The end of legislative sessions are always dangerous periods. Lobbyists slip in amendments, and tired legislators adopt them without asking tough questions. One such amendment affects the welfare of animals. Florida cities have successfully enacted 59 ordinances prohibiting the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. Concerned citizens asked their local officials to stop problematic puppy mill stores from opening in their communities.
Stores like Petland and other puppy retailers rely on impulse buyers. Many use predatory business practices. Stores profit from puppies that are bred in inhumane and unsanitary conditions that are also a risk to public health.
Unbelievably (and perhaps unknowingly), the Florida House of Representatives amended its tax package HB7087 that would preempt these local protections. Our fellow citizens have paid thousands of dollars in vet bills after purchasing unhealthy puppies. These sick puppies have infected 113 people in 17 states with a disease called campylobacter, which is resistant to antibiotics. Twenty-two people have been infected in Florida.
Lee County is investigating Petland after a consumer purchased a puppy infected with parvovirus, an infectious disease that is almost always lethal. Last week, Lee County intercepted 24 puppies headed for Petland in the back of a truck. They were kept in urine- and feces-filled cages, likely for days.
This is a systemic problem, rooted in the supply chain of Midwest puppy mills, which supply pet stores all over the country. Local governments want the ability to break the chain. Thoughtful legislators need to stop this unsafe, scary business practice and let local governments do their jobs. This is not a free market issue, but rather a shameful protection of animal cruelty at the risk of public health and safety.
Donna Shalala, former president,
University of Miami, Miami