No new pet shops could sell puppies or kittens under new rules that are set for a first vote at Tuesday’s Palm Beach County Commission meeting.
The head of the county’s Department of Animal Care and Control says the goal is to try to dry up Palm Beach County as a market for so-called pet “mills.”
Under the proposed new rules:
- The county would ban any new pet stores that sell puppies or kittens; they still could sell other animals and any supplies.
- Existing stores still can sell dogs and cats and would be “grandfathered in” for the life of the company. But they have cannot buy animals from breeders who are unlicensed or have violated U.S. Department of Agriculture rules.
- Outfits such as humane societies, private shelters and rescue groups could not obtain dogs or cats from breeders and then pass them off as rescue animals.
- Such groups must keep records for two years and must send Animal Care and Control monthly reports showing how many animals they have on site, how many they’ve adopted out and to whom, the origins of the animals, and how many have died in their care, including those euthanized.
A second vote on the new rules would be Sept. 27.
Any county ordinance is enforced only in the large portion of the county not within municipalities, and in cities and towns who agree to go along.
Dianne Sauve, head of Animal Care and Control, said this week the rules would “protect local consumers” from buying animals that are sick or have undisclosed congenital problems.
It also would help squeeze the pipeline from out-of-state breeders that allegedly mistreat animals and “whose only role is to keep producing puppies or kittens,” Sauve said.
“We don’t want to put anyone out of business,” she said. “However, it is very reasonable that we prohibit animals coming into our county that we know are coming from areas that perpetuate the suffering of animals.”
Animal rights proponents also have long argued large commercial breeders sell dogs and cats that suffer lifelong health problems and even die, or at the least force their new owners to shell out thousands of dollars to try to save them.
And Sauve has said that every year her department must kill 1,500 to 2,000 dogs, and twice as many cats, in its overcrowded shelter. The county is hosting a large adoption event on Saturday.
The county commission first discussed the idea at a meeting in March and asked its legal staff if it could institute such restrictions. At the time, Commissioner Hal Valeche worried about such sweeping measures and said efforts should be directed at cutting off the pipeline closer to the out-of-town “puppy mills” themselves.
The county in 2011 passed an ordinance requiring stores say where the dogs and cats they sell were born and bred. A 2010 Palm Beach Post investigation had found that at least 2,500 puppies were delivered to Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties from out-of-state breeders in an 11-month period. Roughly one in three of those came from breeders or distributors cited for problems by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees wholesale dog breeding.
In January, in Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach Puppies North closed down after a circuit judge tossed a lawsuit by the pet store and upheld that city’s ban on sales of dogs from puppy mills. The closing was believed to be a first by any U.S. city. A lawyer for the shop had argued it was doing legitimate business and was partnering with licensed and approved breeders.
Other cities and counties around Florida, including Wellington and Delray Beach, already limit stores to selling rescue pets but that many of those bans are being challenged in court. Sauve said the crackdown on shelters follows reports that some bought high-end puppies or kittens and sold them at high prices.
In June 2015, then-County Mayor Shelley Vana publicly called out two outfits — A Second Chance Puppies and Kittens Rescue — whom she said brought in 60 animals from Alabama.
“For every animal you bring in, one of ours is going to be put down,” Vana said at the time.
Last year, Sauve said, volunteers at the Tri-County Humane Society, west of Boca Raton, complained the shelter bought puppies from a Miami breeder and adopted them out for up to $1,000 each. Tri-County later received “multiple citations” after investigators determined its intake records “had false information as well as missing information,” Sauve said. She said the group has since instituted changes in its operations.
Tri-County officials did not return calls this week.
As many as 1,000 dogs and cats will be on hand Saturday for the third annual Countdown 2 Zero adoption event. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Convention Center . Admission and parking are free. All adopters will receive gifts as well as free rabies tags. Call 561-472-8845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.