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Cape Council to mull retail sale pet ban

By Staff | Aug 1, 2019

An ordinance to ban the retail sale of cats and dogs has been on the Cape Coral City Council agenda on and off for nearly a year, and every time it’s been considered, it’s been sent back to be rewritten.

On Monday, a proposal to ban such sales in city pet shops will again be on the agenda, and its supporters hope that the third time will be a charm.

Councilmember Rick Williams, who has brought the ordinance to Council said the language has been cleaned up.

“We have made it a little less onerous on the store owners who sell animals, giving them more leeway so they won’t lose a ton of business,” Williams said. “We’re not trying to eliminate puppy sales, but puppy mills. The only way to do that is to eliminate the end game.”

City Council believes that prohibiting the retail sale of dogs and cats in the city will promote community awareness of animal welfare, foster a more humane environment for animals, and decrease the demand for animals from “puppy mills” while increasing the demand from animal shelters and rescue organizations, according to the description of the ordinance.

More than 65 counties and municipalities in the state have enacted laws that forbid the sale of pets from mills.

The Humane Society estimates 2.4 million puppies per year come from some 10,000 puppy mills, where the health and welfare of the animals are not adequately provided for.

Documented problems include sanitation problems, overcrowding, lack of veterinary care, lack of protection from harsh weather conditions, and lack of adequate food and water, officials said.

Williams said many of these animals come from the Midwest, and are shipped in hot, cramped conditions, with many of them reaching their destination dead or sick.

“They’re shipped in tractor trailer trucks that aren’t air conditioned so they suffer the same as a dog locked in a car. It’s cruel,” Williams said.

The most effective way to stop puppy and kitten mills is to discourage the purchase and sale of puppies and kittens produced at these facilities, Williams said. And alternatives such as adoptions from animal rescue organizations or purchase from reputable breeders are available.

On Monday, during citizen input, Liz McCauley, executive director of the Cape Coral Animal Shelter, said the city has an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon to stop the sale of “mill animals.”

“The conditions these animals face is horrendous and inhumane. Responsible breeders would never allow their pets to be sold in a retail store when people can walk in and purchase the animal,” McCauley said. “Pet stores who have chosen to partner with the Cape Coral Animal Shelter and offer adoption of puppies have thrived. We welcome all opportunities to help the pet stores.”

The city of Cape Coral has only one shop that sells dogs. The owner has said the shop does not purchase its animals from large commercial breeders, the type of operations often dubbed “puppy mills” and the stated target of the ordinance.

The ordinance would allow any existing pet store with an active local business tax receipt as of Oct. 1, 2019 to continue the sale of cats and dogs until Sept. 30, 2020.

The ordinance would not prohibit “adoptions” in conjunction with rescues.

The ordinance was brought up twice last year. In October, it was brought up, and withdrawn by Williams to be reworked.

Williams brought it back in December, and again withdrew it for the same reason.

Editor’s note:This story has been updated.