Solicitation ordinance looms, but questions remain

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SARASOTA--Encouraged by honks and hollers, picketers lined up along U.S. 41 Sunday outside Puppy Town in Sarasota.

"Honestly I just want to educate people," said protest organizer Farrel Hansen.

Like they've done previously, local animal advocates encouraged drivers to avoid shopping at pet stores like Puppy Town, which they say purchase dogs from puppy mills.

But some advocates fear with the new solicitation ordinance set to begin Monday, their days of peaceful protest, could be numbered.

"We have issues with the ordinance because it says nobody is supposed to be protesting on roadways or sidewalks which is basically against the first amendment," said Hansen.

But that isn't quite the case, showing that while the ordinance is coming, many people may not fully understand it.

"It's not for when somebody is standing holding a sign in protest or expressing their freedom of saying like, 'I don't agree with abortion or I do agree with abortion,' its not in those instances," said Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino.

What protects this group of protesters is the fact that they're not hoping for any kind of transaction between themselves and motorists--something panhandlers looking for money are.

The picketers outside Puppy Town also said the ordinance did not apply to them since they told ABC7 News they were outside of city limits.

That's also incorrect, as they could be seen standing just north of the sign denoting city limits, putting them under the new law, despite not being in violation.

"I am one hundred percent confident this issue is not done," aid DiPino, "we're going to do the best that we can but I'm sure there's going to be more to this story."