Victory! FL pet retailer fighting upcoming vote to ban sale of dogs from puppy mills

Victory – Ordinance Passed!  Thank you for your support!

On Wednesday, June 1, officials in Hollywood, Florida, will vote on an ordinance that would ban the retail sales ofdogs and cats in pet stores throughout that city. The sole live-pet retailer in Hollywood, Puppy Palace, is attempting to stop the ban. On May 29, Examiner spoke with Michele Lazarow, City Commissioner of Hallandale Beach, Florida. Ms. Lazarow has been spearheading this fight to eliminate the sale of pets from retail facilities throughout Florida.

Other cities in Broward County, where Hollywood is located, already have a ban in place. To date, there are 45 suchordinances in Florida and approximately 150 in the United States and Canada. Examiner has documented this inprevious stories. In Hollywood, four votes will be needed to pass the ordinance. The Mayor, Vice Mayor and the five City Commissioners will be discussing ordinance PO-2016-06 at that time; advocates and residents are encouraged to attend. Information on the location is found at the end of this article.

According to the HSUS, 99% of all pet retailers, whether they are online or in stores, buy their dogs from puppy millsor large-scale commercial dog-breeding operations, places that often place profit over the well-being of their dogs. The breeding animals and their offspring are often severely neglected, the operators frequently cited by the USDA for acting without regard for responsible breeding practices.

Banning the retail sales of puppies and kittens will not stop anyone from owning or operating pet stores. National chains such as PetSmart and PetCo have not lost customers by becoming more humane. They learned how to work within legal parameters by hosting shelter pets, offering adoption days, and training classes for adopted pet families. Smaller pet stores, in cities where these ordinances have already passed, have also learned how to adapt to the new regulations. They also operate with a humane business model by working with shelter or rescue pets. They can still sell speciality items and offer other services such as day care, grooming, veterinary services.

Passing this law in cities where stores are currently selling puppies is different that passing them in cities where there are no puppies being sold. One is preemptively stopping a problem before it starts. The other is reacting to a problem that already exists. Such is the case with Hollywood.

Hollywood’s sole puppy-peddling store is Puppy Palace. Puppy Palace has been selling puppies for three decades. Over the past 30 years, there have been two class action lawsuits, one involving 18 plaintiffs, 20 or more protests, complaints of sick puppies, and numerous civil suits for not honoring Florida Statute 828.29, the Puppy Lemon Law. Commissioner Lazarow tells Examiner,

“Sure, there have been plenty of healthy and cute puppies that have been sold to happy customers. How else would a business stay open for 30 years? (The) question is … how many of those customers would have been so happy to purchase those puppies if pictures of the kennels where the puppies were born were posted in the store?”

The owner of Puppy Palace and a named Defendant in the lawsuits, Judy Norford, has stated that she only buys only from selected breeders that she inspects personally. “We don’t take dogs from puppy mills,” she declared in a 1997 Sun-Sentinel interview.

However, the truth of the matter is quite different, as revealed by public documents. Puppy Palace has spent the last decade purchasing puppies from Steve Kruse, the owner of Stonehenge Kennel in West Point, Iowa. Ms. Norford was, at one time, married to Steve Kruse.

From August until December 2015, Iowa state documents show approximately 60 puppies going from Kruse to Puppy Palace. In July 2015, a USDA inspector, accompanied by an Iowa state trooper, found no fewer than thirteen dogs with visible veterinary issues at the Stonehenge facility, including some with open, bleeding wounds. In January 2016, the USDA suspended Kruse’s license.

The past three years of USDA documents show Kruse keeping an average of 1,400 dogs on his commercial breeding farm. In May. 2016, one of Kruse’s dogs had the honor of being on the cover page of “The Horrible Hundred 2016: A Sampling of Problem Puppy Mills in the United States,” published by the HSUS.

So how can it be possible that Ms. Norford doesn’t ‘take dogs from puppy mills’? This is how.

From her experience in attending multiple commission meetings in various cities and counties in Florida, Commissioner Lazarow has found it to be the case that store owners hire expensive lawyers, lobbyists and bring all of their employees to city meetings to exclaim,

“We love our puppies. We do not buy from puppy mills. We buy from USDA licensed, regulated commercial breeders.”

So how does that show that the owner of Puppy Palace is knowingly participating in a deception of the public? You guessed it. Until they suspended his license, Steve Kruse was a USDA licensed, regulated commercial breeder. By showing the State certificates that Steve Kruse was shipping puppies to her store she manipulated the perception of the public. Norford knows, when she is buying puppies, the egregious conditions of his kennels. If she doesn’t, as a seller of live animals, she should. After all, she did state that she does ‘personally inspect’ all facilities.

This is the double speak or “lying by omission” that the commercial breeding industry relies upon. Unfortunately, sometimes it works.

Further, when bans are presented, officials will sometimes believe the cries from store owners that this law will put them out of business. Some store owners will plead and say that they didn’t know about those cruel conditions and promise to buy puppies from better breeders with no USDA violations.

As opposed to the owner of Puppy Palace, who stated in the Hollywood Gazette, she believes Steve Kruse’s operation to be “of the highest integrity.”

When the cries come, some elected officials may believe that there are two available remedies to the puppy retail sale conundrum which would not involve a ban. First, stores could and should buy from better breeders and, second, the public should demand the USDA to strengthen their regulations rather than push for local sales bans.

According to Ms. Lazarow, here is the problem with those arguments: reputable breeders do not sell to stores, and therefore, there are no “better” breeders to buy from. No responsible breeder is shipping their eight-week-old puppy in the back of a semi-truck to be sold to an unknown consumer in Florida or anywhere else.

The other problem is that we cannot regulate conditions of mills in Iowa, Arkansas and Missouri. For more than a decade, local and national advocates have pleaded with the commercial breeders in those and other states, and petitioned Federal lawmakers for better conditions for the animals, albeit to almost no avail.

This is why it is imperative that individual municipalities pass local laws banning sales. If you can’t stop the export of sick animals, you can certainly stop their being imported into your county. Big Agriculture and special interest groups in Washington will continue to lobby against any animal welfare legislation which would limit their ability to maximize profits.

Los Angeles passed a sales ban with 22 stores currently selling puppies. Chicago had 16. Pittsburgh had two stores. Boston had a store. Deerfield Beach, Delray Beach, Sarasota County all had stores selling puppies at the time of the passage of the ban in each municipality.

In a 30-square-mile city with 150,000 residents, Hollywood has only one store selling puppies. Ms. Lazarow firmly believes that there is no reason why this law should not pass unanimously in Hollywood. In Broward County there are currently 13 ‘mom-and-pop’ pet stores, not national chains, who are operating without selling dogs. The list includesRuff House, Natural K9Davie, Fiesta Pet Deli and Woof Gang Bakery, the 11th largest retail pet supply store, with 26 branches in Florida.

Given all of this information, the question is why would Hollywood officials want to continue to be the proponents of cruel and dishonest commerce? Commissioner Lazarow wants residents and voters to realize that,

“the days of the ‘Norman Rockwell’ paintings of frolicking puppies in pet store windows are over.”

She continues, “We have pulled back the curtain of cruelty and deception. It is time for the officials to listen and learn why this form of commerce must cease in their communities.”

It is never the intention or hope of those fighting for this change in Hollywood, and in every city that has already passed a ban and will consider one in the future, that any business close. However, if stores cannot find a form of commerce which does not rely upon deceiving the public, defrauding unsuspecting consumers and using puppies for profit, maybe they should be out of business. As Ms. Lazarow succinctly states,

“the bottom line is that a vote against this ordinance does not protect small business. What it does do is protect profits earned by cruelty.”

The Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 1, at Hollywood City Hall, 2600 Hollywood Blvd, Room 219. The discussion regarding the ban is scheduled for approximately 1:45 PM.779e5b10d72c414dd4b0825bd30a2954

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