Orange County commissioners approve restrictions on pet stores

By a vote of 4-3, Orange County commissioners have approved an ordinance that would ban pet stores from selling cats, dogs, and rabbits.

Over 50 people spoke during the public comment portion at an Orange County Commission meeting on Tuesday.  Proponents of the pet store restrictions and groups such as the Humane Society argue that some animals sold at pet stores are the product of for-profit breeding.  They encourage adopting animals from pet shelters instead.

Pet store revenue is greatly driven by sales of puppies, kittens, and bunnies, so an ordinance banning the sale of those animals could put a number of places out of business. 

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As puppies played in their pens at Petland in Waterford Lakes, owner Ben Hoofnagle was having a rough day.

"Incredible disappointment of course. It’s terrible to hear that you have 1 year till your business is basically gonna be closed."

He said he is being forced to close after 17 years because of the decision by commissioners.

Florida State Humane Society director Kate MacFall called it a win for consumers and puppies, claiming the pet shops source from puppy mills and calling them inhumane breeding facilities. 

"You heard from a lot of people who got home with a puppy from a store and wound up with thousands and thousands of dollars in vet bills, or in some cases, the puppy died," MacFall said, adding that pets can still be adopted through responsible breeders and animal shelters.

An attorney for the pet shops said they intend to fight the ordinance.

"These small businesses did nothing wrong. They have 100% clean inspection records from the Orange County Animal Control Office," said Mike Gonidakis, who represent Citizens for Responsible Pet Ownership.

Hoofnagle said he has around 50 people working at the store, who will all be losing their jobs once the store closes.

"We’re gonna have to talk to our employees I feel the worse for them. There’s so much shock involved."

The measure goes into effect in 2022.

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