DADE CITY — From this point on, the doggy in the window at Pasco County retail pet stores will come from a rescue group or a shelter.
Pasco county commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance forbidding the retail sale of dogs and cats. The move is an effort to curtail the operations of puppy and kitten mills, which have been the long-time providers of animals to retail establishments.
Pasco County had previously restricted the sale of dogs and cats in public areas like 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.
Such pet suppliers have often raised animals in crowded and dirty conditions and the cats and dogs produced there were sometimes afflicted with health issues that might not show until years after they had been adopted. The ordinance approved does not stop pet shoppers from purchasing animals from legitimate breeders or directly obtaining their new pet directly from shelters or rescues.
Pasco officials have said that large retail pet stores have already been partnering with animal rescues and shelters and have focused their businesses on providing pet supplies and services.
More than 50 cities and eight counties in Florida have already passed similar ordinances, including Hillsborough County. “These ordinances also help to reduce the overpopulation of unwanted pets in communities, overcrowding in animal shelters, unnecessary euthanasia of pets, and increased costs for taxpayers,” according to the commissioner’s packet information.
Since the first hearing on the ordinance change last month, commissioners have heard several concerns from the public. One was that there were not enough protections to be sure that rescue groups providing pets to retails stores are not themselves in the puppy or kitten mill business. But Michael Shumate, Pasco’s animal services director, assured commissioners that the definitions in the ordinance would prevent that problem.
In Tuesday’s audience, there were several speakers who urged denial of the ordinance. Two came from the All About Puppies business, which has operated in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for years. Alexandria Julian, one of those representatives, explained that her family’s business developed relationships with reputable breeders built over the years and they were the security for the puppies.
Representatives of various animal rights groups spoke in favor of the commission taking action on behalf of animals. While some thought the ordinance was good, others said it didn’t go far enough. Local residents, several of whom have been volunteers with shelters also praised the effort. But some were not happy with the clause grandfathering any existing pet shop, even though officials have said there is just one operating in the county.
Commission Chairman Mike Moore had his own argument for supporting the change in the rules in the form of a small-breed dog named Jo-Jo, which accompanied him to the meeting Tuesday. One of two special needs rescue dogs in his household, Jo-Jo was relinquished by a breeder because the dog was born with just three legs and a malformed paw on one of those legs.
“He’s a great member of our family,” Moore said.