SARASOTA (FOX 13) - They waited hours to be heard.
"Any reputable breeders would not sell to a pet store," said one speaker.
Each person had three minutes to speak.
"This is a business. People that owe something and we are all fighting the same battle, we love puppies," said another speaker.
Dozens packed the Sarasota County Commission chamber to ask commissioners to regulate the sale of puppies, kittens and rabbits in pet stores. It is a ban on what some called "puppy mill sales."
"I purchased both of my puppies from retail stores. Each of them has had 100 percent acute problems," said a speaker.
At the center of debate is Petland in Sarasota County. The company said they purchase their dogs from legitimate breeders.
"I work hand-in-hand with the breeders. I go out, boots on the ground, to my breeders. I meet the people shake their hands," said Petland owner Brad Parker.
Past employees have cried foul.
"Someone has to give them a voice because otherwise they will be stuck behind that window," said Rylee Barr, who said she worked at Petland for more than a year. "I saw a company that had no problems masking these things and selling these dogs to customers."
Barr said she walked off the job after seeing what she called the mistreatment of a puppy which she said died in her arms.
Petland said Barr is a disgruntled employee.
The owner and managers invited FOX 13 into the store. Our cameras captured images of puppies that appeared to be healthy and employees cleaning their enclosures.
Petland said they have had issues with some pets, but that is the part of doing business.
"We work with a lot of puppies. Some come in and get sick. It is like taking your child to daycare sometimes. They are going to get a cold, but we don't have dead, dying dogs here," insisted Petland kennel manager Jennifer Kennedy.
Passions are already high and this is just the preliminary round. Monday's meeting was simply to decide whether the commission should hold a public hearing.
Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the public hearing and it has been scheduled for January 27.