San Francisco, which previously made headlines for its efforts to ban circumcision and plastic bags, may now forbid the sale of all pets. Unsurprisingly, pet store owners are mad.
According to the LA Times, a proposal now on its way to San Francisco's Board of Supervisors would ban all pet sales in the city, including the sale of live mice as snake food. Live animals sold for eventual human consumption would be exempt. The measure initially covered just dogs and cats, but animal rights advocates expanded it — says Philip Gerrie of SF's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, "Why fish? Why not fish?" Backers of the ban say it's intended to encourage adoption of animals from shelters, but some think it has a more nefarious purpose. Says pet store owner Jonathan Ito,
The animal-rights activists are trying to drive a wedge any way they can in order to get a foothold on changing the ownership of animals. They don't believe they should be bred. They don't believe people are responsible to care for them.… They are about eliminating animals as pets.
PETA's been accused of taking this extreme anti-pet stance in the past, but the language on their website is a bit more moderate. They write,
Contrary to myth, PETA does not want to confiscate animals who are well cared for and "set them free." What we want is for the population of dogs and cats to be reduced through spaying and neutering and for people to adopt animals (preferably two so that they can keep each other company when their human companions aren't home) from pounds or animal shelters-never from pet shops or breeders-thereby reducing suffering in the world.
PETA has blogged about the issue of shelter overcrowding in San Francisco, but doesn't appear to be among the authors of the proposed ban. Said ban has a certain intuitive appeal — it might mean shelters would have to put fewer animals sleep, and it might cut down on inhumane breeding and capture. Gerrie told the SF Chronicle earlier this month that "most fish in aquariums are either mass bred [...] or taken from the wild," and several sources say fish collectors often use cyanide to stun fish and make them easier to catch, a practice which kills many of them.
The pet ban would provide a pretty radical solution to this — eventually, there would likely be no more tropical fish or other exotic pets in San Francisco (except those imported illegally). Purebred dogs and cats might become a thing of the past as well. The ban might also have some unintended consequences. Would pet stores rebrand as "adoption centers" and charge an "adoption fee?" Even stranger, would they call themselves markets and ask customers to sign affidavits saying they planned to eat their new kittens? Some sort of subterfuge would seem to be necessary, otherwise Ito and all other pet store owners in the city would have to close up shop for good. And while ending animal cruelty is certainly a worthy goal, shuttering all pet stores seems like an extreme way to go about it.
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