VIERA, Fla. — The Brevard County Commission decided unanimously Tuesday to move forward with a public hearing on a proposal that restricts pet stores from selling dogs or cats from large-scale breeders.

The proposal would require pet stores to get its cats or dogs from shelters, rescue organizations or hobby breeders, instead of from so-called puppy mills or kitten factories. 

If approved, shop owners who violate the ordinance would be subject to up to 60 days in jail or a fine of up to $500.


Measures like this one are growing throughout the country. Seminole County banned retail sales of cats and dogs last year, as did Lake County. Mount Dora enacted a similar ban in January. Sanford and Casselberry also banned puppy mill sales in the last few years.

One Brevard County businessman we talked to said he feared the ordinance could force him to close his business.

Bill Jacobson bought a pet store 21 years ago, and says he only buys puppies from people he considers reputable breeders.

“I will not sell a rescue dog, shelter dog because I have no idea where they came from, or their health records,” Jacobson explained.

The ordinance would also allow businesses to sell pets directly from hobby breeders, those who breed 48 or fewer offspring per year.

Fighting to move this ordinance forward is Jenna Jensen from The Humane Society of the United States. She traveled from Washington to attend the meeting after a local animal advocate contacted the society earlier this year.

Jensen says so far they've been very successful at convincing commissioners to give these types of ordinances the green light.

“Close to 300 of these local ordinances throughout the country and 66 are here in Florida,” Jensen said.

The Humane Society says puppy mills hide behind the pet stores. The businesses may not even be aware of the breeding operations practices. The Humane Society believes the ordinances will eventually starve out the mills.

But Jacobson says the solution is not shutting pet stores down — it's enforcing current laws.

He says enforcement is the biggest issue and if pet stores shut down, people will go online to buy puppies, which will only hurt the consumer because there is no way for the buyer to truly know what they are getting.

“I understand one is considering more regulation for USDA license breeders. That's fine with me and if they want to increase regulation, that's fine with me too,” Jacobson said.

The county commission decided Tuesday to advertise a public hearing for the ordinance, in which commissioners will decide whether to approve the amendment after that.