Speakers asked the Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday to consider banning businesses from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they come from rescue groups, but the representatives of one local pet store argued against restrictions.
Proponents of the idea said stores selling puppies, kittens and rabbits from commercial or backyard breeders add to the pet population problems that rescue groups are coping with.
“Unfortunately we’re not getting ahead of the game,” said Jeannine Wade from the Central Coast SPCA. “Shelters across California are euthanizing hundreds of thousands of totally healthy animals because we just can’t get a grasp on the situation.”
Philadelphia recently passed a law banning businesses from selling pets from so-called “puppy mills,” known for their inhumane treatment of breeding animals, Wade said, adding that she wants to see it become a federal law.
“We don’t lack for pets,” she said.
Lompoc resident Cristine Collier, who has spearheaded peaceful protests at Central Coast pet shops, said she was shocked to see puppies being sold at the stores.
“The issue with pet stores is the pets in their store may be cute and adorable, but (people) don’t realize where they come from,” she said. “Any decent breeder will not sell to a pet store.”
Store representatives said that without pet stores, people will be forced to look online and risk falling victim to fraud.
Additionally, pets sold at the Santa Maria store generate sales tax for the city, one representative said.
“Putting the proposal to change the codes would definitely impact our businesses as well as impact the community,” Animal Kingdom co-owner Adam Tipton said.
“It’s definitely something that we as a community don’t want, to put undue restrictions on a business and drive other businesses away.”
A consumer law attorney, Arthur Mogilefsky of Arroyo Grande, suggested a ban on the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits would violate the California Constitution.
He said Los Angeles enacted a ban after determining a health and safety threat existed due to population explosion, but contended that is not applicable in Santa Maria.
“I think the proponents of this ordinance are a little bit hysterical,” said Mogilefsky, who added that he recently adopted a dog from Animal Kingdom.
“The idea that trainloads of puppies are being shipped up here from Mexico, that borders on absolute craziness. I’ve researched this area thoroughly, and there’s no such thing.”
Since the item wasn’t on the agenda, the City Council could not act on the request, but City Manager Rick Haydon said city staff would discuss the matter and bring it back at a meeting next year with a recommendation about how to move forward.
Waiting until next year means the next council will be in place, he said, noting the potential ban would have a long-term impact.
In addition to Santa Maria, Animal Kingdom has shops in Grover Beach and Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County.
Earlier this year, animal lovers succesfully lobbied the City Council to adopt a spay-neuter ordinance in Santa Maria.