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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Sep. 22, 2021 8 months ago

Ocoee City Commission votes to bring pet store ordinance back later

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After over three hours of comment and discussion, the commission voted 4-1 to have further discussion on the ordinance.
by: Chris Martucci Sports Editor

What was anticipated to be a night of fireworks proved to be a dud as the Ocoee City Commission voted to bring the discussion of an ordinance regulating pet stores back later. 

The store in question, Chews a Puppy, is the only one within the city limits that sells puppies. A potential ordinance would prevent any stores in the future from selling dogs, cats and rabbits due to the Orange County ordinance banning those sales. 

During the over one-hour public comment, speakers from both sides of the debate stated their case as to why the commission should or should not adopt the ordinance. 

Current and former employees of Chews A Puppy spoke on why the store should be exempted from any ordinance. The store was opened in 2018 and, according to the owners, has sold over 6,300 puppies for adoption since they opened. 

Some of the employees recounted how their experience working at the store has changed them and the joy they got when seeing families be paired with a puppy. The owners assured the commission that they have the highest standards when it comes to working with breeders and the puppies’ health. 

When confronted about their “F” rating on the Better Business Bureau’s website, they said it is because they don’t use BBB to settle disputes and encourage customers to contact them directly. 

On the other side of the debate, representatives from Orange County Animal Services, Pet Alliance, and even Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson appeared to speak on why the ordinance should be implemented with the same language as the Orange County ordinance passed back in June. 

Some of the reasons they named for this is because of the presence of so-called “puppy mills”, which they say have low standards of cleanliness and are hotbeds for diseases and other problems in some of the puppies; the interest of public health from these diseases, especially with COVID still around; and due to Seminole County and other areas in Florida passing similar ordinances. 

During discussion, the issue of so-called “home rule” was prevalent. Mayor Rusty Johnson and Commissioner Larry Brinson said that the commission should do what it thinks is right for the city of Ocoee rather than just falling in line with Orange County’s ordinance. 

After over approximately a half-hour of discussion, the commission voted 4-1 to direct city staff to meet with the owners of Chews A Puppy and discuss what regulatory oversight measures can be implemented into a potential ordinance before bringing it back to the commission for a vote. 

Commissioner Richard Firstner was the only dissenter. He believed that the city’s ordinance should be the Orange County ordinance word for word. 

The other major item on the commission’s agenda, a temporary moratorium on any future self-storage facilities, passed unanimously. 

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Chris Martucci was the sports editor for the West Orange Times & Observer,  Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. He holds a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri — Columbia School of Journalism, as well as a bachelor's degree in digital media...

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