Sarasota County passes 'puppy mill' ordinance; will Manatee County follow suit?

Posted at 7:40 PM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2017-04-10 05:53:11-04

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. -- Some expect Sarasota County's recent ban on pets raised in "puppy mills" to inspire officials to take action in other parts of Florida. In neighboring Manatee County, the wheels may already be turning.

After nearly 12 hours, commissioners voted 3-2 to ban the county-wide sale of dogs and cats from from commercial breeders, referred to by some as "puppy mills" or "kitten factories."

Michelle Sampson runs a small Sarasota rescue named Gimme Shelter. She is "elated" and proud of county commissioners for taking a stand.

Sampson is currently fostering a former puppy mill stud. She says the ban is a step towards eliminating commercial breeders nationwide.

"We're hitting them where it hurts: in their pocket book," says Sampson.

The county's only puppy retailer, Petland, will have until January 27, 2017 to change its business model.

Petland owner Brad Parker says his family is "devastated" by the decision:

"Not only will the passing of this misguided ordinance force undue pressure on us to operate in the community," says Parker in a written statement to ABC 7, "it will do nothing to solve the problem of puppy mills in Sarasota or anywhere else."

He calls the decision "irresponsible government overreach" and says the company is "heartbroken our hardworking employees have become victims."

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore wasted little time getting a copy of the ordinance. She proposed a similar one for Manatee last September, but was over-ruled by her colleagues.

With Sarasota County's example, Whitmore plans to put puppy mills back on Manatee County's agenda.

"It's kind of a regional issue where animals have taken the forefront in Manatee and Sarasota County," she says.

Whitmore will wait for Manatee County's new animal services director Sarah Brown to get settled in before bringing the topic back.

"After things start running smoothly, I'm going to definitely ask to have this on a future meeting."

A Manatee County spokesperson says commissioners try to avoid impacting private business affairs. This was one reason the discussion stalled back in September.

Lindsay Cadwalleder, a volunteer with Royal Pet Rescue, thinks the momentum of this vote could carry even farther than the Suncoast.

"That ordinance was already passed in California, and we just think it's a matter of time before it's statewide, worldwide," says Cadwalleder.