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Sponsors still hopeful puppy mill legislation passes

It excludes “hobby breeders” who sell four or less dogs or cats a year. 

Sen. Manny Diaz is still holding out hope his bill to regulate pet stores will pass this Session.

However, the Hialeah Gardens Republican’s proposal (SB 1698) has not yet been heard by a committee.

The legislation, along with the House companion bill (HB 1237), sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila, aims to rid the state of so-called puppy mills. Both bills seek to set a uniform standard throughout the state, allowing stores that play by the rules to keep their doors open and freeing them of the stigma brought on by shady operations.

Diaz said he’s not a fan of a lot of government regulation. But localities are banning the pet stores altogether after struggling to regulate the bad breeders who supply the animals. Most recently, Osceola County passed an ordinance in December requiring new pet shops to sell only animals from shelters or rescues.

“So we have to have the philosophical argument,” he said. “Pets aside, are we going to live in a free market society where now we’re going to allow different municipalities to start banning businesses. So what’s next? Is it beauty salons, is it gyms, is it gas stations? Where does it stop.”

The standard would include rules such as pet enclosures must be kept between 67 degrees and 78 degrees at all times; puppies must be afforded at least 30 minutes of exercise and socialization at least twice a day, and a copy of each breeder’s most recent USDA report must be kept on hand.

A licensed veterinarian would drop in three times a week to ensure stores are up to snuff.

The legislation only applies to pet stores, not public or nonprofit shelters. It excludes “hobby breeders” who sell four or fewer dogs or cats a year.

While some stores may not be keen on the changes, they have been well received by some of the major pet store chains, including Petland.

“We need to put the bad actors, the store owners and breeders that put profit over the health and safety of animals out of business in Florida, and the best way to do that is with stringent oversight that will ensure uniform protection for pets throughout Florida,” said Luis Marquez, who owns several Petland stores.

Diaz said the regulations are serious, and they are a fair trade for preempting the authority to regulate these stores to the state.

But he said it’s unclear whether all of the stakeholders can reach agreement on the legislation. It’s not on the agenda for the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee meeting next week. Avila’s bill has also yet to be heard in committee.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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