Oct 13, 2023 - News

SPCA Tampa Bay partners with breeder, sparking animal advocate outrage

Axios Visual of a black labrador puppy holding stack of dollars in mouth

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios 

SPCA Tampa Bay is challenging the "adopt don't shop" philosophy of pet rescue organizations.

Driving the news: The Largo-based nonprofit is facing backlash from local shelters and animal advocacy organizations after announcing its pilot partnership in early October with a dog breeding broker and Sunshine Puppies pet stores.

Why it matters: Animal advocates see the partnership as an endorsement of sale puppies — a betrayal of shelter animals that are often a harder sell and can end up there after being bred for retail.

Yes, but: Despite the criticism, SPCA Tampa Bay is standing firm. The organization said its mission is to prioritize animal welfare for the community, whether animals pass through the shelter or not. The organization launched a survey Wednesday to collect feedback.

Between the lines: The partnership comes after a proposed state law to ban retail sale of dogs and cats failed this year.

  • Last year, Pinellas County banned new retail pet stores from opening, but six existing stores still sell puppies. Those stores sell thousands of dogs each year, SPCA Tampa Bay said in its announcement.

How it works: Through the partnership with Pinnacle Pet, a Missouri-based breeding broker, SPCA is taking in retired breeding dogs to be adopted. Twenty have found new homes since May.

  • SPCA is also providing veterinary services to Sunshine Puppies stores in Clearwater and Largo until dogs are sold.

What they're saying: "If pet stores are going to continue selling puppies in Pinellas County, we want to have some influence on the care of those puppies after they get to our community," the organization said in its announcement.

  • Pinnacle Pet CEO Chris Fleming told ABC Action News that neither his company nor SPCA Tampa Bay will profit from the program and that it will combat puppy mills, not support them.
  • "That's just not true of the folks that we're working with," Fleming told the station."It's not the ugly abuse and, you know, solicitation of animals."

The other side: Florida Voices for Animals vice president Kimberly Gronemeyer, told ABC Action News the partnership is a "major backstab... I think every animal advocate in the area was appalled."

The program has been denounced by The Humane Society and its Tampa Bay chapter, who said they'd rather keep pushing for legislation against puppy sales instead of supporting the industry.

  • PETA launched a campaign Wednesday telling supporters to demand SPCA Tampa Bay stop the program.
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