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Manatee County commissioners reverse a ban on retail pet sales

Puppies play in a cage at a pet store.
Jose Luis Magana
Many states and counties across the county have enacted policies banning the retail sale of cats and dogs.

Earlier this month, Commissioner Mike Rahn proposed dropping the ordinance after hearing an update from Manatee County Attorney Bill Clague on a pending lawsuit regarding the ban.

Manatee County commissioners voted on Tuesday to repeal a ban on retail pet sales after being sued by two stores.

The retail sales pet ban was voted in after years of advocacy by animal rights groups. But three of the four commissioners who voted in favor of the ordinance in 2021 are no longer in office.

Newly elected District 4 commissioner Mike Rahn was the first to suggest walking back the ban. According to public records, he received a $1,000 campaign contribution from each of the stores impacted by the ban.

Petland Bradenton and Petland Sarasota filed a lawsuit in November to stop Manatee County from fully implementing the ordinance.

“As long as this ordinance remains on the books as the local law of the county, the County Attorney’s Office has to defend it,” Clague said at a commission meeting earlier this month. “This is a long fight, and it’s going to command significant legal resources.”

Animal supporters accuse the stores of buying pets from large-scale commercial breeders, or so-called "puppy mills."

Local advocate Traci Lipton said she provided the commissioners with evidence from the Humane Society that the two Petland stores were selling animals from large scale commercial breeders that engage in inhumane practices.

""I'll tell you what we're not going to do," she said of the commission reversing the ban. "We are not going away. We are going to keep protesting Petland monthly and we're going to keep educating the public."

Many local governments in Florida have banned the retail sale of commercially bred animals -- including in Hillsborough and Sarasota counties.

At-large commissioner George Kruse was the lone nay vote.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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