As Petland prepares new Manatee County location, officials consider ‘puppy mill’ ban

Gotcha Day adoption event at Manatee County Animal Services sends 19 pets to new homes

Ten dogs and nine cats got a forever home during Manatee County Animal Services Gotcha Day adoption event on Saturday.
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Ten dogs and nine cats got a forever home during Manatee County Animal Services Gotcha Day adoption event on Saturday.

Before Petland opens its second Manatee County store this summer, Commissioner Carol Whitmore made an attempt to prevent the alleged sale of cats and dogs that come from “puppy mills.”

The company decided not to renew the lease of its Sarasota County location after county officials there voted to enforce a ban on the sale of animals from commercial establishments. One Petland location operates in Manatee County at 3530 53rd Ave. W., and another is planned along University Parkway.

“I’m asking for us to consider an ordinance to do this,” Whitmore said. “I have nothing against (Petland). What I have problems with is where they get their inventory.”

Manatee commissioners previously debated the topic last August but elected to wait for the outcome of Sarasota’s legal dispute before implementing their own ban.

Petland is a national corporation that has operated a store in Bradenton for more than 20 years, according to the company’s website. Managers and employees have previously denied selling animals that come from puppy mills.

Brad Parker, a Petland managing partner, spoke to commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting. He also said that the rumors about Petland relying on puppy mills are untrue. The company faced a nationwide class-action lawsuit last year that accused their stores of selling sick animals.

“I understand people have this impression of breeders and puppy mills, and it’s just not what’s happening,” he said.

Commissioner Stephen Jonsson put the burden of proof on animal lovers, arguing that he would like to see evidence of animal cruelty before voting for a ban.

It’s not the first time a disagreement between Petland and animal advocates has come to a head in county chambers, Commissioner Priscilla Whisenant Trace noted.

“I remember about two years ago when we told you all to figure something out, so now the board has to compromise and I don’t think either one of you is going to be happy,” she said.

That compromise will likely rely heavily on what has been approved in another Florida county. Commissioner Betsy Benac suggested that the County Attorney’s Office take a look at an ordinance Brevard County commissioners recently brought forward.

Using Brevard as a template, Manatee’s ordinance is expected to prevent the sale of cats and dogs that do not come from USDA-approved breeders, animal shelters or animal rescues. Commissioners voted unanimously to have the County Attorney’s Office research the ordinance and come back with a few options for the board to consider in the fall.

“I’m OK with this action because it hasn’t happened since 2011,” Whitmore said. “At least it’s a way forward.”