Concerned About Puppy Mills, Hollywood Moves to Regulate Pet Stores

In 2004, Michele Lazarow purchased a Maltese from Puppy Palace, a pet store on Hollywood Boulevard. Lazarow says the clerk assured her that her puppy did not come from a so-called "puppy mill," where pets are bred in inhumane conditions. But three years later, Lazarow’s dog was diagnosed with a genetic disorder that caused the lymph vessels in the dog’s intestines to dilate. She later learned that Puppy Palace was linked to a controversial, large-scale breeder in Iowa, and believes that her dog’s illness might have been a complication of a puppy mill.

“It’s not just that my dog was sick,” Lazarow tells New Times, “it’s the fact that I was lied to. The more I spoke to people and the more I listened, the more I learned that this industry is built on lies.”

In 2012, Lazarow was elected to the Hallandale Beach City Commission. She continued caring for her sick dog until he died in 2014. But she is determined to prevent the same thing from happening to other pets and has since adopted three dogs rescued from puppy mills.

Forty-five other cities in Florida have passed laws that regulate pet stores — and Lazarow has been credited with spearheading this push. She has made no friends with pet store owners, who insist they don’t purchase from shady puppy mills and that these laws are putting them out of business.

Lazarow’s years-long effort will come to a head June 1 at the Hollywood City Commission meeting, where the bill will receive its final vote. At its first reading on April 20, the ordinance passed 5-2. It "prohibit[s] the sale of dogs and cats from pet shops; providing for exceptions, requiring a certificate of source; providing for a severability clause, a repealer provision, and an effective date." 

If passed next week, the law would prevent Puppy Palace from selling any more animals that come from breeders, except those approved by the American Kennel Association or American Cat Fanciers Association. Also, animals from shelters or rescues could be purchased from the store.

“This is a no-brainer,” Lazarow says. “We can pass this in Hollywood and we should.”

Puppy Palace declined to speak on the allegations and referred comment to their lobbyist, Ron Book, who has not returned a message from New Times. Judy Norford, the store’s owner, has said she only buys from breeders and inspects them personally. She claims it’s an American right to choose where a person can adopt and buy a pet.

So far, bans have been passed in 13 other Broward cities including Hallandale Beach, where Puppy Palace had another location but is no longer operating.

Norford has worked with Puppy Palace in Florida since 1994. She was married to Steven Kruse, who owns StoneHenge Kennels in Iowa. In January 2015, an inspector found multiple violations at his facility, with photos showing blood on walls, overcrowding, and rusty cages. Between August and December 2015, records with the State of Iowa Department of Agriculture show that Puppy Palace in Hollywood purchased animals from Kruse eight times.

“At the end of the day, this really should be about the dogs,” Lazarow says. “If you vote against this ordinance, you are not voting to protect businesses, you are voting to protect cruelty.”
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson