If the San Francisco Commission on Animal Control and Welfare approves the proposal at its scheduled meeting tonight, the city would be the first in the country to enact such a ban.
If it passes, San Franciscans seeking animal companions would have to adopt them from shelters, find them through the classifieds, or visit pet stores in neighboring cities.
Pet store owners, needless to say, are howling, squawking, screeching and yelping over the prospect of a ban. "It's terrible. A pet store that can't sell pets? It's ridiculous," San Francisco pet store manager John Chan told the San Francisco Chronicle. His pet store, in business for 30 years, would have to close, he added.
The idea began as a proposal to ban sales of dogs and cats two years ago. The commission at the time was looking for ways to discourage puppy and kitten mills. But city animal shelter officials said that local animal rescue groups took care of most of the abandoned dogs and cats, and besides, only a few pet stores in the city sold them -- the rest sold only small animals.
Hamsters were the real problem, the officials said. The rodents are apparently the "Gremlins" of the pet world -- cute, furry and cuddly when young, but high-strung and destructive when they grow up: the nocturnal creatures bite and gnaw a lot and have a taste for expensive electrical wiring. Because no one wants to adopt adult hamsters, no rescue groups exist to save them and they fill the shelter. The city's animal care and control director, Rebecca Katz, said hamsters were the most frequently euthanized animals in the city shelter.
A pet industry representative took issue with the city's approach. Michael Maddox, general counsel for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington, D.C., cited studies by the University of California, Davis, and the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy that show that only a small fraction of shelter animals were purchased at pet stores.
The commission says it will take into account testimony from pet store owners and others before reaching a decision. It will also consider the effect a ban would have on small businesses and consider possible modifications or exemptions as well.