San Francisco Pet Ban Makes Sense to Animal Control Officials

Categories: Animals, Politics
Joe Eskenazi
Don't bother asking how much that doggie in the window is...
This morning, we wrote about a proposal to ban the sale of any pets (other than fish) within city limits. The suggestion seemed a little extreme to us. But, then, we never had to sign the papers condemning countless doggies, kitties, ratties, mousies, bunnies, and other furry creatures to their premature deaths.

Carl Friedman has -- and he supports the ban.

"It sounds a little radical, but I am definitely in favor of the concept," says the director of San Francisco's Animal Control from 1988 to 2009. "What happens when no one wants animals anymore? We have a surplus of animals now. Before we widen that, I'd like to see people have to go down and save a life at the local shelter."  

The proposed ban -- which comes up for a vote tonight at the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare -- would prohibit sale of just about every animal you can think of. While hardly any pet stores in the city hawk dogs and cats, quite a few still sell rodents, lizards, and birds -- which often end up at Animal Control, and are euthanized at a far higher rate than cats and dogs.

Big Guinea Pig.jpg
Ban this piggie?
Regarding the ban, "the concept is something I think positively of. A lot of these animals, I get the feeling people buy them on impulse and they're sold as somewhat disposable," says Friedman. While pet store owners have cried foul, Friedman doesn't think they'll be put out of business. The money, he claims, isn't in selling pets but pet accouterments.

It warrants mentioning that some of the animals that end up most frequently in the Animal Control's cages already can't be legally bought or sold within city limits. These include rabbits and pigeons (when your humble narrator was last at that office, a gaggle of albino rabbits were hopping about the premises. They were reported to Animal Control by stoners who'd been getting blitzed near Candlestick Park. When they spotted the white bunnies, they first thought they were hallucinating. This is a great city.).

Friedman acknowledges that bunnies are already a problem at Animal Control, and you can't legally buy or sell them here. "But imagine if you could sell rabbits in this city," he says. "Imagine how many more we'd have."

Rebecca Katz, the current Animal Control executive director, said a pet sales ban is an idea worth considering but she isn't yet ready to support or oppose it. "It's complicated for me, because I know there are responsible pet stores." The former lawyer in the City Attorney's office also notes that the outright ban up for a vote tonight in a city commission is a far cry from what may eventually be decided by the Board of Supervisors (if anything makes it that far). 

She thought SF Weekly's suggestion of a "fee" upon small animal sales that would reimburse Animal Control for some of its expenses in caring for small animals was "interesting." (Thanks, we think). As for our other idea of imposing a waiting period on small animal purchases, this is something that animal welfare advocates have apparently already suggested. Fine. But they didn't call it the "Guinea Pig Brady Bill" like we did, did they?

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