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County votes for new pet restrictions

By LINDA GIBSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2000


TAMPA -- The Hillsborough County Commission unanimously passed a new law Wednesday night that governs pets throughout the county, replacing an ordinance from 1981.

The new law requires owners of ferrets to have them vaccinated and registered; requires cats that go outdoors to be sterilized and marked with tags, a tattoo, a microchip or an ear tag to identify its owner; mandates that veterinarians make rabies tags available; orders pet owners to clean up any feces their animals deposit on property other than their own; and prohibits pet owners from letting their animals ride unfettered in the back of pickup trucks.

The law's passage is the latest chapter in a long-running saga that County Administrator Dan Kleman described as "an extraordinary odyssey."

A committee formed in March 1992 tried to update the ordinance. Animal rights activists, breeders, veterinarians and county employees haggled for four years over its provisions.

A second committee started work in March 1998. Members were so nervous, given the acrimony generated by the first committee, that they had a sheriff's deputy present at their first several meetings, said member Bob Eckle.

Bill Armstrong, who now heads the Animal Services department, said this committee was careful to solicit public opinion while drafting the law.

The law passed Wednesday with little debate. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2001.

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