The two remaining pet stores in the city of Miami will have to change their ways or close up shop, commissioners decided on Thursday as they made Miami the latest U.S. city to crack down on the retail sale of household pets.
The Miami City Commission voted to ban the sale of dogs and cats from “substandard breeding facilities” like mass breeders and puppy mills. Dogs and cats from shelters, rescues and county-regulated breeders can still be sold.
The contentious ordinance passed 4-1 after a mix of nearly 65 animal rights advocates and pet shop supporters spoke before commissioners. Some wore “choice” T-shirts and shared sensitive stories of the hardships of running a family business. Others screened clips of screeching, matted animals in tiny cages at puppy mills.
Current pet shop owners have one year under the new law to either rethink their store’s sourcing or close the business. Other South Florida cities, including North Miami Beach, have already banned the commercial sale of puppies. Over 50 cities in Florida and 200 across the country have made similar moves.
Since 2014, Miami has been taking strides to keep an eye on pet stores that sell cats and dogs. Since September of that year, a county law — created to flag questionable providers of local puppies — has required that pet shops provide the source of dogs and cats for sale. Earlier that year, another provision of the “Miami-Dade Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Ordinance” was put in place to “encourage pet consumers to adopt dogs and cats from shelters.”
After the ordinance was passed, Miami commissioners voted to impose a six-month moratorium on the retail sale of dogs to investigate where the shops got the cats and dogs they sold. The number of shops in Miami decreased from nine to two over the six-month period.
Both remaining stores are in Commissioner Francis Suarez’s district.
“It affects people who work in my district. But leaders have to make tough choices,” he said. “It’s very difficult when you see young people advocating for their businesses. It almost feels like a lose-lose.”
Vice Chairman Ken Russell, who sponsored the law, said shelters have already agreed to work with the city on providing the pet shops with rescued pets to help owners move away from selling animals supplied by puppy mills.
Commissioner Keon Hardemon said the city doesn’t have control over puppy mills, so it’s hard to “get to the point.”
Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort expressed a similar sentiment.
“You can see that what takes place, we got to stop it,” he said. “But that’s the state government, the federal government.”
Russell replied that the city can’t do anything to shut nationwide puppy mills down completely, but that the ordinance is a step in the right direction.
“We can’t control the supply but we can control the demand,” Russell said.
Before the commissioners voted, Russell said this decision could affect ordinances that other cities adopt.
“The world is watching us right now,” he said. “I believe that many cities across the country are deciding whether they want to be the cities of tomorrow or the cities of yesterday.”