In 2002, I left my home in Venezuela to pursue my dream of owning a business and providing a better life for my family. This country offered opportunity to an extent I had never seen before, and my business partner and I pulled out all the stops to achieve our goal.
We never expected the heavy hand of government to shatter our dreams – not here in America.
We became franchise owners of a Petland store in Pembroke Pines, my proudest accomplishment – but it would soon be ripped away.
One horrible day in 2015, I received an email saying the city was considering a new local ordinance that would prevent the sale of dogs in stores – presumably because some pet stores and their suppliers didn’t meet proper standards of care for their animals. I knew my store met the highest standards, but city officials didn’t want to listen.
I had to endure hurtful falsehoods by city leaders that damaged me personally and emotionally. At one point, we were told that dog store owners were making too much money, and that contributed to this incomprehensible forced shutdown.
When the ordinance passed, the city’s crusade against pet stores had succeeded.
I would expect this kind of treatment from the corrupt socialist government of my native country, but not in the land of the free, where the American Dream lives in so many hearts. In this country, people work hard for their success, and government is supposed to help them – or at least stand out of the way.
To suffer such obstruction from our local government was truly shocking. And today, I am still dealing with the financial and legal struggles caused by this ordinance.
When I lost my Petland franchise, the 30 dedicated workers I employed also lost their livelihood. It was always my priority to take the success of my business and give back to my community. None of this seemed to matter to local city officials, who seemed determined to shut down my store and others like it – no matter what.
The most frustrating part of all this is that the ordinance was so completely unnecessary. Petland prohibits franchise owners from purchasing puppies from breeders who have had violations within the past two years and encourages owners to visit breeders to make sure their operations meet our expectations.
At the same time, Florida law requires that pet store owners purchase pets from USDA-licensed breeders who are inspected and certified by the state, and stores must have a veterinarian conduct weekly exams for health standards.
By forcing stores like mine to close their doors, these municipal ordinances only encourage the growth of puppy mills and other unregulated vendors, hurting local business owners and workers, as well as the pet lovers they serve.
I followed each and every rule and regulation to the letter, yet I was still forced to close a successful, locally owned business that was committed to the well-being of our animals.
In the America I chose as my home, the government should not be allowed to shut down a legitimate business that was operating entirely within requirements of the law.
There is a bill in the Florida Legislature, HB 7087, that would stop local governments from acting so destructively by pre-empting their ability to outlaw certain things – including pets.
I encourage all freedom-loving citizens to urge their legislators to support this bill, to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else in the future.
Mayid Yamin is a former pet shop franchisee in Pembroke Pines.