Council members have unanimously approved an ordinance that bans pet stores in St. Petersburg from selling dogs or cats unless they can show the animal came from a humane organization.
The approval came after an emotionally intense public hearing in which animal advocates displayed graphic, gut-wrenching photographs of dogs kept in puppy mills for breeding purposes. Other supporters came close to tears over the plight of the animals that are in puppy mills or that are killed in shelters because of pet overpopulation.
Council member Karl Nurse, who had proposed the idea, which had the support of Mayor Rick Kriseman, made the motion to pass the ordinance. Nurse said he hoped the ordinance would help stem the “endless onslaught of puppies that are not spayed and neutered.”
The ordinance provides that pet stores, which includes groomers, flea markets and pet hospitals, cannot sell dogs or cats unless they come from rescue organizations or humane societies. The rule does not apply to hobby breeders who sell animals from their homes.
The ordinance also covers the display of pets for sale. The requirements include an age limit – the animal must be at least eight weeks old, have access to fresh water and a health certificate. Information about the animal’s breed, age, source and known health issues should also be provided.
Council members and advocates conceded that no pet store in St. Petersburg currently sells puppies and kittens. Instead, several pet stores either display animals from rescues and other humane groups, or have adoption days when such pets are available. Even so, the ordinance was needed, they said, to make sure no pet store does business with a puppy mill.
Council member Charlie Gerdes said he would like to thank St. Petersburg residents for being the reason that no pet stores are selling animals that come from puppy mills. It’s the public’s refusal to buy such animals that prevent the stores from carrying them. But Gerdes agreed the ordinance is necessary to avoid future problems.
“We don’t have them now, let’s not have them,” Gerdes said.