Revised guidelines and regulations for pet stores and ranchers could arrive in Collier County in anticipation of the installation of a controversial pet store franchise, but animal advocates are not convinced the changes will do any good.
Commissioners are expected to hear proposed changes to the county’s animal control ordinance on Tuesday, which – among other things – would allow county staff to inspect pet stores on a monthly basis instead of annually.
The proposal would also add more standards of care for pet shops and pet dealers, including requiring companies to offer information to customers about animals, breeders and breeding facilities. Rules for animal enclosures would also be added.
To deal with what would likely be an increased workload if the new changes were to take effect, the county would also hire a full-time and part-time animal control officer. It could cost around $ 105,000 per year.
The biggest proposed change, said Darcy Andrade, director of the county’s pet services division, is “that we are actually defining pet stores.”
These will be defined as businesses that sell dogs and cats, while pet stores will be retail chains, like PetSmart and Petco, which may offer rescues for adoption. Currently, Collier only has one pet store, said Andrade, which is only open by appointment.
Following:Collier commissioners don’t bite on retail ban for cats and dogs
Following:Selling cats or dogs in stores may be banned or restricted in Collier County
Under the current rules, pet stores and breeders were grouped together. From now on, they would be treated separately.
The proposed changes give better guidance and a better understanding of what is expected of companies, Andrade said.
And while under current rules there are no specific reasons why the DAS can revoke, suspend or deny a permit, the proposal sets out scenarios in which the county can do so, including whether the holder of the license or the applicant has been convicted of cruelty to animals or knowingly employs or employs someone who has done so.
“Before that didn’t give any indication,” Andrade said. “Everything was subjective.
Proposal to ban the retail sale of cats and dogs
In October, commissioners overturned a possible retail ban on cats and dogs, a move animal activists had advocated, arguing it would help prevent the abuse of commercial farm animals.
Supporters of a ban have also said it would help protect the public from contracting an infectious disease linked, among other things, to contact with puppies at pet stores.
But the proposed ban was strongly opposed by an owner of several Petland franchises who plans to open a Collier site by mid-April. He argued that most of his business came from selling puppies in his stores and that he made sure the animals were treated well and did not come from so-called puppy mills.
After a move to a ban failed by a 3-2 vote in October, commissioners instead asked the county’s Animal Services Advisory Council to come back with an ordinance regulating the retailing of cats and dogs.
But for animal rights activists who have argued for a ban, the proposed measures miss the mark.
“You are creating a false sense of security for the consumer,” said Michele Lazarow, president of the nonprofit Alliance for Animal Welfare. “You’ve now said to the consumer, ‘Oh, no, you can buy a dog. We regulate it. “
Lazarow, a City of Hallandale Beach commissioner who has advocated for the bans in municipalities across the state, said “not one thing” in the ordinance protects the consumer or an animal.
Good breeders, she says, don’t sell to stores. Hillsborough County also attempted to regulate the practice early on, Lazarow said, but is now heading towards a ban. Hillsborough commissioners put forward a proposal last month to ban all pet retail stores.
“Hillsborough County has already done this research for Collier,” said Lazarow, who was among those who called on Collier’s commissioners to ban the sale in October. “They passed this nonsense two years ago and then had to come back and ban it because they realized they couldn’t regulate it.”
She fears Collier will never have the chance to follow Hillsborough’s lead, as potential future state-level legislation could deny the county the right to ban the practice.
“My concern is that’s what’s going to happen here, but the preemption is going to pass,” Lazarow said. “And then we’re not going to be able to solve this problem.”
She also asked how Collier will be able to enforce the order.
“How do you apply that with 100 dogs every month?” Lazarow asked.
Lift bar for pet retail businesses
But for Luis Marquez – who plans to open a Petland franchise, his sixth in Florida, at the corner of Immokalee Road and US 41 – the ordinance raises the bar higher for pet retailing.
“We have always said that our goal is to raise standards,” he said. “I think this order does.”
The proposed regulations give animals more space, require stores to regularly socialize puppies and force businesses to source from better breeders, Marquez said.
“It will be full transparency for the consumer,” he said, referring to the information that will be provided on the breeders. Marquez said the order will take care not only of the consumer, but also of animals.
He said he was satisfied with the proposed rules, except for a requirement that dogs and cats must be sterilized before they can be released to a consumer.
Marquez said it is not safe to neuter a puppy and that most of the time vets recommend waiting six months or more.
“This is the only thing we have really asked them to reconsider,” he said, referring to the proposed rule.