The public comment section of the Dec. 10 Sarasota County Commission meeting lasted for longer than two hours.
At least 25 attendees spoke in favor of or against commissioners advertising a public hearing about an ordinance banning the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits at local pet stores. Commissioners persuaded both sides of the argument to allow only three additional speakers from each side of the issue to proceed to the rest of the agenda.
Commissioners voted to delay the decision so the office of County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh could further review the proposed ordinance and offer an opinion.
"Clearly there are some legal concerns," DeMarsh said.
Proponents claimed the measure would prevent the sale of animals churned out of unsanitary and cruel conditions of out-of-state "puppy mills." While opponents, mostly owners and employees of local pet shops, said the ordinance unfairly demonizes their industry and restricts the freedom of choice for Sarasota County residents.
"I'm just concerned that we're treading water here in free enterprise," said Commissioner Joe Barbetta.
"Nobody in this room supports puppy mills," said Seascape Aquarium and Pet Center owner Rick Marot. "But, you're going about this all the wrong way."