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Irvine bans retail pet sales, rodeos, some circuses

October 12, 2011 | 11:36 am

Russo's Spectrum Pets

Animal activists, including one man dressed in a head-to-toe dog costume, cheered Tuesday night when Irvine City Council members banned the retail sale of cats and dogs.

The ordinance, which passed by a 4-1 vote with Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway dissenting, also bans rodeos and circuses featuring exotic animals, the Daily Pilot reported.

"It's just a win for animals all around," said Irvine resident Wendy Fears, a member of a small local group that helped organize support for the ban. "I'm just real proud of Irvine for standing up against animal abuse."

While Lalloway expressed disgust for those capable of animal cruelty, he worried that the proposed ordinance may move pet sales to the Internet and "import a pet problem rather than stop it."

"Today, tonight, we are here to deal with a problem that simply does not exist," Lalloway said. "We do not have any mass-breeding facilities here in Irvine. We have one pet store, Russo's, which will not be selling dogs and cats after next year."

In August, the Irvine Co., which owns the Irvine Spectrum where Russo's Pet Experience operates, announced that it would not renew the store's lease when it expires in October 2012.

The city also does not host circuses featuring wild animals or hold rodeos, Lalloway said.

While existing animal welfare laws should be enforced, new legislation in the city should "focus on putting people back to work, not on a problem that does not exist," he said.

More than 50 public speakers presented arguments to the council citing inhumane conditions found in so-called puppy mills and buyers' lack of knowledge about them and the associated health risks.

"The reason that we need to make these laws is that the public is duped," Fears said. "Every pet store will tell you that they get their dogs from responsible breeders, but the truth is that responsible breeders would never sell to a pet store."

However, Fears, who volunteers with multiple animal rights groups, said activists would now start looking toward other cities to adopt similar ordinances.

"This is just the first step in a process," Fears said. "People are starting to be become aware of how horrible a puppy mill is."

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— Sarah Peters, Times Community News

Photo: Russo's Spectrum Pets in Irvine on  Aug. 17. Irvine City Council members banned the retail sale of cats and dogs Tuesday. Credit: Don Leach / Times Community News

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