SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A proposal to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores and other commercial establishments in San Diego was approved today by the City Council's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee.
The proposed amendment to the municipal code would make it "unlawful for any person to display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer or sell any live dog, cat or rabbit in any pet shop, retail business or other commercial establishment located in the city of San Diego, unless the dog, cat or rabbit was obtained from a city or county animal shelter or animal control agency, a humane society or a nonprofit rescue organization."
Pet stores would need to keep certificates that identify the sources of their animals and make them available to animal control officers, law enforcement, code compliance officials or other city employees.
A report to the committee said dogs, cats and rabbits bred for pet stores are kept in inhumane conditions, are more likely to carry genetic disorders and are poorly socialized, and too many end up being abandoned by owners and going to shelters.
Committee Chairwoman Marti Emerald said the code change would protect both animals and consumers.
The proposed ordinance is supported by the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, Animal Protection and Rescue League, Companion Animal Protection Society and San Diego Animal Defense Team, which regularly stages protests outside pet shops.
The groups contend that 99 percent of canines sold in pet stores come from "puppy mills," which overbreed and underfeed the dogs and fail to provide adequate veterinary care. Many of the animals arrive in pet stores in unhealthy condition, their report says.
Dr. Gary Weitzman, CEO of the Humane Society, said the point of the ordinance "is to encourage reputable and responsible breeding" and adoption or sales.
"It will absolutely not affect backyard breeders, or hobby breeders, or responsible, reputable breeders that are actually doing a great job at providing great dogs that often aren't in a shelter or rescue environment," Weitzman said.
Weitzman said animals are sold on a retail basis at one or two pet stores in the city.
The owner of one of them, David Salinas of San Diego Puppy, defended himself "as a very moral and ethical person" who has visited many of the breeders that deliver animals to him. He called them "awesome."
He said his store has been inspected by the Humane Society and county Department of Animal Services.
"Puppy mills do not produce healthy puppies -- we have healthy puppies, I need to declare that, you need to understand that," Salinas told the committee members.
His employees said the store receives repeat customers and referrals, which wouldn't happen if the animals were sick.
Others among the numerous opponents of the proposal contend that shelters primarily offer pit bulls and Chihuahuas, and rescue groups are too restrictive about who can adopt from them.
Mike Canning, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Advisory Council, said puppies in a retail setting are regulated from the time they're bred until they are sold. The San Diego proposal would have the "unintended consequence" of making pet transactions fully unregulated, he said.
The San Diego-based Petco chain, as well as Petsmart, offer pet adoptions through shelters and rescue groups.
A dozen cities in California have banned the retail sales of animals, including Chula Vista, according to the report. The code change will now go to the full City Council for final adoption.