Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

A Florida House bill could make it legal to sell puppy mill dogs statewide, even if local ordinances ban it

Nenanee, a cocker-cavalier king charles spaniel mix, left, and Oliver, a yorkshire terrier, relax in November at the home of Tanya Jenkins and Indra Jenkins in Largo. The Jenkinses said Nenanee was diagnosed with pneumonia and was admitted to a pet hospital for five nights with Oliver also becoming ill in the aftermath and that they spent more than $4,000 on treatments. Both dogs came from a Petland in Largo.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
Nenanee, a cocker-cavalier king charles spaniel mix, left, and Oliver, a yorkshire terrier, relax in November at the home of Tanya Jenkins and Indra Jenkins in Largo. The Jenkinses said Nenanee was diagnosed with pneumonia and was admitted to a pet hospital for five nights with Oliver also becoming ill in the aftermath and that they spent more than $4,000 on treatments. Both dogs came from a Petland in Largo. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Feb. 26, 2018

TALLAHASSEE — A last-minute tax package amendment could take away local government's ability to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs, while also voiding existing ordinances in communities such as St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County.

The $350 million tax package doesn't even include the words "pet store," but animal activists say no other industry would be so affected by House Bill 7087's vague language.

It bars local governments from prohibiting the sale of taxable personal property that may lawfully be sold in the state.

Florida has 58 county or city ordinances that ban pet stores from selling bred puppies and kittens, which are often born in high volume and in poor conditions to meet stores' demands.

"I think the wording is broad as to not tip off any particular rights group," said Lindsay Larris, an attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. "I think it's also suspect this comes about in a tax bill, buried in an amendment that's one paragraph of a 108-page document."

The measure could also affect ordinances that control adult video and alcohol sales.

The bill passed in the Appropriations Committee 18-7 late on Thursday. Many outside the committee didn't realize its ramifications until Monday morning.

"Everyone is confused," said Larris, whose animal rights group has a lawsuit pending against chain store Petland.

Michele Lazarow, vice mayor of Hallandale Beach, one of the first municipalities to ban puppy mill sales, called the amendment "sneaky."

Hillsborough County passed its ordinance in 2017, banning any new pet stores from selling bred puppies but allowing existing stores to continue to sell from USDA-approved breeders. Since 2016, St. Petersburg has only allowed pet stores to sell dogs from rescue organizations.

Meanwhile, 20 minutes away in Largo, a Petland location is able to sell dogs from breeders. Several residents who purchased their dogs from that Petland have told the Tampa Bay Times they were given sick puppies.

READ MORE: Largo woman: My dog almost died even though Petland said it was healthy

That's the basis for the Animal Legal Defense Fund's ongoing lawsuit against Petland, which is the only retail chain that sells bred puppies. It has 11 locations in Florida.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control said 87 percent of 113 people who fell ill with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria Campylobacter had contact with a Petland puppy or someone who had. Twenty-one of those cases were in Florida.

Petland has said it is working with the CDC and ensures puppies are sourced from safe and certified breeders who have no recent infractions on their records.

But just Friday, dozens of puppies headed to a Petland in Fort Myers were seized by Lee County because they were kept in squalor with false health certificates, investigators said.

"I championed the ordinance so puppy mills could be eradicated," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan. "I'm hopeful the language can be amended to allow local governments to protect their residents."

Florida Retail Federation lobbyist Melissa Ramba said on Thursday that local ordinances can harm small business owners.

She argued to the committee last week retailers should be allowed to sell anything that is legal. Bans, she said, just push shoppers to buying things online — like puppies.

Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, sponsored the bill and told the committee he supported the preemption language.

"If you have a situation where some cities have banned the sales of those types of puppies and others have not, you have not solved the problem," he said.

But Lazarow, who also runs an animal rights nonprofit, said if the state isn't happy with the patchwork of ordinances, legislators shouldn't take it way before having a solution.

"Give us the ban," she said. "Don't go in the opposite direction."

She's also worried it strips power away from local governments when they may need it — like when counties were able to ban the sale of bath salts before the state Legislature went into session.

"You're taking away the will of the people on the local level," she said.

Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times  Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum speaks to the press on the shooting death of Markeis McGlockton during a town hall meeting at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church on Sunday July 29, 2018. McGlockton was shot and killed two weeks ago in what authorities have deemed a "stand your ground" shooting.
    Forward Florida spent $240,000 on legal expenses last month to respond to a federal grand jury subpoena.
  2. A police truck patrols Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa this summer.
    The Infrastructure and Security Committee backed a proposal (SPB 7016) that would create the Statewide Office of Resiliency within the executive branch.
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Tampa Bay Times]
    In 2018, Florida legislators approved a law making threats of school violence a second-degree felony.
  4. Florida's Baker Act was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, a 65-year-old grandmother and a freshman Florida legislator from Miami-Dade County, seen here in a 1965 photo. [Associated Press]
    The law was written in 1971 by Maxine Baker, then a freshman legislator from Miami-Dade County who pushed for the rights of people with mental illness.
  5. Sarah Henderson with her son, Braden, who was committed under the Baker Act after a joking remark at school. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    A cop car comes. A child is handcuffed and taken to a mental health facility. The scene is all too frequent at public schools across the state.
  6. Three Armwood High School students testify before the Senate Education Committee on Dec. 9, 2019. Left to right are seniors Maria Medina, Haley Manigold and Madison Harvey. [Emily L. Mahoney | Times]
    “The people who are cynics about politics are also the ones who complain the most,” said one student, who said democracy requires participation.
  7. Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.
    The idea is part of Florida leaders’ pitch to address low teacher pay, though there is still disagreement over how to do so.
  8. AP file photo of then Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
    DeSantis, Rick Scott and other Republicans have taken a strong stance on Saudi Arabia in recent days. President Donald Trump?
  9. Donald Trump speaks during the Israeli-American Council’s annual summit at The Diplomat Resort & Hotel in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday, December 7, 2019. [DANIEL A. VARELA  |  Miami Herald]
    The president helps the Republican Party of Florida raise millions and speaks at a national conference on Israeli-American relations.
  10. President Donald J.Trump waves to supporters as he steps out of the Air Force One at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to attend the Republican Party of Florida's Statesman's Dinner at the  JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa and later to the Israeli-American Council Summit 2019 on Saturday. [PEDRO PORTAL  |  Miami Herald]
    The state party raised $3.5 million at the dinner where the president spoke.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement