Over the past few years, a dangerous trend has been taking place in certain cities and counties around the state that is both bad for pets and the people who want to take care of them. Local governments have been essentially banning pet stores and forcing them to stop selling the very thing people go there to get. Namely, pets.
This has caused a number of pet stores to shut down, which eliminates places where people can go to buy the dog they want. My hometown, the City of Fort Lauderdale, was one of the most recent ones to enact an ordinance like this last summer. The laws are supposed to stop puppy mills and people who breed animals in terrible conditions, but they really miss the mark like a not-quite-potty-trained puppy that can’t hit the newspaper.
Here’s the thing – I love dogs (not a big fan of cats, but to each their own) and fully agree that we should punish people who abuse animals to the fullest extent of the law. I personally own a polar bear of a Great Pyrenees that is a source of endless joy (and occasional frustration) for me.
But I could spend the next few years visiting my local animal shelter and still not be likely to find a Great Pyrenees companion to keep my current pup company. Pet stores are the free market we all need, providing people with options so they can find the dog or cat they want.
I get it. Protecting puppies polls well, and that’s why I think these misguided ordinances with unintended consequences are passing more frequently. Local officials don’t want to vote against it for fear of a sad puppy being put alongside their face on a direct mail piece during the next election — even if they see the shortcomings of the proposal. Even Florida’s former Republican governor-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is sponsoring federal legislation called the W.O.O.F. Act that purports to create more stringent standards for breeders.
The bottom line is that when pet stores aren’t an option for people, the true puppy mills that operate in a legal limbo will flourish. These ordinances hurt the legitimate businesses that care about placing pets in good homes and these same ordinances actually help the guy selling puppies out of a box by the side of the road or the Craigslist scammer trying to sell you a “100% purebred poodle” online.
Overall, I don’t think it’s the government’s place to be banning the sale of dogs and cats. Minimum standards are one thing, but it’s a slippery slope for a city council to take the extreme step of telling small businesses they have to shut down.