Puppy sale ban approved in Hillsborough County but with exemptions
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Commissioners on Wednesday voted to prohibit any new puppy stores from opening in an effort to curb dogs from puppy mills from entering the county.
Three stores already operating here can remain open if they abide by a new rules, also approved Wednesday, that will require them to keep tabs on their breeders.
The decision was the culmination of weeks of back and forth and after dozens of speakers weighed in on whether to make an exception for the existing businesses -- divided by backers of the local puppy stores in powder blue shirts and animal advocates in red calling for a full ban on puppy sales.
The debate was complicated last week when the owner of one of those stores, Puppies Tampa, was arrested by the Florida Department of Agriculture for failing to have health records for some of its puppies. The owner, Michael Lamprea, disputes that.
Commissioner Ken Hagan proposed excluding Puppies Tampa from the provision to grandfather existing facilities, but was rebuked in a 5-2 vote.
Among the new rules pet stores must follow, they will have to personally visit their breeders once a year and they cannot get puppies from breeders with USDA violations in the last two years. They will also lose their grandfather status if they are convicted of a crime by state or federal enforcement agencies or if they have four violations.
Dogs and cats can still be sold if they are purchased from a rescue or shelter.
Commissioner Victor Crist, who offered the new regulations as an alternative to an all out ban, said it would still prevent the sale of dogs from puppy mills but without shutting down existing businesses.
Those puppy stores, he said, “deserve the opportunity to show they can be a partner in the cause to shut down puppy mills.”