Animal lovers all over the country are watching San Francisco to see what action, if any, city officials will take on a proposal to ban the sales of most pets. The idea started out simply enough when Philip Gerrie of the city's Animal Control & Welfare Commission suggested San Francisco join West Hollywood and South Lake Tahoe in prohibiting most puppy and kitten sales in pet stores. Only one store in the city sells puppies on a regular basis, but according to Gerrie, "large pet stores were considering moving into the city that do sell puppies."
Gerrie's plan took on a life of its own when others suggested the ban be expanded to include other animals he hadn't initially considered, like birds and so-called "pocket pets" like hamsters and rats. (Rabbit sales are already verboten. Reptiles, amphibians and fish probably wouldn't be covered by the ban.) According to Rebecca Katz, head of the city's animal control department, hamsters are euthanized at a higher rate than any other type of animal the department takes in. Birds were added to the list because of "their sensitivity and inappropriateness as pets; they are wild animals," Gerrie said.
So far, public opinion seems to be divided on the proposal, which hasn't yet been formally written and won't be voted on by the Animal Control & Welfare Commission next month. (If it gets the commission's stamp of approval, it'll move on to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors.) Some rescuers love the idea, which, after all, is aimed at keeping pets out of animal shelters. A group of pet-store owners, naturally, staunchly opposes it.
Even Humane Society of the United States leader Wayne Pacelle hasn't leapt on board. "I think the best thing would be to start with [banning] the sale of dogs and cats from these pet stores," he said. "I think [with a ban affecting more species] you attract a set of additional opponents that sink an otherwise achievable goal."
Learn more about the proposal in reporter Maria La Ganga's recent story in The Times.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: A bird at a pet store in San Francisco. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times