Orange County Commission considering ban of retail store puppy sales

ORLANDO, Fla. — A local woman vows to never buy another puppy from a pet store after spending thousands of dollars on a sick pet, just as the Orange County Commission is considering an ordinance banning the sale of all retail store puppies.

“Would you ever buy a puppy from a retail store again?” Todd Ulrich asked.

“Never, I would never buy a puppy from a retail store,” Kymbrell Smith replied.

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Smith loves the English bulldog she bought as a puppy last September at Petland in Waterford Lakes. She paid nearly $4,800, but four days after purchase, she rushed the dog to the store’s recommended vet. According to Smith, the doctor found the dog’s breathing and overall condition were troublesome.

“He said the dog was unfit for sale and he recommended we take the dog back to Petland,” Smith said.

She says another Petland-approved vet disagreed, but the store gave her a partial $3,000 and she kept the dog.

Smith says she’s facing pricey vet bills, and the experience has left her supporting a ban on puppy sales.

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Next month, Orange County Commissioners will consider two puppy sale ordinances. One ordinance is a complete retail ban, and the other ordinance allows seven existing stores to continue selling puppies, but no more.

“Orange County should not be a dumping ground for puppy mills,” John Goodwin said.

Goodwin leads the Humane Society’s campaign to stop puppy mills. His group claims that area retailers have imported 2,000 puppies from the Midwest in just two years, with many of the dogs coming from breeders on its “Horrible Hundred” report, which contains puppy breeders with several violations or citations.

“They get these puppy mill puppies, and they’re usually sick, and then sell them to unsuspecting families stuck with thousands in vet bills,” Goodwin said.

Action 9′s investigations into one of those stores uncovered dozens of customer complaints about expensive bills to treat sick puppies, many that died.

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A year ago, Florida’s Attorney General, Ashley Moody, filed an unfair and deceptive trade action against Petland in Waterford Lakes.

“They were sick or dying. They had escalated vet bills and Petland refused to take the dogs back,” Moody said.

Since then, 60 more customers have complained to the Attorney General’s office.

Petland in Waterford Lakes told Action 9 it offered Smith a full refund and paid vet bills until the dog recovered.

Managers told Ulrich that purchasing puppies from retail stores gives consumers greater transparency and protections since pet store sales are regulated by state and federal laws.

Smith still believes in a puppy sale ban.

“I would absolutely support it,” Smith said.

A ban on retail puppy sales is spreading. 12 Florida counties have some kind of ban in place, and another 70 cities across the state have also taken action.

Petland Orlando East Management response:

The customer purchased the puppy from our store in September 2020. At the store’s expense, the puppy was treated at a veterinarian that specializes in bulldogs. The customer asked for a refund or exchange during the time of treatment. The store agreed to refund her for the puppy. She then refused the offered refund and threatened to sue the store.  The store continued to pay for the puppy treatment at the veterinarian who specializes in Bulldogs until the puppy recovered.  This customer has not been in touch with the store since September 2020.

We believe a case like this shows the importance of having pet stores as an option for customers to purchase from.  Pet stores are the only source who are governed by county, state, and USDA regulations. Customers who buy from pet stores are afforded transparency and consumer protections such as health warranties and Florida Statute 828.29 (pet lemon law) that are not given from any other source.  Specifically, this customer, Kymbrell Smith, did not abide by her warranty or Florida Statute 828.29 but was still given the option for a full refund for her puppy.

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.