Pasco passes ban on retail sale of cats and dogs

A ban on the retail sale of cats and dogs aims to address concerns about how the animals are obtained for sale by retail stores and businesses.

DADE CITY — The retail sale of cats and dogs is no longer permitted in Pasco County after the Board of County Commissioners voted 5-0 to ban the practice.

The Sept. 8 hearing to amend Chapter 14 of the Pasco County Code is intended to keep potentially unscrupulous animal-selling businesses from operating within the county.

There is only one business currently operating in the county that offers the retail sale of pets, and it received an exemption from the ban, so long as it continues complying with county code requirements.

The ban aims to address concerns about how cats and dogs are obtained for sale by retail stores and businesses.

At issue is stores that sell animals that come from so-called “puppy mills” or “kitten mills,” which the Humane Society of the United States defines as inhumane, high-volume breeding facilities that churn out puppies and kittens for profit, ignoring the needs of the animals and their mothers. The animals are often sick and unsocialized.

“Prohibiting the retail sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores is likely to decrease the demand for puppies and kittens bred in puppy and kitten mills, and is likely to increase demand for animals from animal shelters, animal rescue organizations and registered breeders,” according to the ordinance.

Passing the ordinance, which was proposed to the board on Aug. 4, aligns Pasco County with more than 50 municipalities and eight other counties in Florida that have approved similar regulations. Pet stores are to focus on the sale of pet services and supplies. They can still help find homes for pets by collaborating with local animal shelters and rescue operations and showcasing adoptable pets.

“This ordinance will not affect a consumer’s ability to obtain a dog or cat of his or her choice directly from an animal shelter, animal rescue organization, breed-specific rescue organization or registered breeder where the consumer can see directly the conditions in which the dogs or cats are housed, sheltered, bred or raised,” the ordinance states.

Pet stores participating in what’s referred to as an adoption-based business model may also help reduce overcrowding in the Pasco County Animal Shelter and at other rescue operations, according to backup material provided by the county.

“There are a lot of great dogs and cats available to our residents,” Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore said. “But the unfortunate thing is, if we continue down the path we’re going, the public can’t always afford to move forward with taking care of these animals and that puts these animals in a bad situation.”

The county received 118 emails related to the Sept. 8 hearing and commissioners heard from supporters and opponents of the ban. Eight of the 11 individuals who signed up to speak during public comment participated remotely.

Proponents called in from all over the state and country, including the Florida state director for the Humane Society of the United States from Tallahassee and a public policy specialist for the Humane Society of the United States from Washington, D.C.

“I urge the commission to pass this item today to help protect residents of the county from the deceptive puppy mill-to-pet store pipeline,” said Jenna Jensen, the public policy specialist who is involved with Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills campaign.

Three speakers opposed implementation of the ordinance, including two sisters who are members of a family that operates three pet stores in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, All About Puppies. The business was established in 1995 and both sisters said bans do nothing to eliminate the existence of puppy or kitten mills and that they are reputable, licensed businesses doing their part to operate ethically.