MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — The sale of dogs, cats and rabbits is now illegal in Martin County.
County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to change local ordinances to ban the retail sale of animals, joining nearly 80 other counties or cities in the state to enact similar bans.
In Martin County, there are currently two stores that sell animals within the city limits of Stuart.
Employees or owners of The Noble Paw and Wags About You say they had no idea the county was planning to vote to change the law. Now they have 6 months to sell the animals they have before doing so would be in violation of the ban.
“We are so shocked by what happened today,” said Jill Scott. Scott owns The Noble Paw with his daughter. She said she also owned an animal hospital in West Palm Beach.
“Good people can be in this industry too by doing it the right way,” Scott said.
Scott said she understands why pet stores have a bad reputation. Some have a history of selling animals from puppy mills or pets with serious health issues.
She feels that she is now paying the price for “bad apples”.
“The thought that we would participate in something that would harm animals would be unconscionable to us,” Scott said. She added that she knew who she was buying animals from.
“I just got back from Indiana a few weeks ago. I went to a girl who raises our Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherds and they raise them with their families. They take care of their kids,” Scott said.
Animal rescue organizations hailed the county’s decision, saying they’ve seen sick dogs locally from dog stores. They also say the ban will contribute to pet overpopulation.
“If we don’t, what are we going to have? 10 pet stores here? Because none of our surrounding counties will allow them, they’re all going to come here,” said Keri Burgess, president of The Farm Dog Rescue.
Burgess helped propose the modification of local laws.
“Even if it’s dogs that are being trucked in from out of state, it’s not good for our community. From a rescue perspective, I get 10-15 surrender calls a day, so we already have a pet overpopulation problem,” Burgess said.
Nationally, five states have enacted complete bans on the sale of dogs. Florida was unable to pass a similar ban.
Scott could look to the City of Stuart to opt out of the ordinance as a way to stay in business, but county staff said they received support from city leaders in preparing the draft ordinance.
“We have invested all of our savings in this business, as any new business does. We just got our license 7-8 months ago, so we signed a lease that we are responsible for. The thought of someone telling us that we can’t do this without any due process, without any wrongdoing on our part is, as an American, pretty scary.
Rescue groups are also glad the law is in place to prevent the purchase of animals as gifts for Christmas and Easter, which they say often end up in shelters.