Roadside pet sales and the Byzantine ways of local governments
Picture it: A dark, new-model SUV parked by the roadside with metal crates packed into the cargo compartment. The hatch is up, from which a sign dangles lazily on this windless day. A woman sits a few feet away on a fold-up chair under the partial shade afforded by her striped umbrella. Inside the SUV, puppies are milling around, two to three large breed pups to a cage. Akitas? The hand-scrawled sign reads: “Puppy’s for SALE.”
The Miami sun blazes down onto the scene as I pass by on my way home from a short Saturday of work. I notice the woman holds up a kitten in a unique gesture of supplication as each car whizzes by.
I pull over a hundred yards beyond and dial 311 (the line for reporting minor violations and getting routed to the correct municipal department or County office for your issue). In this area, I’m told, I have to wait for the zoning enforcement officer. They won’t be sending a cruiser, despite my pleas.
I dial Animal Services. A toneless voice repeats the policy. There’s no loose animal posing a danger to society. Consequently, this kind of animal offense is treated more as a zoning violation first (selling things without a proper vendor’s permit) then it’s up to the officer’s discretion if more charges are warranted.
What if a dog were locked in a hot car? Would you respond differently?
“Ma’am, that’s how we handle these things,” the noncommittal voice drones on.
The last time this happened I waited for the cruiser. That time it was in a tonier district, though, where “more dangerous” crime is not so much the issue as keeping the peace among neighbors.
Knowing no officer was being dispatched, this time I sat in my car wondering whether I should confront the woman at the scene. I should leave my car here, I reasoned, so she won’t be able to get my plate number should she take major offense at my bluff to move off quickly before the cops arrive.
As I’m deliberating, I see her start to pack up. Perhaps she’s realized it’s too hot for the pups. Maybe she’s more responsible than she looks. I wonder is my presence has scared her off, figuring I’m up to no good as far as she’s concerned.
Whatever the case, she’s on the move. I’m free to drive home and get my own dogs out of this increasingly toasty vehicle of mine.