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Pet stores must sell dogs, cats from humane organizations under St. Petersburg proposal

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Council members unanimously gave tentative approval to an ordinance that would ban the sale of dogs and cats in St. Petersburg pet shops unless they came from humane organizations or rescue groups.

The item is scheduled for a final public hearing at the July 21 meeting.

“It better protects pets and it discourages the puppy mill business, which, I think, is self-evident cruelty,” council member Karl Nurse said. Nurse had spearheaded the issue.

The ordinance is similar to others that have been passed elsewhere in Florida and the U.S. It is designed to prevent the sale of dogs from puppy mills, which, animal advocates say, make money from cruel, inhumane conditions for the dogs that live in them.

Under the proposal, pet stores, which includes such businesses as grooming parlors, flea markets and pet hospitals, would be banned from selling dogs or cats unless they came from rescue groups or humane organizations. The ordinance would not apply to hobby breeders or home breeders who sell dogs and cats from their homes.

The ordinance also covers the display of dogs and cats that are for sale. Among the requirements: the animal must be at least eight weeks old, have access to fresh water, have a health certificate, and information about the animal’s breed, age, source and known health issues.

Noting that some pet stores have said they have to be able to sell puppies and kittens to keep the doors open, Nurse said that the business model for pet stores has changed. Some pet stores, he said, have realized the money lies in the toys and other pet supplies that owners buy rather than in the animal itself. Several retailers, he said, have voluntarily stopped selling dogs and cats unless they do come from a rescue or humane organization.

Steve Kornell referred to his two rescue dogs, Harvey and Hedwig, saying that puppy mills should take note: “You might want to wake up and come into the 21st Century because we’re not going backward.”

Ed Montanari voted for the ordinance but conceded he was “somewhat torn on this issue” and needed to learn more about it.

Then, referring to comments other council members had made about their dogs, Montanari said, “I’m not going into a dog story, although I think I probably have the most spoiled dog of anyone on the council.”

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