TAMPA, Fla. - Last week, Hillsborough County shut down a dog breeding business called Trish's All Breeds Pet Grooming for allegedly holding animals in dangerous and dirty conditions.
This week, county commissioners met to talk about strengthening the current retail animal ordinance.
“Initially looking at it, there are ways, I don’t want to say loopholes, but there are ways we can tighten it up and target the illegitimate commercial breeders," Commissioner Ken Hagan told FOX 13 News.
The commissioner issued a stern warning to law-breaking breeders like the facility in East Tampa: “You better look over your shoulder because Hillsborough County is coming after you."
Animal control and law enforcement seized more than 350 dogs Sept. 23 from the business on E. Diana Street. The dogs ranged in age from newborn puppies to adults, and were living in what one animal control worker described as "filth."
Hillsborough County prosecutors are presenting the case to the state attorney for possible criminal charges.
The ordeal made officials take a fresh look at a law put in place years ago, which intended to prevent this exact thing from happening. In 2017, the county changed the way breeders are allowed to sell pets; requiring inspection reports, county registration, and making sure breeders have no recent violations.
Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center Director Scott Trebatowski said the law could do more to keep places like Trish's out of business.
"A lot of the reason it took as long as it did is because of due process and various legal filings," he said. “I’m not sure how much sooner, but it would have given us more tools."
Neither Hagan nor Trebatowski gave specifics on what changes they're looking to make, but Trebatowski says he is looking at other counties' pet retail ordinances to see how they stack up to Hillsborough's.
"I really don't think theirs are any better than ours," he said." I think everybody has their issues."
Trebatowski recommended changes from the top, down, meaning at the state and federal levels.
"One example of that is when we had to ask the USDA to come in for an inspection, and they said there was a loophole because [Trish's] bred and sold the animals on the same property," he said. "Every level of government could do some level of improvement."
The dogs taken from Trish's were moved to an emergency facility run by the Pet Resource Center. The most recent video from inside the facility shows some of the animals still in need of care. Many were pregnant, so the Pet Resource Center said the original number of 350 will certainly grow.
"The dogs are doing much better, we are finding some additional medical issues that required us to do more thorough exams so we do have a few more issues than we initially thought we did, but it's all stuff we can resolve," Trebatowski said.