Victory on the East Coast:
Lake Worth, Florida, bans retail sale of dogs, cats
February 26, 2011, 8:35PM MT
By Heidi M. Sfiligoj, Best Friends Network volunteer
Ordinance aims to reduce sale of animals, increase adoptions
On Feb. 15, Lake Worth, Florida, became the first city on the East Coast to ban the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores.
The city commission unanimously approved on second reading an ordinance prohibiting the retail sale of dogs and cats. The ordinance is viewed as a preventive measure, since no pet stores in the city currently sell dogs or cats.
According to the ordinance, no pet store “shall display, sell, trade, deliver, barter, lease, rent, auction, give away, transfer, offer for sale or transfer, or otherwise dispose of dogs or cats.”
The ordinance does not apply to animal shelters or rescue organizations. Pet stores may also still provide space for animals from such organizations for the purpose of getting them adopted.
The new law does not prevent local breeders from selling animals, but they must be bred and raised on the premises of the seller, not obtained from puppy mills. Buyers must also receive a “certificate of source” telling where the dog or cat originated from and if the breeder is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. Those found to have a falsified certificate of source will pay $2,500 in damages for each instance.
The fact that the ordinance does not limit anyone’s free choice likely helped increase its chances of getting approved. “People can buy any breed of dog from any local breeder providing that they can show the dog was born and raised on their property. This is one time where breeders and animal advocates are working together for the benefit of local breeders and shelter dogs, and [working] against puppy mills,” says Don Anthony, communications director of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF), which worked with Lake Worth city commissioners to get the law passed.
“We’d love to see cities all over Florida ban the sale of dogs and cats raised in puppy mills or the like,” he says.
The ultimate goal is to decrease the sale of pets raised in puppy mills and kitten factories and increase the number of animals adopted from local shelters.
The new rule also aims to stop money from leaving Lake Worth and being funneled to states with puppy mills.
“The fact that there’s one less place to purchase an animal (the pet shop) means that more people will adopt from shelters,” says Don.
More people adopting from shelters should, in turn, help lower the euthanasia rate. Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control, which serves Lake Worth, euthanized 3,686 dogs and 10,176 cats in the year that ended Sept. 30. Any euthanasia rate higher than zero is too high, says Don.
A growing movement
Lake Worth has joined a number of North American cities in banning the retail sale of dogs and cats, including: Albuquerque, New Mexico; West Hollywood, California; Hermosa Beach, California; South Lake Tahoe, Nevada; Austin, Texas; El Paso, Texas; and Richmond, British Columbia.
As more cities ban pet sales, and news about such bans spreads, more people across the country are learning the truth about where the majority of animals sold in pet stores come from and the horrors of the puppy mill industry. Don notes this spreading message should result in more people making the decision not to buy from pet stores, even if they live in a city that still permits the retail sale of cats and dogs.
When fewer mill animals are purchased, fewer are bred. “It’s simply a case of supply and demand. Less demand means fewer will have to be supplied,” Don says.
How you can take action
Animal advocates can take one or all of these steps to push for pet store sale bans in their cities:
Attend a city commission meeting. Take copies of the Lake Worth ordinance to an upcoming city commission meeting in your city. Use the time allotted for public comment to tell them why laws like these are important, and then pass out copies of the ordinance.
- Get the word out. Speak out against puppy mills and discourage others from buying animals from pet stores. Visit Best Friends’ puppy mill initiatives for materials you can download and print.
- Organize a peaceful pet store demonstration. Follow Best Friends’ tips on how to do so.
- Contact local officials. Explain why a retail pet sale ban should be approved in your area. Ordinances that prohibit the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores will benefit the local economy, shelter dogs and local breeders.