Pet stores push for regulatory framework over retail ban on puppy sales

Collier County votes to study regulation instead of banning retail sales.

Luis Marquez drove to Miami from Naples Tuesday with a sense of relief.

The Petland Florida owner worried Collier County would join with more than 60 Florida jurisdictions effectively banning retail sale of pets. Instead, commissioners voted instead to establish a regulatory framework affecting all sales.

“We are open to common sense regulation,” Marquez said. “This is the first step in finding a way.”

That felt like a win—a welcome one after watching cities and counties small and large swayed by arguments against “puppy mills” and bad breeders.

While such rhetoric pulls at the heartstrings, Marquez said that’s both unfair to major retailers and too forgiving to the lawless dealers conducting pet transactions through online forums and classified ads.

“Trust me, we hate puppy mills more than they do,” Marquez said of animal rights activists. “We are compared to them all the time.”

Of course, critics of mass breeding have their own case to make and have done so around the state. The Alliance for Animal Welfare, founded by Hallandale Beach Mayor Michele Lazarow, has advocated for years against large-scale commercial dog breeding facility “where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.”

The group cites American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates than at many as 10,000 puppy mills exist in the U.S.

Bans take away the incentive to breed dogs in poor shelter facilities for as low costs as possible.

But Ron Book, a lobbyist working with Marquez and a number of independent retailers, said there’s a simpler answer. Rather than ban retail sales, stop the bad breeding practices, he says.

He’s reluctant to use the term “puppy mill” because no state or federal guidelines clearly define it. But based on concerns in the state, he said it’s probably time to establish a statewide set of rules.

“A smart thing would be to develop statewide regulations all local communities could embrace and live by and have the right state agency look after and enforce so as to protect the welfare of those animals,” Book said.

He worked with lawmakers on potential uniform regulation last Session, and the matter may come up again in 2020.

Right now, commercial retailers note they face the greatest set of regulations of anybody putting pets in the arms of wanting families.

There’s virtually no oversight on individuals selling animals. That, for the most part, includes pedigree dog breeders.

Meanwhile, shelters and animal rescues with nonprofit status get largely exempted from regulation altogether.

But if the goal is protecting the welfare of animals, shouldn’t rules on care and shelter conditions be the same across the board, Marquez asks.

He owns six Petland franchises, with a seventh coming soon, but he will only buy from breeders who meet all USDA guidelines plus an extra 15 rules imposed by the company. Reputable breeders don’t object, nor do they mind visits by federal and state regulators, and by Marquez and his own staffers to inspect their grounds.

“Nobody wants bad actors in the industry,” Marquez said. “What I’d like is for us to come together and put together a comprehensive, common sense regulatory framework and continue to push puppy mills out of the retail space, the online space, any space.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Steve Grabarczyk

    October 9, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Meanwhile, shelters and animal rescues with nonprofit status get largely exempted from regulation altogether.

    Which is why such “shelters” and “rescues” want their COMPETITION banned. This is highly Unconstitutional and borders on violating the RICO act.

    • Tony Edwards

      October 10, 2019 at 9:12 am

      Unfortunately that is an ill-informed statement, Steve. Shelters get their animals from private owners, strays, and sometimes these illegal puppy mills that are shut down. Stores solely purchase them from breeders. There is no direct competition since they are essentially two different “products”. If one finds a stray dog, does Petland except it? Of course not. How do you propose the turning in a stray dog is regulated?

      • Concerned Citezen

        October 10, 2019 at 2:14 pm

        Petland purchases and pays for out of pocket their inventory of animals that are available. Shelters are TAXPAYER funded and get random sourced animals in general but many shelters are now IMPORTING in “inventory”. “Rescues” may buy, get for free, go to auctions, IMPORT whatever they want their dogs. so no you are wrong about Steve’s statement about being ill informed.

  • Anna Cooke

    October 9, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Jacob, with all due respect, the facts regarding mass commercial breeding facilities shipping sick dogs across state lines are hardly “rhetoric.” And, check out those USDA guidelines. They’re laughable. No reputable breeder would ever sell their puppies to a retailer.

  • Karenanne Fitzsimmons

    October 10, 2019 at 8:23 am

    NO reputable breeder will put their puppy on a broker’s truck to be shipped across the country to an unknown fate. Petland ships thousands of puppies every year to stores across this nation. Just because a breeder has a license doesn’t mean it is a good place for dogs/puppies. A USDA license means nothing. If Petland is serious about this, then post the breeder the pups came from on the kennel cage so that the buyer can do their own research on where the pup came from. That would be a start. This is such a shame for the animals that have to live their lives in cages, many never seeing daylight or touching the ground and for the unsuspecting consumer who may take home a sick or genetically inferior puppy despite having paid a retail price. Do your research on where your pup comes from.

  • Tony Edwards

    October 10, 2019 at 9:22 am

    “by Hallandale Beach Mayor Michele Lazarow”. Michele Lazarow is actually the seat #3 commissioner not the Mayor of Hallandale.

  • April

    October 14, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Jacob, I was at the Collier County commissioner’s meeting the entire day the retail sales ban issue was open to public comment. The commissioners said there were a record 100 speakers. I was in SUPPORT OF THE BAN, as were about 90% of the speakers, who came to be a voice for the animals. There was a lot of factual evidence presented at the meeting, but since when do facts matter when selling puppies for $3-12k each is the real goal here? Sarcasm here. There is so much EVIDENCE on the internet — please write a follow up story about pet stores and puppy mills. 99% of pets sold in pet stores come from puppy mills — commercial breeding facilities, solely for the purpose of breeding for profit. I am a conservative AND an animal advocate. Unfortunately, many of my conservative friends who are against regulation or government intervention of any kind are unaware of the horrors of puppy mills. This industry is too large to “regulate”, thus the local retail sales ban effort. Read about the females that are constantly bred without breaks, caged in wire cages their entire lives (5-6 years average to breed until they’re “spent” and often discarded like trash!), live in FILTH, no attention or love from humans, etc. Many of these animals literally go crazy spinning around in their cages. It is unconscionable! To the public: PLEASE STOP BUYING FROM PET STORES — PLEASE ADOPT!

    I encourage everyone to conduct their own research. Search Petland lawsuit, Petland complaints, and Petland puppy mills and see what comes up. Make up your own mind.

Comments are closed.


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