S.F. considers banning sale of pets except fish
Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer
July 8, 2010 04:00 AM
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Sell a guinea pig, go to jail.
That's the law under consideration by San Francisco's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare. If the commission approves the ordinance at its meeting tonight, San Francisco could soon have what is believed to be the country's first ban on the sale of all pets except fish.
That includes dogs, cats, hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, birds, snakes, lizards and nearly every other critter, or, as the commission calls them, companion animals.
"People buy small animals all the time as an impulse buy, don't know what they're getting into, and the animals end up at the shelter and often are euthanized," said commission Chairwoman Sally Stephens. "That's what we'd like to stop."
San Francisco residents who want a pet would have to go to another city, adopt one from a shelter or rescue group, or find one through the classifieds.
The Board of Supervisors would have final say on the matter. But not before pet store owners unleash a cacophony of howling, squeaking and squawking.
"It's terrible. A pet store that can't sell pets? It's ridiculous," said John Chan, manager of Pet Central on Broadway, which has been in business 30 years. "We'd have to close."
'Terrible for our business'
Joe Taylor, bird manager of Animal Connection on Judah Street, called the proposal "ludicrous."
"What difference does it make if you get a parrot at the SPCA or a pet store? If it doesn't work out, in either case, you just bring it back," Taylor said. "This would be terrible for our business."
The idea originated about two years ago, when the commission began looking into a ban on dog and cat sales as a way to discourage puppy and kitten mills. But the city's animal control staff said that excess puppies and kittens are not the problem at the city shelter, thanks to the plethora of rescue groups. In any case, only one or two pet stores in San Francisco sell dogs and cats. The rest stick to small animals.
Studies by UC Davis and the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy have shown that only a small fraction of shelter animals were purchased at pet stores, he said. People who buy animals at pet stores are just as committed, emotionally and financially, to caring for their pets as people who procure pets elsewhere, he said.
"This is an anti-pet proposal from people who oppose the keeping of pets," he said. "If their goal is to ban the ownership of pets entirely, then this is a good first step."