Adoption-based model eyed for retail pet sales

In an effort to cope with the proliferation of stray and unwanted pets, St. Lucie County commissioners are considering an adoption-based business model for retail sales of dogs and cats.

Pet retailers would be limited to selling dogs and cats obtained from an animal shelter or rescue organization, under a proposed update to St. Lucie County’s “Animals” ordinance.

The new county law would ban the retail sale of dogs or cats purchased directly from a commercial breeder or indirectly through a broker, wholesaler or other intermediary. “Hopefully we will be banning puppy mill sales out of pet shops,” said Susan Parry, of United For Animals, Fort Pierce.

County commissioners discussed the proposed ordinance on Jan. 21 and scheduled a public hearing for March 17.

Currently, no retailers in unincorporated St. Lucie County sell dogs and cats, records show. The ordinance would not prohibit the sales of dogs and cats by licensed breeders who follow state health requirements.

Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec said he would like the city to follow suit. “I also support joining many other communities throughout the state of Florida in banning all retail sales, shutting down puppy mills,” Oravec said during the Jan. 21 City Council meeting.

Several local governments have banned or restricted retail dog and cat sales because of the health issues associated with animals produced by “puppy mills” and “kitten factories,” county records say.

St. Lucie County’s initiative was patterned after an ordinance Indian River County commissioners adopted in June 2019, records show, but it goes further.

Under St. Lucie’s proposal, any dog or cat offered for sale must have a current “certificate of veterinary inspection” and a “certificate of source” that will be provided to the buyer.

Dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old and receive a variety of immunizations before being offered for sale, the proposed ordinance says.

Parry and another top animal advocate advised St. Lucie County governments to undertake a variety of legislative measures to control the increasing number of unwanted dogs and cats because shelters and rescue organizations are being overwhelmed.

The governments should consider a mandatory spay neuter ordinance to prevent dogs and cats from reproducing, Parry said.

“We don’t believe in expensive revolving door sheltering,” Parry said.

“We believe in legislation to reduce pet population. We really still cannot adopt our way out of this. The only way is for man to stop the breeding and keep the animals out of the shelters.”

Andrea Nicholson, of Dogs and Cats Forever, Fort Pierce, also pushed for new laws to control dog and cat populations.

“Legislation is the key to success,” Nicholson said. “You can hand someone as much money as you want to; if you don’t have legislation to back it up to reduce population, they’re not going to make it. Nobody would. There’s more coming in than anybody can handle.”

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