by Anna Cooke, Editor, The New Barker dog magazine.
Michele Lazarow, Vice Mayor of Hallandale Beach, has played a big role in the movement to ban the sale of puppies and kittens in Florida retail stores. It is a movement that has taken hold in cities across the country.
“Michele has been a huge part of this movement in Florida,” said Amy Jesse, Puppy Mills Policy Director at The Humane Society of the United States. “Passing these ordinances shuts off a huge supply chain for the puppy mill industry. We don’t like to draw generalizations that every single pet store is getting their puppies from mills. But, the vast majority do.”
Lazarow purchased a puppy from a Hollywood pet store about 14 years ago. Alfie had been marked down to $900, and he was chronically ill until he died at the age of 10 in May 2014. Lazarow’s heartbreaking experience both angered and inspired her. In 2011 she began a crusade to ban retail puppy sales in Hallandale Beach by first sending packets of information to City Commissioners. It wasn’t easy, but after a year, she was finally able to get a law on the books.
Lazarow’s aim is to protect the consumer who might not be aware of their rights under the state’s puppy “lemon” law. The statute provides legal recourse for consumers who buy cats or dogs that become ill or die shortly after purchase.
Early on, Lazarow was the face of this movement in Florida. “But now officials are doing this on their own,” she said. Having led protests outside pet stores, educated officials and counseled people who needed advice after coming home with a sick puppy, Lazarow’s dedication to the cause has won her both friend and foe.
Keith London, a City of Hallandale Beach Commissioner, said of Lazarow, “She’s speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves. And, she’s effective. She went from being a total neophyte to getting ordinances passed in more than 40 Florida communities.”
Lazarow has helped lead the fight for most of those bans by talking behind the scenes with city officials, rallying local animal advocates to become involved, and speaking out at public meetings. She makes no apologies to her naysayers.
“I have advocated and educated colleagues in communities across Florida and helped pass legislation in over 50 cities and counties, saving residents heartache over sick and ill puppies while at the same time helping to stop massive animal cruelty,” she said. “I do this work all day, every day. I have devoted most of my time and energy to continuing this work.”
The next big issue in the upcoming 2019 Florida Legislative Session will be pet store lobbyists attempting, once again, to preempt local municipalities from puppy mill ordinances. “We’ll be ready,” said Lazarow.
Get Involved. For updates and information on animal advocacy issues in Florida, visit AllianceAnimalWelfare.org
Also, join Change Animal Welfare Laws in Florida and Beyond on Facebook for updates. During the 2019 Florida Legislative Session, consider attending Humane Lobby Day on March 12 in Tallahassee. You’ll learn more about the issues and how you can help.