For the second time, Pasco County commissioners endorsed an overhaul of the county's animal control ordinance that makes it illegal for dog owners to tether their pets.
The ordinance also redefines breeders, cracks down on so-called puppy mills and makes it illegal to sell puppies or kittens at flea markets, parking lots and festivals.
Animal Control Manager John Malley said it is essentially the same ordinance commissioners considered last December. The board deferred action then after several breeders and pet dealers objected to the new regulations. They asked the opponents to meet with the county's Animal Control Advisory Council to resolve their differences, but the advisory council approved the original ordinance without changes.
"I still have trouble with this," Commissioner Jack Mariano said, arguing on behalf of the owners of a pet store that operates at the Hudson Flea Market. "Why do we want to control someone's way of making income?"
Malley said most jurisdictions have outlawed pet sales at flea markets. "The concern with selling animals at flea markets is it's generally done on weekends, when we don't have staff on duty," he said. "There have been violations in the past, and it's difficult for us to enforce with our limited resources."
Puppies that are sold at flea markets typically come from puppy mills and are kept in unsanitary, even cruel, conditions, he said. "We have seen multiple cases of counterfeit health certificates," he added.
The ordinance defines a breeder as anyone whose animals produce more than two litters or 20 puppies a year. Breeders and dealers would be required to maintain detailed records of each animal they sell for a minimum of one year and would be subject to inspection. Any breeder who fails an inspection or violates state laws could be forced to surrender his animals.
Commissioners Ann Hildebrand, Ted Schrader and Henry Wilson said they support the new rules and voted to call another public hearing, which is required for final approval.