- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2010

San Francisco is a city of firsts.

On Thursday evening, the city’s Commission of Animal Control and Welfare was to vote on a bill that would make San Francisco the first city in the nation to ban the sale of all pets except fish.

These critters include dogs, cats, hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, birds, snakes, lizards and any other “companion” animals, as the commission calls them.

Supporters of the law say they want to discourage impulse pet purchases, which they say often end up in the pound and euthanized, and want to encourage adoptions at animal shelters.

If the committee passes the legislation, it will then go to the full Board of Supervisors for a later vote.

“This is one way of ‘skinning the cat,’ ” said Supervisor Chris Daly, who represents District 6 on the Board of Supervisors. “I think that everyone should go down to animal shelter and adopt.”

Because the bill has yet to appear before the full board, Mr. Daly has not publicly stated a position but says he wants to reduce the number of animals being euthanized.

Any San Francisco residents who want a pet will have to adopt from a rescue shelter or find one through the classifieds. Or simply circumvent the law by going to a pet store in the next town over.

But pet-store owners are clawing against such a law and are howling their own protests, saying there is little difference between adopting an animal from the SPCA and buying it from a store. Owners are as likely to return the pets either way, they say.

“It’s like going after the 7-Eleven that sells cigarettes and not the tobacco companies themselves,” said Jay Sabatucci of Arlington Animal Services in Texas. “Everyone thinks they have a right to these animals when it really is a privilege.”

Mr. Sabatucci said trying to shut down pet stores is not the best way to reduce pet euthanasia, blaming instead owners who don’t tag their animals or refuse to get their animals spayed and neutered.

“Number-one thing that gets them euthanized, is no identification,” said Mr. Sabatucci. People are unwilling to pay small fees to get their pets an ID tag.

He noted that the Texas SPCA offers to spay and neuter pets for free and even give a $50 Wal-Mart gift certificate to lower-income families who can’t otherwise afford that operation for their pets. Yet people still don’t take advantage of it, he said.

Michael Maddox, general counsel for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington, D.C., told the San Francisco Chronicle that studies by University of California at Davis and by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy have shown that only a small fraction of animals that wind up in shelters had been purchased at pet stores.