Brevard commissioner seeks to restrict sale of dogs, cats in pet stores

County commissioners to discuss proposal Tuesday

By Dave Berman and Wayne T. Price, Florida Today

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - County Commission Vice Chair Brian Lober has introduced legislation to restrict the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores within Brevard County.

Lober — who is a volunteer with animal rescue organizations — says he is targeting what's known as "puppy mills" and "kitten factories," reports News 6 partner Florida Today

"It is widely believed that these commercial breeding facilities where dogs and cats are mass-produced in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions continue to exist, at least in part, because of the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores," Lober said in his agenda report to fellow commissioners.

Lober is hoping the end result of his proposal is more pet adoptions from animal shelters and rescue groups.

Under Lober's proposal, pet stores still would be allowed to offer dogs and cats from shelters, animal rescue organizations or "hobby breeders" — those who  handle no more than 20 puppies or kittens a year. Lober refers to his plan as "an adoption-based business model."

Brevard County Commissioner Bryan Lober is proposing  a ban on the retail sales of cats and dogs at Space Coast pet stores.

County commissioners will begin discussion of Lober's proposal during their meeting that begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday. They will consider whether to approve what's known as "legislative intent" to advertise of an amendment to the county's animal-related ordinance and to schedule a public hearing on the proposal. They then would vote on the proposal itself after the hearing. 

Area pet retailers, who would be impacted by Lober's proposal, weren't pleased.

Marsha Michael, general manager of Pet's Around the World II, which has locations in Melbourne and in Vero Beach, said she has been involved in breeding animals and selling dogs and cats for two decades, and has never seen the scrutiny she is facing now from municipalities.

The Vero Beach City Council looked at a similar ordinance last year, and it's still in discussion.

"How does anybody tell anybody else what they can or can't do at a legitimate business?" Michael said.

The likely end result, if Lober's proposal is successful, is more people adopting pit bull mixes from kennels, she said.

Lober said restricting the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores in Brevard "will promote community awareness of the plight of animals in puppy mills and kitten factories and, in turn, will foster a more humane environment, as well as encourage consumers to adopt dogs and cats from shelters and rescue organizations, thereby saving the lives of animals, while reducing the cost to the public of sheltering or euthanizing animals."

Citing a 2018 report from the Humane Society of the United States, Lober said there are about 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, and about 2.3 million puppies that originated from these puppy mills are sold each year.

Meanwhile, about 3 million cats and dogs a year are euthanized by animal shelters.

Lober's proposal would apply to both unincorporated areas of the county and the county's 16 cities and towns. But a municipality could adopt its own ordinance related to pet stores that would supersede the county ordinance, if there are conflicting rules.

Any entity that has a business tax receipt from the county for the retail sale of dogs or
cats would have a one-year grace period from the date of adoption of the county ordinance to come into compliance.

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