Proposed Ban on Pet Sales in San Francisco

David Cassuto

I used to live in San Francisco and, in addition to the burritos, one of the things I miss most (did I mention the burritos?) is the degree of civic involvement and the public’s willingness to take on cutting edge issues.  To whit: the city is considering banning the sale of all companion animals except for fish.  That’s right, hamsters, rabbits, lizards, guinea pigs — everything.  Those wanting  pets would have to either adopt or go out of the city to buy.

The scope of the proposed ban addresses the fact that the problem is far broader than the by now familiar gruesome reality of puppy and kitten mills.  Small companion animals like guinea pigs and hamsters crowd the city’s shelters after their purchasers tire of caring for them.  Once at the shelter, the road to euthanization is straight and swift.   

This proposed ban is quite the thing and, as you can imagine, the recent hearing before the City’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare was well attended and contentious.  The Commission, which had hoped to vote on the measure that evening, took note of the degree of public interest and involvement and postponed the vote for at least a month.

Should the Commission approve the measure, it would then need sponsors on the Board of Supervisors.  It would also need to survive a full vote of the Board and pass legal muster with the City Attorney.  The process will be a gauntlet and will take a while but if all goes well, like a good burrito, it will be worth the wait.

h/t: Bridget Crawford

6 Responses

  1. I had not heard about that approach. Thanks for sharing.

  2. David,
    Margo DeMello posted a blog on this topic yesterday at the Animals and Society Institute website; thought you might be interested:

  3. The info leaves me torn. All my life my family has had pets. We have had it all ferrets, dogs, brazilian shot tailed opossums, death head roaches, rat snakes, etc. I was also a zoo keeper and veterinary assistant. I know the benefits that having a pet can give a person and even society. Since pets cannot “speak” it is up to their caretakes to makes usre they are happy and cared for. Therefore humans must learn to “empathize” with their pet. Humans that can empathize with pets can usually empathize with or humans. This is why pet people (dog or cat persons) are friendlier and usually more responsible better people than non-pet people. On the other hand, I know the brutality many pets go through under the “care” of their family. Many times the poor treatment of animals is not even malicious.
    So I am stuck between San Fran’s proposal. No pets means more video games for kids, less outside time for adults, and less companionship for humans which leads to a more understanding compassionate society. The proposal also means less suffering for animals. Alot less suffering.

  4. any time i learn of a prohibition of the sale of a good, i immediately worry about the black market for that good. i applaud the purpose and creative approach, but i hope that they are fully thinking-out the potential consequences of pushing commercial pet market underground. who will this empower, who will become the illicit dealers, and what potential consequence to the animals? i’m not voicing opposition to the proposal, just hoping that related points are anticipated. i generally think drastic market interventions entail bad, unintended consequences for all involved, unless done very well. this is a fascinating idea, and i hope it leads to some type of effective incentive to redirect ‘consumers’ to the shelters and away from the breeders.

  5. also, from what i’ve been told, a significant percentage of the pets in san francisco are brought in from other cities like oakland. if people really want one, they’ll get one, and probably from more sketchy sources than they would have in san francisco, creating an incentive for those sketchy providers to increase their practices. seems to me that this measure, to avoid being counter-productive, would have to be, at least, regional in nature, and accompanied by other measures to ensure that illicit practices in animal-dealing are not enhanced as a result.

  6. I wonder if you’re being over-cautious. You’re absolutely correct that those seeking to buy animals can cross the Bay Bridge and do it. It is that easy. And Oakland’s pet stores are probably no more or less sketchy than those anywhere else. This ordinance is not going to eliminate animal sales. It is rather a small step towards raising awareness and perhaps ameliorating a very bad situation in SF’s shelters. If and when banning pet sales becomes a nationwide trend, lawmakers will most assuredly have to take steps to deter the black market. Right now, though, I seriously doubt that someone in SF who wants to buy a hamster will resort to back alley dealings rather than simply crossing the Bay and going to a store.

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