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After a heated meeting with over 50 people making public comments, the Orange County Commission has voted to ban businesses selling puppies, kittens and rabbits.
The meeting room was split evenly between pro-pet business speakers (mostly the staff from local stores like Petland and Breeder’s Pick) and those who believed retailing puppy sales encouraged the proliferation of unsanitary mills. The opposition was pretty easy to spot and wore yellow T-shirts that said “Vote Yes for Puppies”.
Local shelters and rescue representatives spoke about how retail sales are flowing to them. Cathy Houde of the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando and Gwen Keleman of Happy Trails Animal Rescue both pointed out that there are many animal shelters in the area.
“There are currently over 2,000 animals available for adoption in central Florida,” Keleman told the council.
“I find litters of kittens every week,” added Houde. “We don’t need any more.”
Frank Lopez, owner of the local pet store Breeder’s Pick, resented the assumption that his stores were connected to disreputable breeders.
“I never have and never will,” he told the council. “All we do is make families happy.”
Lopez added that a ban on retail sales would only lead to the proliferation of illegal breeders with no public face.
“Right now there are seven businesses to worry about,” he said. “Seven stores you might be able to monitor. Backyard growers by the thousands, you won’t be able to monitor that. ”
Petland’s national director of public affairs, Elizabeth Kunzelman, appeared at the meeting and agreed with this line of reasoning.
“There is no point in making a regulation that removes regulatory oversight,” she said.
Eric Davies, who owns several local petland stores with his wife Trevor, said the council had directed its power on the wrong goal.
“Our advice is on the wrong problem,” said Davis. “The problem is focused on bad breeders.”
People claiming to be former employees and customers of Petlands Waterford Lakes location shared horror stories of dogs with the deadly parvovirus and a “freezer full of dead puppies” in the back of the store.
In addition, owners of several pet stores that did not sell puppies, cats and rabbits came out in favor of a ban. Cara Allen of Florida-based and Orlando-based chain Woof Gang Bakery noted that it was entirely possible to run a successful pet store without selling animals.
“The practice of breeding and selling puppy dogs is out of date, controversial, and bad business.” said Allen. “Good pet stores don’t sell puppies, and reputable breeders don’t sell to stores.”
The ordinance was passed with a single vote, District 4 Commissioner Maribel Gomez Cordero. Cordero agonized over the decision, despite not clarifying its link with the stores that were about to adjust or close. One of the council members suggested that “staff training” be available for “your cousins” before it was yelled down by other council members. Ultimately, Cordero voted for the change.
The new ordinance gives Orange County stores one year to stop selling puppies, kittens, and rabbits. After that, they are punished if they sell animals.
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