In the never-ending story of Martin County Pet shops, It looks as if the fight is just heating up. Yesterdays Animal Care and Control Oversight Board meeting focused near exclusively on what recommendations the ACCOB will make to the Board of County Commissioners in regards to the highly contested Ordinance 1181- Retail pet sale ban.
In public comment, as with all occasions, many spoke about a variety of concerns. These concerns ranged from puppy mills out of state, to a question of the volume of animals sold through the shops and finally a significant amount of time discussing the legal history of one shop owner. Though these topics are loosely connected to the topic of animal sales none of them addressed the ordinance itself. It was almost as if the ordinance was irrelevant, it’s the thought that counts.
In government, it is never just the thought that counts, but instead should always focus on the practical application/feasibility of a suggestion and the legality there of. 1181 fails to meet either of those points. Not only does the ordinance halt retail sales of animals regardless of animals’ providence, but it became very clear that the goal was to specifically shutter the existing businesses, NOT to halt the practice of selling animals as a whole.
For legal reasons I will not get to weeded in what was said and by whom, I will just say this: It was made clear by multiple parties that this ordinance had specific intentions, almost all of which are biased in nature. I left that meeting with the clear indication that we the tax payer will hold the bill on an expensive legal battle that the county will almost assuredly lose.
I do believe its important to note that the ACCOB Chairman was very open to discussion and remedy for the issues that have arisen. Several times he attempted to keep the topic of discussion on the ordinance, not the specific businesses affected. After all, that is what the task was- the ordinance. For anyone who has been involved with this, I believe you all will agree, yesterday’s meeting results are of no surprise. No one should have reasonably believed that the ACCOB was going to substantially alter, or otherwise vacate their original proposal- and why should they? That board has a particular mindset, and that’s ok. They don’t bare any legal responsibility for the ordinance, they only make recommendations to the BoCC, and ultimately it is the county attorney’s office (or an outsourced lawyer) who will have to fight this in court- not the ACCOB.
Only time will tell what this outcome will be. Will shops have to stop sales in December? Maybe they will get the additional 6 months (till next June) that the ACCOB originally suggested. Is it possible that the ordinance will be rescinded by the commission- sure, but unlikely.
My suggestion is a simple one: Get rid of the poorly developed original ordinance and replace it with one that has a practical applicability to the stated goal of addressing puppy mills. The ordinance at hand demonstrates that the intended goal is merely a biased attack on existing shops/owner. By scrapping the original and substituting a new one you can both relieve the strain of emotions from these past 6 months, but also develop an ordinance with real world applicability. Finally, I hope this 6-month excursion has taught us all a very important lesson: Broad brush rules will always create collateral damage- if not today than assuredly tomorrow. What should have been an easy in and out action has become a half year ordeal with likely months of legal battle to ensue. Poor planning will always result in poor performance.