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The practice of selling animals in local open air markets has created an outcry on Facebook and led to a petition on change.org, but a local pet dealer has a different perspective on flea market puppy sales.
Some local residents are against sales of animals at Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park on weekends.
Tammy Sommers started the No Sales of Animals at Wagon Wheel Facebook page after seeing photos and going to the market, where she said she observed plastic wrapping on cages and empty water bowls.
"Imagine being in a fur coat in a tent," she said.
Sommers' goal is the proper treatment of the animals, providing them with adequate ventilation and water, she said.
Mary Barrett, who started the petition to stop the sale of live animals at Florida open air markets, also has animal welfare concerns.
Barrett said selling animals at flea markets is just one part of a larger pet overpopulation problem in Pinellas County. Barrett coordinates a dog rescue group in Gulfport, and she has concerns for the breeding practices and the health of the animals, she said.
Puppy Seller's Side of the Story
Mitch Pelletier sells puppies at a local flea market. Pelletier says he could buy dogs from puppy mills. Instead, he gets the puppies from local families who have unwanted or unexpected litters, he said.
Pelletier is very familiar with the social media posts against selling animals at flea markets.
"I am just amazed at the attacks. They just assume I am a bad guy," Pelletier said.
"I am a problem solver. I get local litters and clean them up," he said.
Pelletier says he has had various agencies inspect him over the years.
Recently, Pinellas County Animal Services investigated Pelletier's animal sales at Wagon Wheel and found the conditions were acceptable, said Interim Animal Services Director Will Davis.
Pelletier, of Playpen Puppies, is a licensed pet dealer. However, he was cited for not providing health certificates when several puppies were sold, Davis said.
Pelletier says he was not using the USDA forms, but rather a form from a local veterinary. He said he would be using the USDA forms on future sales.
Animal Cruelty Charge
Pelletier also faces a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge not directly related to his flea market puppy sales.
A pit bull puppy was found without food or water in a cage on the porch of Pelletier's Ulmerton Road home, according to the SPCA.
Pelletier says he was up north over Christmas. When someone texted him and asked him to take a puppy back and find it another home. Pelletier said he was just trying to help the family and he expected one of the people who take care of the animals at his store on 66th Street North to be able to go by his home and get the dog.
"I couldn't find anyone to pick up the puppy during Christmas Day because they were all at family functions. My puppy caretaker was supposed to pick the puppy up on Monday...the SPCA got there first because the puppy was barking," Pelletier wrote in an email.
The SPCA said the puppy was left alone on the porch for three days and found by a neighbor. The dog ended up being adopted by a family through the SPCA.
The court case concerning the animal cruelty charge is not scheduled for trial until September.