‘Best decision for the animals’: Manatee County bans retail sale of cats and dogs

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – In a close 4-3 vote, Manatee County commissioners passed an ordinance that will ban the retail sale of cats and dogs. The meeting leading up to the final vote lasted several hours. About 60 people on both sides of the issue voiced their opinions to county leaders during public comment.

The local pet sale ban is something Commissioner Carol Whitmore has been working on for about ten years.

“I just kept chugging along until it finally passed,” said Commissioner Whitmore. “This was the sixth time.”

“We have no problems with private sector. What we have problems with is the model that they have to buy from the USDA and we know where those animals come from, puppy mills, and the conditions that they come from,” the commissioner said.

Last November, the Humane Society released the findings of an undercover investigation showing what they described as disturbing and inhumane conditions at breeding sites nationwide. These breeders supply countless pet shops with dogs and cats. The Bradenton Petland store was among 18 in Florida accused of buying puppies from questionable breeders. Management told 8 On Your Side they only buy puppies from breeders who raise “quality pets.”

Several Petland employees spoke out against the ban before commissioners made the final decision.

“By passing this ban, it would potentially cause our store to close as well as be hindering some of those small businesses in Manatee County,” said on Petland employee. “This would also leave a major impact on the employees causing us to have to look elsewhere for work while we love what we do.”

Sarasota County passed a similar ban in 2017 and Hillsborough County just last year.

“They made a tough decision, but what we feel is the right decision for the animals in our community,” said Executive Director of the Humane Society of Manatee County Rick Yocum.

Supporters of the ban say this change will make an impact on the quality of life of pets across the community.

“I think it was past time quite honestly. When you look at it, again, it is all about the quality of life for the animals here in our community. That is what the bottom line is. It is not about all the other things that a lot of people hollered up and down. It really is the best decision for the animals here that need our help.”

The ordinance will officially go into effect in one year.

“In all fairness to everyone, this is a big change and we have to respect that they are going to have to take time and change their business model or decide what they want to do because we are not just going to say tomorrow you can’t do this,” said Whitmore. “They are going to have to try and figure out how they have done it in the other nine Petland stores that they have kept open with a different business model.”

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