Put puppies above profits and protect the house rule
Governor Ron DeSantis has an opportunity any politician would dream of. He may defend helpless puppies and kittens, but that means sending a harsh message to a legislature that too often takes its marching orders from profit-hungry special interests.
The competition for truly terrible legislation was fierce in 2022, but one of the worst bills passing the Legislative Assembly would require cities and counties to compensate businesses for lost revenue due to local government decisions. So if the town hall limits the opening hours of, for example, strip clubs, it could demand damages – and the taxpayers would pay.
Senate Bill 620, the so-called Local Business Protection Act, passed the state Senate, 22-14, and the House, 69-45, but has yet to survive the governor’s review. It’s the latest in a series of laws attacking the power of local self-government by arrogant, knowledgeable Tallahassee politicians who think they know what’s best for Floridians’ 21 million — even if that endangers an adorable little beagle.
[ Petland has a long history of complaints over sick, dying animals ]
[ Pet-sale ban hits bad breeders, but also trusted local pet stores | COMMENTARY ]
The proposed law could protect so-called puppy mills, high-volume, for-profit breeding operations that the Humane Society of the United States says abuse animals. The Humane Society calls this bill “a betrayal of pets and the families who love them” and urges people to tell the governor’s office they want a veto.
Tell us how shocked you are that lawmakers are siding with the mass commercialization of animals at the expense of the Humane Society and the ASPCA, both of which tried to stop this bill.
[ RELATED: Ron DeSantis worried Wilton Simpson’s prized bill would protect puppy mills. Will he veto it? ]
As journalist Jason Garcia sheds light on his corporate influence news site Seeking Rents, the bill was a priority for Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson and was heavily solicited by Petland, one of the largest for-profit pet sales operations nationwide, and its franchisees.
House records show seven Petland lobbyists have been registered to support a related bill preventing new orders restricting puppy mills, like those in Orange County, Fort Lauderdale and more than a dozen other cities in Broward, and more than 80 jurisdictions across Florida.
The pre-emption provision in this bill (SB 994 and HB 849) was eventually added as an amendment to SB 620, now directed to DeSantis’ desk.
[ RELATED: Orange County must oppose dangerous pet-store preemption bill | Commentary ]
Garcia followed the lead showing DeSantis inside lobbyists urged Simpson not to allow the bill to block new local animal protection efforts.
“A new local ordinance regulating puppy mills would expose the local government to legal action by puppy mills,” read a Feb. 23 email from the governor’s director of legislative affairs to Simpson’s chief of staff, reported. Seeking Rents.
But the Senate went ahead. Petland, which has a dozen outlets in Florida, and its affiliates have contributed more than $125,000 to Simpson’s campaign to be Florida’s next elected commissioner of agriculture.
Another recipient of Petland campaign money is Democratic Senate Leader Lauren Book of Plantation, who is up for re-election and whose father, lobbyist Ron Book, lobbied in the past in Tallahassee for a company to profit-making Florida Pet Retailers of Pembroke Pines, which owned several Petland franchises, the Miami Herald reported.
State records show Petland wrote three checks totaling $9,500 to a Lauren Book political committee, Leadership for Florida.
Book was one of two Democrats on the Senate Regulated Industries Committee who voted for the falsely labeled “protecting pets” bill (SB 994) that would have protected existing restrictions on puppy mills but would have prevented from news.
Humane Society lobbyist Kate MacFall told senators, “This bill is bad for animals and bad for Florida consumers. The bill was drafted in part by Petland lobbyists, journalist Garcia found. The roll call vote is online.
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Senator Book, a candidate for re-election to a new Senate seat in Southwest Broward, said she had gone “back and forth” on the bill, but supported a “system of regulations to protect animals. In a statement to the Sun Sentinel, she said she supported regulations “to ensure innocent animals are protected and kept healthy and safe.”
In this committee vote, she put puppy profits ahead of animal welfare. But Book then voted no — the right vote, in our opinion — on adopting SB 620. The Humane Society called Book a strong animal welfare advocate on issues such as the requirement for protective children to report incidents of animal abuse.
Book’s Democratic opponent, former Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, said: ‘This bill (SB 994) would have prevented local governments from shutting down the cruel and unnecessary puppy mill pipeline . This is another example of some Democrats allowing Republicans in Tallahassee to replace local government. It was a horrible vote for Florida and for anyone who loves pets.
Attorney General Ashley Moody is suing two for-profit retailers in Orlando for allegedly selling sick and dying puppies to unsuspecting families.
We are confident that DeSantis can determine right from wrong in this matter and that he will veto this terrible legislation. But it comes with risks, because just about every Republican in the House and Senate voted for it, and a veto would expose them all to be on the side of profiteers, not helpless puppies.
In a state with millions of animal lovers, this is no place to be when you’re running for re-election.
The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board includes Managing Editor Julie Anderson, Opinion Editor Krys Fluker, Viewpoints Managing Editor Jay Reddick, and El Sentinel Managing Editor Jennifer Marcial Ocasio. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board is made up of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Editorial Page Associate Editor Dan Sweeney, and Anderson. To share your insights, email email@example.com.
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