FLORENCE — A city ordinance approved this month is designed to prevent the sale of dogs and cats from so-called "puppy mills" that have negative reputations.

The ordinance prevents pet stores and pet shops from selling dogs and cats unless they are from an animal shelter or reputable animal rescue organization.

Mayor Steve Holt said the action is a preventative measure in the event a future business attempts to do so. He said the city's three existing pet shops — Pet Depot, Petco and PetSmart — do not sell dogs and cats.

"Our pet stores are all outstanding businesses," Holt said. "This will be more likely to come from the outside, where maybe a tractor-trailer comes through and sells them to a store and then the store resells them."

He said Florence's ordinance is patterned from others in nearby cities such as Huntsville and Athens.

The three pets stores in Florence confirmed they do not sell dogs and cats.

PetSmart spokeswoman Erin Gray emailed a statement, saying: "While this legislation would not directly affect PetSmart because we do not sell dogs or cats, we believe that enhanced regulations on breeders to ensure that all animals are raised in humane environments are more effective than measures that restrict pet parents' choices."

Florence-Lauderdale Animal Services Director Cheryl Jones said all three of the local pet stores have assisted her office by hosting pet adoptions.

"They don't sell from a breeder," Jones said. "If you could trust that you were getting them from a decent place, that would be one thing, but puppy mills are just notorious for not selling healthy puppies."

Jones said there are reputable breeders in the area, and this does not prevent them from selling dogs and cats directly to an owner.

"Reputable breeders are strictly breeder-to-owner transitions," she said.

Jones said she also has heard about breeders pulling 18-wheelers filled with animals up to a store and selling the animals.

"The first problem is, they get them from breeders who are on the Humane Society's Horrible 100 list," she said. "Sometimes, these pets carry diseases. There have been cases where employees and the public get sick from diseases that can cross into humans.

"We would be the ones to get those puppies if the owners couldn't handle them anymore," Jones added. "We certainly don't want to add to a pipeline trucking in from other states."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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