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Puppy mill regulations set for Senate hearing

Retailers say don’t blame pet stores, blame bad breeding practices.

Legislation to regulate pet stores (SB 1698) is set to be heard Monday in the Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee.

The legislation, sponsored by Hialeah Gardens Republican Sen. Manny Diaz aims to rid the state of so-called “puppy mills.” The bill needs to get a move on in order to clear both chambers in the final month of session. Its House companion (HB 1237,) sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila, has yet to be heard in committee.

The 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 says he’s in favor of creating regulations rather than having local jurisdictions ban the stores, like some have already done. Osceola County passed an ordinance in December requiring new pet shops to sell only animals from shelters or rescues. Ordinances like that, he argues, create a slippery slope.

“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 legislation would spell out the rules retailers must follow. Those include keeping pet enclosures between 67 degrees and 78 degrees at all times, giving puppies at least 30 minutes of exercise and socialization at least twice a day and having a copy of each breeder’s most recent USDA report 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.

Commercial breeder critics say profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. But independent retailers say it’s not the pet stores, it’s some breeders who are the bad actors. They argue instead of bans, the state should stop the bad breeding practices.

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.

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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