San Francisco Moves To Ban The Selling Of Pets

In a controversial move, San Francisco has announced the possibility of banning the sale of any animals as pets in the city. The proposed ban would include every type of pet and would instead encourage the adoption of animals from shelters or other rescue organizations.

Known as the ‘Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal,’ the ban would encourage people to adopt pets from shelters instead of buying them from pet stores or breeders. The proposal would protect all animals, including cats, dogs, birds, and fish. Even live mice, sold for snake food, would be banned under the proposal. The only animals that would be exempt are live animals sold for the purpose of human consumption, such as fish, seafood, and poultry.

Last summer, a similar ban was proposed, but stalled amid discussions of which animals should be banned and which should be allowed to be sold as pets. The controversy was brought back to the city with the new proposed ban. San Francisco’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare voted earlier this month to send the proposal to the city’s Board of Supervisors. Now, proponents need sponsors for the proposed ban.

Animal rights activists are proponents of the proposed ban. Philip Gerrie, a coauthor of the proposal interviewed by the LA Times, explains that “in the Western mindset, fish and other nonhuman animals don’t have feelings, they don’t have emotions, we can do whatever we want to them. If we considered them living beings, we could deal with them differently…Our culture sanctions this, treating them as commodities and expendable.”

The ban on selling animals in pet stores, activists say, would encourage people to adopt from shelters. Rescue organizations make it possible for humans to adopt and improve the lives of pets would might otherwise be euthanized in overcrowded shelters. Even though very few pet stores in San Francisco actually sell animals, Jennifer Scarlett, the co-president of the city’s ASPCA, told the LA Times that the ban would be “largely symbolic.”

The controversial proposed ban would have negative effects for pet store owners who make their livelihood from selling pets. The pet industry brings in between $45-50 billion every year. Opponents of the ban believe that animal rights activists do not have the right to dictate how animals are purchased as pets. Jonathan Ito, a pet store owner interviewed by the LA Times, is quoted as saying that the proposed ban “has no cause and effect” and that “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.”

The proposed ban on selling pets is not the first time San Francisco has attempted to ban products in the name of health, both for humans and the environment. In March of 2007, the city announced a ban of plastic shopping bags in grocery stores, which are notorious for cluttering up landfills. Since the ban was enacted, 5 million fewer plastic bags are used every month in San Francisco. In an effort directed at human health, the city was successful in banning the sales of toys in McDonalds meals that exceed a certain amount of calories and fat and do not offer fruits or vegetables.

In addition to the proposed ban on selling animals as pets, another controversial ban recently proposed in San Francisco is a potential ban on circumcision. The issue will be put to vote in November and, like the proposed ban on selling animals, has drawn heavy criticism from its opponents.

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