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The Sarasota County Commission will consider a proposed ordinance which will define hobby breeders and possibly limit the amount of animals they may own and/or the number of litter they may have in a year.

The measure also attempts to restrict the sales of pets from legal, licensed and regulated pet sellers. All breeders and pet owners should be concerned about government attempts to limit individuals’ choice of pets and attempts to limit the sale of purpose-bred puppies.   

The AKC urges responsible dog owners and breeders to attend the meeting and oppose this burdensome and ineffective ordinance.

Sarasota County Commission Meeting

Date: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Time: 9:00 a.m.

Location: Council Chambers, 1660 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota, FL

Hobby Breeder Definitions are Vague and Superfluous

The current agenda contains three possible hobby breeder definitions, all of which are problematic as they create additional problems, rather than solving them. For example, the definition in the draft ordinance restricts residents to four “breeding females.” This term is unclear. Does this mean dams that have whelped a litter? Does this mean any intact female?  How are female dogs too old or too young to be used for breeding counted? Ideal breeding ages can vary by breed. What happens if a person who breeds only rarely exceeds four breeding females?

One of the alternate definitions proposes to limit a breeder to two litters per year, however for someone breeding Pomeranians or a similar small breed that could mean only two or three puppies. It requires that hobby breeders be a member of a club recognized by AKC, the United Kennel Club or a designated cat registry. Club membership is not automatic and a breeder or fancier just starting out in the sport might not choose to join a club. Membership should be a choice, not a prerequisite mandated by the government.

The final definition requires that puppies be bred and reared on the premises of the hobby breeder. While that is usually the case, breeders occasionally receive a puppy in lieu of a stud fee or in the case of an emergency cesarean section, offspring might not be born on the owner’s property.

This ordinance was originally proposed to restrict sales of pets at retail pet shops. The measure restricts the actions of those who meet the criteria of a “commercial establishment” which requires a business to conduct retail sales and be open to the public. As hobby breeders would not meet this criterion, a hobby breeder definition is superfluous and problematic.

Federal law regulates those who sell at wholesale and even those who ship animals to new pet owners who have not seen the animals in person. Florida state law regulates those who qualify as dealers. Florida also has one of the strongest pet consumer protection laws in the country. This level of additional regulation at the local level is unnecessary.

In our view, compliance with existing nuisance, sanitation, zoning and animal control and welfare laws is sufficient for small breeders. If they are not creating a nuisance for their neighbors and are obeying the law, there is no need for narrow definitions and government involvement.

Local responsible breeders are assets to their communities. These breeders make serious commitments to their animals by raising healthy, well cared-for dogs and by working to ensure that puppies are placed with responsible owners. They are in a unique position to support new pet owners and exemplify responsible animal ownership. Responsible dog breeders and owners are models for their communities and should not be penalized by being forced to comply with burdensome regulations.

Arbitrary Restrictions on Pet Sales Harm Pet Owners and the Community

The American Kennel Club believes that an important part of ensuring the success of a pet with a new owner is to ensure that it is an appropriate fit with the owner’s lifestyle. Treasured pets may be obtained from a variety of sources, including breeders, pet stores, rescues, and local shelters.

If the proposed ordinance restricting pet sales is adopted, families in Sarasota County will lose an important source for choosing a pet that is the best fit for their lifestyle and circumstances. 

Unfortunately, many communities lack sufficient local breeders to meet the demand for the specific pets desired by local residents. Those seeking a puppy that is a specific breed from a professional breeder subject to USDA or state animal welfare standards, or one that is covered by Florida consumer protection laws, will likely be forced to purchase a puppy elsewhere, or to obtain a pet of unknown origin and health history or status.

When consumers cannot acquire a pet that is an appropriate fit for their lifestyle, that animal is more likely to end up in the shelter system. A better solution is to ensure that consumers are educated, understand the demands of responsible ownership and have access to a variety of pets so that they can make educated choices.

The proposal to ban the sale of pets from known, regulated and inspected sources, and to allow only the sale/adoption of pets from unknown, unregulated and uninspected sources, does the exact opposite of its purported intent: It removes available consumer protections for new pet owners and potentially increases public health risks for the entire community. 

What You Can Do

  • Attend the Sarasota County Commission meeting on January 27, 2016 and ask county commission members to oppose this ordinance.
  • Contact the members of the Sarasota County Commission by email or phone prior to the meeting and ask them to oppose this ordinance.

AKC Resources:
AKC Position Statement: Canine Population Issues
Issue Analysis: The Value of Responsible Dog Breeders
AKC Position Statement: Breeding Restrictions
AKC Position Statement: Responsible Breeding Practices 
Responsible Breeding Practices Issue Brief

Sarasota County Commission

Chairman Alan Maio 

Vice-Chairman Paul Caragiulo 

Commissioner Carolyn J. Mason

Commissioner Christine Robinson 

Commissioner Charles D. Hines, Esq. 

The Sarasota County Commission will consider a proposed ordinance which will define hobby breeders and possibly limit the amount of animals they may own and/or the number of litter they may have in a year.