Los Angeles is slated to become the largest city in the U.S. to ban pet shops from selling cats, dogs and rabbits bought from commercial breeders. The new law will require retail pet stores to only sell rescued animals.
The LA City Council tentatively adopted the ordinance with a 12-2 vote. Officials hope the ban will have an impact on puppy mills, but its primary purpose is to decrease the estimated 500,000 pets that are euthanized annually in LA city-operated shelters. Statistics given by Best Friends Animal Society show that Los Angeles takes in one million homeless animals each year and about half are put to death.
Longtime animal rights supporter, Councilman Paul Kortez, introduced the ordinance to stop the pet overpopulation crisis in the city. A final vote is due this week and the ban will reviewed in 3 years to determine its success.
Pet shop owners are calling the restrictions “unfair and unnecessary.” Candice Ro, owner of Olympic Pet Shop, complained the ban will make her business suffer. She told the L.A. Times that her family business only sells puppies purchased from “local breeders who take good care of their animals.”
Ro is missing the point of the restrictions: to save the lives of existing homeless pets that are being euthanized at ridiculously high rates. Pet stores like hers will now have the opportunity to save lives by adopting rescued cats, dogs and rabbits to people who want to add a pet to their family. When pet overpopulation hits rates like those in LA, there is no room to add new animals to the equation.
Individuals will still be allowed to buy directly from breeders, but pet stores will be limited to selling animals from shelters, humane societies and registered rescue groups. Stores that violate the ban could face misdemeanor charges and a penalty of $250, which would increase with repeat offenses.
Animal rights activists pushed for the ban, which has already been adopted in smaller cities in Southern California such as Irvine, Hermosa Beach and West Hollywood.
The public appears to be behind the new regulation and isn’t giving much sympathy to pet shop owners.
A letter to the editor in the LA Times congratulated the City Council and said, “The ordinance would prevent animals from suffering in puppy mills and save the lives of countless homeless animals by encouraging people to adopt. Pet stores can still make a mint by selling companion animal supplies and accessories. Live animal sales account for only a small fraction of pet stores’ profits.” Estimates show that Americans spent $11 billion on animal supplies in 2011.
The new ordinance is vitally important to putting an end to homeless animals in all sorts of ways:
- Animal lovers who would never go into a shelter to adopt will now be introduced to these great pets right in their own neighborhoods. Shelters are often located in hard to reach parts of town and some people have an aversion to walking into a shelter where they know animals are euthanized.
- Keeping rescued cats and dogs in pet shops will dispel myths that animals housed in shelters have done something wrong or are intrinsically bad. People will get to see firsthand how rescued animals are as loving and deserving of a home as any other pet.
- The ordinance will let potential pet owners learn that shelters are full of pedigree dogs and cats and they will still be able to adopt their favorite breed. It will also introduce them to the unique qualities of mixed breeds.
City wide pet shop bans are gaining momentum. Earlier this year Toronto, Canada adopted a policy to sell only rescued pets and the city of Chicago has pledged to follow Los Angeles after the City Council gives its final approval of the ban this week.
Photo Credit: Santurnism