GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. - It's a hot topic in Clay County: Whether mobile businesses like mobile pet clinics should be allowed to set up shop, as they have done for years.
Traditional veterinarians say the transient clinics have an unfair advantage because they don't pay the same taxes. On Tuesday, the County Commission will hold a public meeting on the issue and possibly vote on an ordinance that would restrict the days and hours mobile businesses can operate.
Dr. Craig Price has been caring for Clay County pets for 26 years at Black Creek Veterinary Hospital and at the the Clay/Duval County Emergency Clinic. He says it's just not fair that mobile businesses get to set up shop without paying their dues.
"If I'm required to pay fees and permits and licenses and signage fees, so should the next guy," Dr. Price says. "And I think that's the biggest thing."
That's why he and other local vets are pushing the County Commission to do something about it.
The commission is considering an ordinance that would require mobile business in unincorporated areas to get a county permit, pay an application fee, provide proof of at least $500,000 in liability insurance, be at least 1,500 feet away from a similar local businesses and have written permission from the property owner or manager.
Mobile businesses would be limited to four permits a year. Each permit would limit the business operations to a maximum of four hours.
"Nobody's trying to put anybody out of business," says Dr. Michelle Stallions, owner of Green Cove Animal Hospital "That's not at all what this is about."
Stallions admits she and other local vets have seen a drop in business since mobile clinics arrived in Clay County, but says this is an issue for all business owners in the county, not just vets.
"We veterinarians have been kind of uncomfortably forced into the position of defending ourselves because quite frankly it's a veterinary business that's brought this issue to light," Stallions says. "If it were a dental business, dentists would be in the same position that we are."
The veterinarians say it's not just about the business side of this but about consistent health care for pets. The vets here believe having an established family vet can help detect and prevent health issues.
And for those who say they turn to mobile clinics for cost concerns, Dr. Tiffany Mosely says low-cost clinics are out there, and traditional vets can step in, too.
"Maybe we can talk to you about other options... credit, payment plans," says Dr. Tiffany Mosley. "You know there are so many options. We would rather you discuss that with us because we know and love your pet than go to a parking lot."
Still, many are turning out to those parking lots, where Pet Shots owner David Watkins says it's choice that shouldn't be dictated by the government, but a matter of free enterprise, that could soon have a resolution.
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