SAN DIEGO — The San Diego ordinance to ban dog, cat and rabbit sales in pet shops is seen by animal advocates as a big step forward in shutting down puppy mills.Without the Animal Protection Ordinance pet shops are big buyers for mass breeders who do not always follow best practices in raising numerous animals.Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, said the new law is a big win for animals.
“The passing of this ordinance is a very important step forward for animals that are sourced from puppy mills and other large-scale, irresponsible, commercial breeding sources.”
“I believe strongly in this ordinance,” Weitzman added. “The whole point is to shut down puppy mills. It wasn’t to affect local breeders. It was to encourage responsible breeding.”
The biggest losers in puppy mill practices are dogs who make up the majority of mass bred pets, followed by cats and then rabbits.
“Dogs are primarily the victims of large-scale commercial breeding,” Weitzman said. “It’s really because of greed. It’s large-scale cruelty for commercial benefit.”
Animals who suffer from poor care often develop numerous health and behavior problems.
Now San Diego pet shops will no longer be permitted to carry dogs, cats and rabbits. Instead they will be encouraged to follow a humane model and direct perspective pet owners to an animal shelter or animal rescue group.
Weitzman said Petco in El Cajon already partners with animal rescue groups to host in-store pet adoption events.
Weitzman recommends that people only buy pets from reputable breeders, animal shelters or animal rescue centers.
He also cautions those looking for a pet to beware of online sales. Puppy mill breeders can still sell dogs, cats and rabbits online. Weitzman said since online sales are regulated by federal laws the recently passed ban will not impact those sales.
Approval of the San Diego city ban was a lengthy legislative process.
The final vote by San Diego City Council on July 23 was 6 to 2 with Councilwoman Sherri Lightner and Councilman Scott Sherman casting no votes.
Strong supporters of the ban were Councilwomen Lorie Zapf and Marti Emerald.
Discussion began in February. Then the ban was introduced to the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, and a working group was formed in April that was comprised of the Companion Animal Protection Society, Animal Defense Team, Animal Protection and Rescue League and the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition, which includes the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA.
The work group hashed out the details of what to include in the ordinance.
“We’ve all been working hard and singularly on this,” Weitzman said.
Pet store sales of dogs, cats and rabbits have now been banned in 13 California cities and 32 U.S. cities.
“There’s a very vigorous effort going on nationwide,” Weitzman said.
Weitzman said he would like to see the cities of Oceanside and Vista, which are served by San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, pass the ban.
And some day see a countywide ban on pet store dog, cat and rabbit sales that would regulate unincorporated areas.
“It’s a much bigger problem in the county as a whole,” Weitzman said.
For now Weitzman said ongoing efforts would be focused on passing the ban one city at a time.
Though at this time, the cities of Oceanside and Vista have not yet been approached with the idea of passing a similar ban.
“If they bring it forward we certainly would consider it,” Peter Weiss, Oceanside city manager, said.
There is no timeline to do so, but the intent is there.
“It would be presented to city councils with roughly the same guidelines and regulations,” Kelli Herwehe, San Diego Humane Society and SPCA public relations coordinator, said. “It would be up to individual cities to determine changes in any language to fit their individual cities.”
Herwehe said the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA does not have financial information on how much pet stores earned by selling dogs, cats and rabbits.