BY CARLI TEPROFF
In the same week Broward County leaders adopted a no-kill animal control policy for the county’s shelters, Hallandale Beach took its first step toward banning pet stores from selling animals that come from a mass breeder.
While these laws are different — one aims to reduce the number of animals euthanized and the other is meant to prevent sick animals from being sold in a pet shop — they both send the same message: Adopt from a shelter or rescue group.
“This has been a big week for animals,” said Lisa Mendheim, public education coordinator for the Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Center.
These ordinances will join another law already on the books in Parkland where pet stores are prohibited from selling dogs from a puppy mill.
While in theory the laws will help protect animals, some say it will take time and a complete “buy-in” from the community — especially since Tuesday’s approval from the Broward County Commission did not come with any financial backing.
“It is something we are passionate about, but we have to be realistic,” said County Commissioner Barbara Sharief. “We have fiscal restraints.”
It takes both money and space to keep the animals alive, but that is where volunteers and community partners can help, said Mendheim.
Last year, the county shelter –– which operates on a $4 million budget — took in about 17,000 dogs and cats, Mendheim said. Of those, 9,600 — 56 percent — were euthanized.
Going from 56 percent euthanization down to zero is not something that can happen right away, said Mendheim.
“We are not flipping the switch and suddenly we are a no-kill facility,” she said. “It is going to take time.”
The no-kill animal control policy is “ambitious,” agreed Jo-Anne Roman, senior vice president of operations with the Humane Society of Broward County, which houses about 300 dogs and cats.
“All shelters have the goal of being no-kill,” Roman said. “But unfortunately in South Florida the population problem is the biggest enemy.”
Debi Day, executive director of No Kill Nation Inc., said she is hoping that the adoption of the no-kill philosophy will lead to people stepping up and volunteering.
“People scream ‘No-kill, No-kill,’ now lets seen them step up,” Day said, adding that the goal is to get pets into homes and not linger in the shelters.
Nathan Winograd, who began the No-Kill movement more than 10 years ago, said the more communities that join in, the more animals that will be saved.
“This is a good start for Broward,” Winograd said. “It is definitely something that can be achieved.”
With its vote this week, Broward is joining about 30 communities across the nation — including Austin, Texas and Manatee County, Fla. — in pledging to not kill healthy dogs and cats.
“Now we need everyone to get on board,” said Mendhaim. “Right now our focus is to get these animals into homes.”
Also in Broward this week, Hallandale Beach Commission made it clear they support people getting pets from shelters and rescue groups rather than pet shops.
On Wednesday — in front of more than 100 animal lovers who came in support — the Hallandale Beach Commission adopted an ordinance banning pet shops from selling animals that did not come from a shelter, were not surrendered by an owner or did not come from an on-site breeder. The new ordinance still has to pass on second reading.
The city joins 16 other cities across the United States including Lake Worth, Austin, Texas and West Hollywood, Calif. in banning pet shops from selling mass-produced animals.
“The animals can’t speak for themselves,” said Hallandale Beach Commissioner Keith London. “We need to have compassion in our lives and make sure those that can’t speak for themselves have a voice.”
Michele Lazarow, a Hallandale Beach resident, said she has been asking the city to consider the law for years after she bought a Maltese in a pet store that came from a breeder.
Puppy mills, Lazarow said, breed sick dogs.
The dog, named Alfie, was four months at the time. Now 7, Alfie suffers from a disorder that prevents him from digesting protein.
“He has no quality of life,” Lazarow said. “This is about humanity.”
The ordinance is more symbolic than anything else. There are no pet shops within the four-mile city other than PetCo, which only works with shelter animals. But the proposed law would make it difficult for future pet stores to actually sell the animals.
A few years ago there were two pet stores in the city, but both have shut down. Best Price Puppies, formerly at 645 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd., was shut down after constant protests and complaints that the shop sold sick animals.
Other pet stores outside of the city have also faced problems, including Wizard of Claws in Pembroke Pines. The store’s owners faced lawsuits from clients who said they’d been sold a sick puppy and eventually filed for bankruptcy.
Among those who came out to Wednesday’s meeting was 8-year-old Dominic Geragi. Dominic and his mother Suzanne volunteer at a shelter in Boca Raton and said they wanted to show their support for the law.
“There are a lot of homeless animals that really need to be adopted,” Dominic said after the meeting. “I think it’s totally awesome that they banned pet shops.”