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L.A. council votes to ban stores from selling non-rescue dogs, cats

October 24, 2012 |  1:10 pm

A dog waiting for adoption at the L.A. Animal Service facility in West Los Angeles

Los Angeles lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of an ordinance that will make L.A. the largest city in America to ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits obtained from commercial breeders.

The ordinance, which the City Council voted 12-2 to approve, targets puppy mills and is designed to cut down on the tens of thousands of animals euthanized each year in city shelters.

Under the law, individuals will still be allowed to buy directly from breeders, and pet stores will be allowed to sell animals that come from shelters, humane societies and registered rescue groups. Stores found to be selling animals from breeders may face misdemeanor charges and a first-time penalty of $250.

Animal rights activists hailed L.A.’s approval of the ban as a signal to other large cities to follow suit. Irvine, Hermosa Beach and West Hollywood are among the more than 30 cities across the United States and Canada that have passed similar measures in recent years, according to Elizabeth Oreck, who has been leading the legislative effort on behalf of Best Friends Animal Society.

L.A.'s ban also sends a message, she said, to breeders who frequently cut corners to keep costs low at the expense of the animals.

“They’re inbred, they’re overbred, they're irresponsibly bred,” Oreck said.

But pet shop owners complained the ordinance is misguided and unfair.

“It’s just making us suffer,” said Candice Ro, whose family has been selling small dogs, including Yorkshire Terriers and English Bulldogs, at its Koreatown pet shop for 11 years.

Ro said her store, Olympic Pet Shop, buys nearly all of its dogs from local breeders who take good care of their animals. “If we were getting puppy mill puppies that were sick we wouldn’t have stayed in business this long,” she said.

The ban was championed by Councilman Paul Koretz, a longtime supporter of animal rights who said lawmakers have a duty to stick up for animals who “cannot speak for themselves.”

The measure was opposed by Councilman Mitchell Englander, who voted against the ban along with Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

Englander said the city doesn’t have the resources to enforce the law, and said it will put L.A. pet stores at a disadvantage. During economically difficult times like these, he said, government should be focusing on other things.

“With the limited resources we have, we’ve got to focus on the core services,” Englander said.

Because Wednesday's vote was not unanimous, it must come back for a second reading next week.


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-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall


Photo: A dog waiting for adoption at the L.A. Animal Service facility in West Los Angeles. The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance that will ban pet stores from selling non-rescue pets. Credit: Los Angeles Times