Bay Harbor Islands on Monday tentatively approved a law to prohibit the sale of live animals in the town.
The ordinance was sponsored by council member Kelly Reid, who approached Hallandale Beach city commissioner and animal rights activist Michelle Lazarow, and Don Anthony of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, who have been campaigning for similar ordinances.
Lazarow and Anthony said the ordinance is aimed at puppy mills, where many animals are kept in inhumane conditions.
The town has no pet shops at the moment, but has in the past.
“This is an ordinance that would protect consumers with animals; it prevents cruelty to animals and promotes adoption,” Lazarow said.
Fifty other municipalities —including Aventura, Hallandale Beach, Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, North Bay Village and Surfside — have passed similar laws.
“With all due respect, this is much bigger than Bay Harbor,” Lazarow told commissioners. “You would be supporting an ordinance that needs the support of multiple cities, which would stop consumer fraud.”
Anthony said major cities such as Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Phoenix are passing similar legislation.
“The ordinance will increase the number of animals adopted from local shelters, animal control, humane societies, and rescue organizations,” Anthony said. “It will protect local consumers who end up unwitting purchasers of animals that are bred with inherent conditions and diseases who then end up spending thousands of dollars to attempt to cure these conditions, which are rampant in puppy mills.”
However, some council members said the ordinance was too broad because it prohibits the sale of all live animals —even fish.
“What if you want to buy a pet hamster or a goldfish?” asked Vice Mayor Jordan Leonard.”You’re banning the sale of all live animals.”
Leonard said he’s against puppy mills, but the ordinance is misleading because some of the animals listed are already illegal in the town, such as livestock.
“I just want to make sure that we’re making the right decisions for the people of the town,” he said. “When I was a kid, I had a pet hamster and I loved the little guy.”
The language of the proposed ordinance specifically prohibits the sale of hamsters and gerbils but is silent on fish.
The ordinance nevertheless passed unanimously.
Anthony added that the law also exempts hobby breeders. And businesses can continue to sell pet supplies — just not pets.
“Pet shops can continue to sell pet food, pet supplies, toys, beds, grooming services, and veterinary services, any one of which can be a business on its own,” Anthony said. “The only difference with this ordinance, is that they can sell adoptable animals that come directly from animal control and humane societies. Everyone wins.”