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Judge upholds puppy mill ban in Sunrise

Susannah Bryan
Sun Sentinel

A federal judge has rejected a pet shop owner's claim that the city stomped on her "American dream" by banning the sale of commercially-bred puppies and kittens.

The ruling, issued Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr., dismissed claims that the ban is unconstitutional.

Federal courts in Illinois and Rhode Island upheld similar ordinances earlier this year.

The city's rules restrict pet stores to selling animals from shelters, rescue groups, humane societies and hobby breeders.

Maria Escobar Gonzalez, who opened Maryeli's Lovely Pets months before the ban won approval last year, said Thursday she was not aware of the federal ruling.

Her attorney, Bob Sweetapple, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Sunrise is among 10 cities in Broward that have embraced anti-puppy mill laws, but the only one to be sued."This was an unqualified victory for Sunrise and all those who are trying to bring an end to mass pet-breeding operations," Mayor Mike Ryan said. "I hope this ruling will inspire pet stores to act responsibly and become the type of stores that help the pet population by offering homes to pets saved in shelters."

Animal activists were jubilant Thursday as word spread of Sunrise's victory.

"Justice prevails," said Hallandale Beach Commissioner Michele Lazarow, an animal advocate who has championed the crackdown on puppy mills. "Kudos to Sunrise for stepping up and not backing down from the bullies and the threat of a lawsuit. This will continue the momentum that we have already started throughout the state."

Some cities have been watching from the sidelines, waiting to see what happens in court.Other cities in Broward County that have banned the sale of mill-bred puppies and kittens include Hallandale Beach, Dania Beach, Pompano Beach, Wilton Manors, Lauderhill, Tamarac, North Lauderdale, Coconut Creek and Margate.

That includes Davie, whose attorney advised the Town Council to delay a ban until lawsuits against Sunrise and Phoenix were resolved.

But Davie Councilman Bryan Caletka says he may broach the topic again in July.

"This is following the trend," he said. "The municipal governments are winning in every single case. I may bring it up at the July 29 meeting."

Though Sunrise scored a significant victory this week, its legal battle is not over.

Judge Scola remanded a portion of the pet shop's lawsuit to state court. Ryan, an attorney, believes the city will win there too.
"We are confident we will prevail because the pet store can still sell puppies, just not those produced as a disposable product in mass-breeding operations," Ryan said."Pet stores that focus on finding homes for shelter animals flourish and generate amazing customer loyalty because of their responsible business practices."

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Michele Lazarow

400 South Federal Highway
Hallandale Beach 33009

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