“… Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
— Fifth Amendment U.S. Constitution
“This is about protecting the welfare of the animals.”
— Commissioner Paul Caragiulo
What about the welfare of people?
When we connected with Petland Sarasota owner Brad Parker this week, he said he was still decompressing and trying to remain calm after what happened to him Jan. 27 at the Sarasota County Commission meeting. That’s when commissioners voted 3-2 to ban retail puppy and kitten sales in Sarasota County.
A year from now, Parker will be forced by Sarasota County government to cease selling puppies and kittens.
“Our business will not be sustainable” without those sales, Parker told us.
Parker and his wife have been one of the Petland chain’s top franchisees for the past decade. Their first and flagship store has been open in Kennesaw, Ga., for the past 15 years. For two consecutive years, 2012 and 2013, they won the chain’s store of the year award. They were nominated for the award in 2014 and 2015.
When Parkers acquired the Petland Sarasota store on Fruitville Road in December 2014, they invested their life savings and obtained a bank loan, personally guaranteeing the loan. Parker says they still owe $500,000 on the loan.
They were optimistic when they acquired what was then an underperforming store. In a year of operating, they spruced up the interior of the Sarasota store and hired new employees. Sales increased 50% in their first year.
“It’s evident the community wants our business,” Parker told us.
The free market speaks. If, say, Parker’s Sarasota store were selling diseased or inferior puppies and kittens, sales would not go up 50%. Or if, say, Parker were an unethical business operator, Petland would not be citing Parker among its top operators for four consecutive years.
But all that, clearly, didn’t matter. With Sarasota County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo one of the most ardent advocates, three of the five county commissioners — Caragiulo, Charles Hines and Alan Maio — voted to ban puppy and kitten sales at retail pet stores operating in Sarasota County. (Commissioners Carolyn Mason and Christine Robinson voted against the ban.)
And with that vote, county commissioners confiscated Parker’s property. They did what dictators do — take away Parker’s property and livelihood.
They would argue Parker can still operate as a pet store — selling birds and turtles, gold fish, pet food, pet toys and the like. But by the force of their county law, commissioners declared Parker can no longer sell what is regarded around the U.S. as legal products.
Mind you, it’s OK if an individual or a hobby breeder wants to sell puppies from his pet’s litter in the county. But the County Commission has selectively banned retail pet-store owners from doing the same.
Clearly, this is a taking.
And as such, according to the Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, Parker is, and is likely to be, entitled to just compensation.
County commissioners should be prepared.
“I’m not going to let the commissioners decide the fate of my business,” Parker told us.
While it is admirable and compassionate for Commissioner Caragiulo and his colleagues to look out for the welfare of animals, they egregiously overreached. They succumbed to zealous animal advocates at the expense of law-abiding citizens and businesses.
This will be an expensive lesson for commissioners (alas, at taxpayers’ expense). And they should know better: Stay out of people’s businesses. The free market — not government — is always the shrewdest judge of right and wrong.