Orange County Commission votes to ban the retail sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits
Following a heated meeting that saw more than 50 people offer public comment, the Orange County Commission voted to ban stores that sell puppies, kittens and rabbits.
The meeting room was evenly split between pro-pet stakeholders (largely employees of local stores like Petland and Breeder’s Pick) and those who believed that retail puppy sales encourage the proliferation of unsanitary breeding factories. The opposition was fairly easy to spot, wearing hi-vis yellow t-shirts that said “Vote yes for the puppies”.
Local representatives of shelters and rescues spoke about how retail sales get to them downstream. Cathy Houde of Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando and Gwen Keleman of Happy Trails Animal Rescue both pointed out the overabundance of shelter animals available 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,” Houde added. “We don’t need more.”
Frank Lopez, owner of local pet store Breeder’s Pick, regretted his stores’ involvement with unsavory breeders.
“I never did and never will,” he told the council. “All we do is make families happy.”
Lopez added that the retail ban would only lead to a proliferation of illegal breeders without a public face.
“At the moment there are seven stores to worry about,” he said. “Seven stores you may be able to control. Backyard ranchers by the thousands, you won’t be able to control that. ”
Petland’s National Public Affairs Director Elizabeth Kunzelman appeared at the meeting and agreed with this reasoning.
“It does not make sense to pass an ordinance that eliminates regulatory oversight,” she said.
Eric Davies, who owns several local Petland stores with his wife Trevor, said the council was pointing its power on the wrong target.
“Our board is tackling the wrong problem,” Davis said. “The problem centers on the bad breeders.”
People who claimed to be former employees and customers of the Waterford Lakes location in Petland shared horror stories about dogs with the deadly parvovirus and a “freezer full of dead puppies” in the back of the store.
In addition, the owners of several pet stores that did not sell puppies, cats and rabbits have come out in favor of a ban. Cara Allen of the Florida-based, Orlando-based Woof Gang Bakery chain noted that it was entirely possible to run a successful pet store without selling animals.
“The practice of breeding and selling puppy mill dogs is outdated, controversial and bad business.” Allen said. “Good pet stores don’t sell puppies and reputable breeders don’t sell to stores.”
The ordinance was adopted by one voice, that of District 4 Commissioner Maribel Gomez Cordero. Cordero was distressed by the decision, although she did not elaborate on her connection to stores that would need to adapt or close. One of the board members said that “workforce training” was available for “your cousins” before it was shouted out by other board members. In the end, Cordero voted for the change.
The new order gives Orange County stores a year to phase out the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits, after which they will be penalized if they sell animals.
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