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Fort Lauderdale officials say there aren’t any stores that sell cats and dogs from breeders in the city, and a proposed ordinance has been created to keep it that way.

On Tuesday, May 2, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission decided to move forward with an ordinance that will mandate any dogs or cats sold in the city by pet stores comes from an animal shelter, rescue organization, or non-breeding facility. The ordinance will be placed on the agenda for a vote during the June 6 meeting – 6 p.m. at City Hall.

According to city officials, no pet stores in the city currently sell dogs or cats. Pet stores, such as PetSmart and Pet Supermarket, only offer pets for adoption from shelters or rescue organizations.

The purpose of the ordinance is to prevent stores from using puppy mills – breeders who treat their animals inhumanely and keep them in poor conditions. Often, according to the Humane Society and other organizations, dogs and cats bred by puppy mills develop diseases and physical deformities, and are kept in cramped cages for most of their lives.

“I generally support the language that’s here. I generally agree with the approach we’re taking here,” said Mayor Jack Seiler. He added that he talked with a lot of veterinarians to get their views on the proposal.

Under the ordinance, to prevent stores from skirting the ban, giveaways of pets, or other promotional offers, would also be banned so they’re not used as a “bait and switch.”

Each pet store that provides animals for adoption must display paperwork and prove the animal came from a shelter or rescue organization. Animal shelters and publicly-operated animal control facilities are exempt from the ordinance.

Dr. Donna Watson, a chiropractor and founder of Dr. Donna's Pet Foundation, pushed the issue and lobbied the city commission. 

In an interview with SFGN, Watson praised Commissioner Dean Trantalis for bringing the issue before the commission and said she wants to see every city in South Florida enact a ban. To help get there, she wants to see the Broward Commission enact a county-wide ban but commissioners have yet to do so. “It was a great day. But it ain’t over ‘till it’s over [and the commission votes for the ban].”

But getting Fort Lauderdale, the largest city in the county, to pass an anti-pet sales ordinance would be a huge victory, said Watson. 

“Over 20 cities in South Florida [including Wilton Manors] have enacted a ban. [Pet stores that buy from puppy mills] are not going to go out of business [until they’re banned everywhere]. They’re going to keep moving [to cities without bans]. There’s enormous profit in it,” said Watson. “Now, we’ve just got to get it passed in June [in Fort Lauderdale] and move on to another city.” Watson said Oakland Park will be that next city she lobbies and it has at least one store that sells dogs. 

Shaina Ashley, a spokesperson for Puppy Spot, a company that sells dogs, criticized the ordinance. 

“While I’m sure this ordinance was created with the best of intentions, it is vaguely worded and misguided . . . Many shelters in the U.S. do not have enough adoptable dogs to meet the demands of the local communities.”

Caroline Crane, vice president of education programs and services at the Humane Society of Broward County, said there’s no shortage of unwanted animals. “There’s millions of homeless animals that need a home in this county and it’s ridiculous to bring more in.” Last week alone, said Crane, her organization received 23 five-week-old puppies. “So there’s definitely no lack of puppies needing homes.”

According to PETA, each year there are approximately six to eight million animals that end up in shelters nationwide and four million are left unwanted and not adopted.