Giving Dogs a Voice
A Broward County animal rights activist’s attempt to outlaw retail sales of dogs has led her to run for Hallandale Beach city commissioner in 2012.
“When I saw that I was met with so much opposition, and it was so hard to pass something that easy, I felt like I had to be a part of the solution,” said Michele Lazarow, 44.
After several meetings with Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper, Lazarow was denied support for an ordinance to ban dog sales in the city. Cooper told her she would try to make pet store regulations stricter, but she would not deny financial opportunities for any business owners.
Lazarow said she will continue pushing this issue until action is taken.
“I’m in a marathon,” said Lazarow. “This is not a sprint, it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time, even if we have to wait until I’m commissioner.”
Lazarow said most dog retailers get their dogs from puppy mills where pets are seen strictly as commodities with no regard to health. By the time dogs reach pet stores, they have already been abused, she said.
Lazarow does not believe stricter rules would prevent consumers from unknowingly buying sick pets. She said new pet store regulations wouldn’t stop over-population resolved with euthanizing.
Lazarow said her proposed ordinance is already supported by current Hallandale Beach commissioners Keith London and Alexander Lewy. She needs one more commissioner’s approval to pass the ordinance.
London said he commends Lazarow’s efforts and doesn’t see a downside to it, adding that the law would not impact any businesses in the city.
“It could put Hallandale Beach on the map in a positive manner,” said London. “All I’m doing is protecting harmless innocent animals that have no voice.”
Lazarow is trying to gather as many residents as possible to attend city hall meetings and speak up for the cause. She believes if Cooper or any other commissioners hear from residents on a large scale, they could be swayed to pass the ordinance.
“The unfortunate thing is that most of the people that own pet stores, really don’t care about the pets,” said Leslie Wynne, a 45-year-old Hallandale Beach resident who fosters both dogs and cats. “I’m very aware of how many animals are put to sleep daily, and a lot of that is because people sell animals and those animals are not spayed or neutered, Wynne said. “Then the people that paid a lot of money for their pets look to breed and make money on their own. It’s a vicious circle, and I find it disgusting.”
According to The Humane Society of the United States, four million cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. shelters each year.
“Broward County Humane Society is a high-kill shelter,” said Lazarow. “People say similar places like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are synonymous with no-kill, but they are not closed admission facilities.”
Lazarow said a rescue center would have to stop taking in animals when they are out of room in order to qualify as no-kill shelters. She said these centers never refuse animals.
“It’s really sad,” said Ana Bueno, 43, founder of Paws 2 Care Coalition, a dog adoption center in Hollywood. “We just need to raise awareness.”
Bueno pulls dogs from Miami-Dade Animal Services as often as possible. She also rescues strays and takes in neglect cases.
Bueno can hold up to 25 dogs in her facility and makes every effort, including online networks, such as Petfinder, Adopt a Pet and Facebook to find homes for their dogs.
Dog rescuer and volunteer at Paws 2 Care Coalition, Jennifer Alvite, 25, said people should definitely get their dogs from adoption centers instead of pet stores.
“The number one benefit is you’re going to save a life,” said Alvite. “We medically care for the animals. If you buy a puppy from a store, they could be ill. They don’t care.”
The Better Business Bureau indicates six complaints for Puppy Palace since October 2010. Three are listed as advertising/sales issues and the others for problems with product/service.
On Oct. 4, about 95 dogs were for sale at Puppy Palace. Employees refused to comment on their practices.
Lake Worth, along with Albuquerque, N.M., West Hollywood, Calif., South Lake Tahoe, Calif. and a few other cities have already passed ordinances banning retail sales of dogs and cats.
Lazarow hopes Hallandale Beach will be next.
“I really believe it’s going to be like a game of tag,” said Lazarow. “If cities in California and Florida pass the ordinances, they’re going to tag each other, and it’s going to spread.”
Lazarow said it’s time the city commission be more progressive. As commissioner, she said she hopes to help all residents, including animals, the elderly and children.
“I fight for those who cannot fight for themselves,” said Lazarow.
400 South Federal Highway
Hallandale Beach 33009