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Banning The Sale of Pets In Pet Shops Could Just As Easily Backfire
Ideology And Practicality Seem To Clash
In a true “trick or treat” move, the Los Angeles (CA) City Council, on October 31, 2012, voted 13-2 to ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores in that city. The Los Angeles Times says that L.A. is the largest American city to enact such a ban and 20 pet stores will be affected.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) spoke against the legislation at an October 2 public hearing and said that 11 of L.A.’s pet stores could go out of business if the legislation is adopted.
The goal of the legislation is noble, but like so much of that type of government action, misdirected and short sighted. The general consensus is that all pet stores sell puppy mill puppies and other animals that are bred and maintained for sale under inhumane conditions. Of course, that’s not automatically the case. While some pet stores do, most don’t. There are bad operators in every industry.
It’s the bad operators that should be shut down. Not all operators. Since the early 90s we’ve seen state, county and local jurisdictions enacting animal protection legislation that sets husbandry standards for commercial operations ranging from breeders to groomers.
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Laws also require extensive record-keeping. When I had my feed and grain store we took in homeless kittens and sold them (with a low-cost spay/neuter certificate) for $50. We had to maintain records identifying their source and their disposition. We also had to maintain health records while they were here. We were not allowed to sell them more than 7 days beyond the date of their state-mandated Health Certificate.
It went like this: We’d take the kittens in, administer a de-wormer, and after their quarantine period bring them to our vet for vaccinations and an exam. Let’s say a kitten was examined on the 10th of the month. If it didn’t find a home by the 17th, we’d have to bring it back to the vet for another exam. If it didn’t find a home by the 24th, back to the vet for another exam. And so it went.
Luckily, our kittens never lasted more than a couple of days. We’d been doing it for decades, had an impeccable reputation, and, to this day, I have customers stop me and tell me they still have the cat they got from us X number of years ago.
Pet stores are not only under government microscopes, but (and, perhaps more effectively) public scrutiny more than most other industries; and the bad operators, if not shut down, either wilt on the vine because of public scorn, or clean up their act and become respectable.
It’s not just the animal rights activists that are keeping their eyes on things, either. The general public is also vigilant, and will drop a dime when it sees conditions that it considers sub-standard.
A lot of times, though, the public’s idea of sub-standard conditions is anytime an animal is not maintained in the lap of luxury. Over and over I’ve heard pet owners complain that they file a complaint and Animal Control or the SPCA does nothing about it.
That’s because the animals in question are being maintained in accordance with regulated husbandry standards, even though those standards don’t meet with the complainant’s approval.
Being a former feed and grain store owner, I’m also against heavy-handed legislation that hurts small businesses and puts people out of work. How many people in those L.A. pet stores will lose their jobs? Doesn’t California lead the nation in municipal bankruptcies?
How much do you want to bet that in a few years I’ll be writing an article about the underground pet trade in Los Angeles? While the law doesn’t apply to animal shelters, humane societies, nonprofit rescue organizations or breeders (just pet stores), there’s a feeling that black market pets will suddenly find a market for themselves. Who’s going to inspect those facilities?
And watch out, Burbank! Your legislators are also considering a law that would ban the retail sale of dogs and cats, except from registered nonprofit animal rescues, adoption agencies or shelter groups.