It was a very happy Halloween for L.A. shelter pets. In a decision that sparked high-fives throughout the animal welfare community, Los Angeles closed its pet-store doors to commercial breeders.
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On Wednesday, the L.A. City Council voted 13-2 to make Los Angeles the largest city in the country to ban the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits.
But the ban goes deeper than just cutting off the flow of mill animals to pet stores. Writes the L.A. Times, “Pet stores will be limited to selling animals obtained from shelters, humane societies and registered rescue groups.”
Rescue groups have long served to ease the burden of shelters, regularly pulling dogs and cats from local animal control facilities, housing them through their network of foster homes and working tirelessly to adopt them into loving “forever” homes. The new ordinance adds another outlet through which the public can connect with homeless animals: pet stores.
Councilman Paul Koretz introduced the motion in hopes of mitigating the city’s pet overpopulation problem, arguing that legislators must be the voice for animals who “cannot speak for themselves.”
In 2011, L.A. shelters took in more than 35,000 dogs and more than 21,000 cats. Approximately 25 percent of the dogs and 57 percent of the cats never made it out. Nationally, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that of the six to eight million dogs and cats that enter shelters every year, three to four million are euthanized.
Puppy and kitten mills add to the nationwide problem of overpopulation by forcing their breeding animals to produce litter upon litter upon litter, keeping the parent animals confined to a miserable existence and often resulting in unhealthy, unsocialized animals, as well as the propagation of genetic mutations from inbreeding.
While L.A. is not the first to pass such a law — 27 other North American cities have implemented similar restrictions — it is the largest and potentially the most impactive, paving the way for the next big city to follow suit. Chicago has already expressed interest in pursuing a ban of its own.
Elizabeth Oreck of Best Friends Animal Society is at the forefront of the fight to eradicate the large-scale manufacturing of companion animals. “The potential benefits of ordinances that ban the retail sale of commercially bred pets are significant,” says Oreck. “It all helps mitigate the puppy mill problem, or other situations that are the byproducts of irresponsible breeding, such as the online sales of animals shipped around the country that, again, put a strain on local shelters.”
In the wake of the final vote approving the ban, the Los Angeles Daily News reports, “Commercial breeders have warned the city action will drive potential pet owners to other sources to get the animal of their choice.”
That may be true, and it is certainly the right of the individual to explore all options. But the numbers reflect otherwise.
So far in 2012, euthanasia rates are down in L.A. shelters by about 20 percent from last year. This appears to be because adoption rates are up. Fewer people are shopping. More people are adopting. And that’s before the ban.
Keeping commercially bred animals out of pet stores won’t force people to adopt from their local shelter, but these bans shine sunshine on a plight that is too large and heartbreaking to be ignored. And sunshine is the best disinfectant.
Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to[email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.
Copyright 2012 Creators Syndicate Inc.