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Manatee Co. commissioners debate banning retail pet sales

Manatee County

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Manatee County commissioners mulled over the idea of banning retail pet sales, but not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

In Manatee County, there are only two retail pet stores. They are operated by Petland.

Dogs in retail stores often come from breeders, and there have been many reported issues that have arisen over the years.

“They may appear healthy on the sales floor but as soon as consumers take them home they end up sick, they have high veterinary costs, usually down the road they have behavioral issues,” said Jenna Jenson with the Humane Society of the United States.

Sarasota County has an outright ban. Hillsborough has a ban with a grandfather clause that exempts some businesses.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore has proposed starting a retail pet ban in Manatee County.

“These horrific puppy mills that have hundreds of thousands of dogs and the treatment is abhorrent, they’re kept in cages all their life,” said activist Karen Ankerstar.

“The pet stores in this county can still be successful, they can focus on products and services,” Jensen added.

The owner of Petland disagrees.

“Of course this is frustrating, we’ve been doing this for six years,” said Petland owner Stephen Benecke.

He says if he focused on products, he would fail against online retailers.

He argues his breeders are regulated, well trained, and they all care about animals. He equates this to a smear campaign.

“Trying to ban a store to fix a breeder issue is basically like saying let’s close down Walgreens and it’s going to stop the opioid problem in Manatee County,” said Benecke.

Commissioners didn’t vote on anything on Thursday, and the majority was not interested in an outright ban.

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