The puppy mill industry has no rightful place in our humane society. Fortunately, Los Angeles recently took a huge stride toward preventing animals from suffering in puppy mills and reducing the number of homeless animals by becoming the largest city to date to ban the sale of commercially bred animals in pet stores. Passed on October 31st by Los Angeles’ City Council in a landslide victory, the new ordinance will require that all dogs, cats and rabbits sold in retail pet stores in Los Angeles come from shelters, humane societies and rescue groups. Violators of the ban could face misdemeanor charges and fines ranging from $250 to $1,000 for repeat offenses. Individuals are still permitted to buy directly from breeders. The public seems to be overwhelmingly behind the new law. In fact, Los Angeles joins the more than 30 cities in North America that already ban the sale of non-rescue pets, including cities throughout California such as Irvine, Hermosa Beach, Glendale, South Lake Tahoe, Orange County and West Hollywood.
San Francisco, by comparison, has not yet enacted a similar retail pet sale ban (although the sale of rabbits is prohibited). In 2011, the Animal Control and Welfare Commission recommended that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors pass an ordinance to ban the retail pet store sale of dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish (the original intent was to prohibit only the sale of dogs and cats, and then later also birds and hamsters). Ultimately, the proposed legislation was unable to attract a sponsoring supervisor, and many members of the public dismissed the notion outright as overly expansive and restrictive or, as one opponent quipped, the “furthest reaching proposal in the nation.” The initiative did not come before the Board.
Given the political landscape of a city that is consistently ranked “America’s Most Humane City,” San Francisco’s humane advocates must certainly now ask, did San Francisco then bite off more than it could chew?
Today, on the heels of the exciting victory in Los Angeles, San Francisco’s animal welfare advocates (including the San Francisco SPCA) should collectively revive our own efforts to ban non-rescue retail pet sales in San Francisco – this time with an eye toward the virtues of compromise. By surveying local political receptiveness and addressing the potential shortcomings of our city’s previous approach, San Francisco has the opportunity to craft an initiative that will prevent (if not all, at least some) animals from suffering in commercial breeding facilities and save the lives of countless homeless animals by encouraging people to adopt.
Hopefully, the recent measure to ban the sale of commercially bred animals in pet stores in Los Angeles will inspire a similar movement across the country, including in San Francisco. Although only a small number of stores in San Francisco sell live animals (as reported by the AWC last year, four stores sell dogs and ten stores sell other live animals), a ban comparable to Los Angeles’ would importantly signal our city’s steadfast dedication to animal welfare and reaffirm its rightful status as the nations’ humane leader.
Until then, the San Francisco SPCA encourages its supporters to purchase pet supplies from stores that do not support puppy mills. Several local stores have publicly promised to abstain from selling puppies and encourage their customers to adopt a dog or find a responsible breeder.