TAMPA — Dog trainers in Hillsborough County must obtain a license and agree to training plans with pet owners before beginning instruction, county commissioners decided on Wednesday.
The new ordinance, called Truth in Training, is the first of its kinds in the country, county officials have said.
The 5-2 vote came amid fierce opposition from many local dog trainers, many of whom warned the new regulations would inhibit their small businesses. They also said it would discourage certain training methods, for fear of litigation.
But Commissioner Les Miller said the new regulations just provide more information to consumers.
"If you're a good dog trainer this shouldn't affect you at all," Miller said.
Commissioner Victor Crist, one of two no-votes, said the legislation as written didn't address problems in the dog training industry, nor did it better regulate boarding facilities, which he said are a bigger issue.
"I think it's another useless piece of legislation on the books that's going to give the public a false sense of security," Crist said.
The ordinance has taken almost a year to craft and pass and generated impassioned response on both sides of the issue, including a large turnout at the previous two county commission meetings. Wednesday was no different, as more than 60 people signed up to speak.
Amid the heightened tenions, the day started with a scary incident when a young child was bitten by a dog before the meeting at the Hillsborough County Government Center. The dog belonged to an individual intending to speak out against the ordinance. Advocates of the new rules highlighted the incident throughout the meeting.
Under the ordinance, trainers would have to provide their credentials to the county for publication and have liability insurance of at least $100,000. They also must undergo local and federal background checks. Trainers convicted of animal cruelty would be barred from working in the county.