.
The final hearing on the ordinance is set for September 8.
Pasco County has previously restricted the sale of dogs and cats in public areas such as flea markets and roadside stands, a first step in trying to protect both the animals and the buyers from the problems posed by unlicensed breeders, pet dealers and kennels.
“There has been a growing concern throughout Florida and the country involving the sale of puppies and kittens from pet stores, which primarily source these pets from large puppy and kitten mills,” according to the county staff materials provided commissioners. “These facilities often house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water, and socialization, which allow for heritable and congenital disorders, the spread of infectious diseases, and environmental contamination — any of which may be present immediately after a sale or not until several years later.”
More than 50 cities and eight counties in Florida have already passed similar ordinances, including Hillsborough County, which took the same action earlier this year.
Pasco officials met with other nearby animal services staff and knew that once Hillsborough made that decision, Pasco would need to be thinking about a similar action, said Michael Shumate, Pasco’s animal services director. Officials began to hear that pet shops in Hillsborough, which could no longer operate there due to the change, were considering heading north with their operations.
Shumate said there is only one such business in Pasco county, and Pasco officials can inspect and follow up on any concerns there.
Shumate said big-box stores like PetSmart and Pet Supermarket already source their dogs and cats through local pet rescues and shelters, including Pasco County Animal Services. For those stores, the sale of pet supplies is the focus of their business.
“We want them to be able to collaborate with our local rescues and our shelter. They’re not receiving a dime but they will open up space which allows the rescues to come in and showcase their adoptable animals,” Shumate said.
The ordinance proposed does not impact so-called “pocket pets” such as hamsters, birds and other small animals often offered for sale at pet shops. It also does not prevent those searching for a new pet to reach out directly to rescues that have animals up for adoption or to search out individual breeders.
Ordinances like the one under consideration also are designed to help reduce animal over population, overcrowding in animal shelters, increased costs for taxpayers and euthanasia of pets. In recent years, Shumate said, Pasco Animal Services has implemented a number of processes which have earned it the designation of a “no-kill shelter” by significantly reducing the number of animals it must euthanize.
Commissioners praised Shumate’s efforts to improve animal outcomes.
Commission Chairman Mike Moore said his family has adopted two special-needs dogs from area rescues in the last year and that the county shelter has “so many great dogs out there that can be adopted.”
The state of animal services has gone through “a total reversal” in recent years,” Commissioner Ron Oakley told Shumate. “You’ve done a great job ... We’re moving to a better time for pets and animals in Pasco County.”