Safety Harbor Officials Consider Puppy Mill Legislation
A plea by a local activist at last week’s city commission meeting has Safety Harbor officials considering drafting legislation that would prohibit the sale of “puppy mill” pets in town.
Darci Woodiwiss used a PowerPoint presentation to shed some light on what has become a growing problem across the nation: every year, more than 2.4 million puppies are born in squalid conditions and sold to pet shops throughout the country via puppy mills, commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce pets for resale.
“I first want to say that we support small businesses here in Safety Harbor,” she began. “We support pet stores, and we hope that many will come and open here.”
“What we don’t support are puppies being sold who are bred in deplorable and inhumane conditions.”
Woodiwiss went on to explain that 99 percent of all pet stores get their puppies, and kittens as well, from puppy mills and kitten factories, where their “monetary value is placed above the welfare of the animals.”
According to Woodiwiss, these animals receive little to no veterinary care and are prone to suffer from illnesses and personality disorders due to negligent care, haphazard breeding, inhumane conditions and transportation.
As a result, the people who purchase these animals at puppy mill-supplied pet stores get saddled with dogs that have hereditary defects and other problems that can lead to costly veterinary care.
“At puppy mills, dogs are commodities,” Woodiwiss explained. “They don’t exist to go for a walk or sleep in bed with you. They exist to spend every minute in cages and act as a reproducing machine until they’re no longer profitable, and then they are killed.”
The proposed ordinance would encourage pet store owners as well as individuals to purchase animals from responsible, licensed breeders or to adopt pets through local human societies or animal shelters.
Brick-and-mortar pet stores that utilize puppy mills in order to supply their shops would be penalized. Currently there are no such shops in Safety Harbor.
Woodiwiss noted that 62 communities across the country have enacted ordinances banning puppy mills, with nearly half of them located in Florida, including Dania Beach, Miami Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. Oldsmar is also considering a similar proposal.
“State legislatures allow municipalities to impose stricter laws, and that is what many are doing,” she said.
“We need to put ourselves on the map and stand with all of them by saying we will not tolerate this kind of commerce in our city.”
Following the presentation, city officials discussed the issue.
After Commissioner Andy Zodrow asked if the city even allowed to pass legislation that may override any county guidelines already in place, City Manager Matt Spoor said that Pinellas County is in fact currently in charge of providing permits for pet stores.
But then he offered a potential solution.
“At the very least, you could adopt a resolution that expresses your concerns and your thoughts to the county, but you may be able to do more,” Spoor said.
“If you want us to, we’ll research it and report back to you.”
“I, for one, want the city staff to look into it,” Commissioner Zodrow replied.
“I think there’s a consensus up here to have staff look into it and get back to us on whether we can have an ordinance or a resolution,” Mayor Andy Steingold added.
Spoor said he would research the subject and report his findings to the commission.
Very important issue and great to see that people care.
This is so very worthwhile; hats off to Darci Woodiwiss for her contribution. We have a rescue presumed discarded from a puppy mill North of here – he was found in deplorable condition along with another of the same breed.