In the past few years, animal shelters in the city of Los Angeles have taken in a record number of relinquished, unwanted, and abandoned pets. In 2009, Stray Cat Alliance board member Missy Woodward told the Los Angeles Daily News that rescue organizations have become overwhelmed since the economic downturn.
“The rescue groups are not only at over-capacity,” Woodward said. “Due to the economy, people are opening their doors and letting the animals go because they have nowhere to take them.”
Three years later, those same city shelters are still bursting at the seams, with no end to the overcrowding problems in sight. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Los Angeles shelters took in a staggeringly high number of animals — a whopping 35,405 dogs and 21,883 cats — and due to lack of space and resources, had to euthanize 25 percent of those dogs and 57 percent of cats.
But members of the Los Angeles City Council hope that a plan they are proposing will offer some much-needed relief, helping to reduce euthanasia rates and boost adoption rates, giving thousands of homeless pets a chance at a full, happy life.
This month, the L.A. City Council plans to consider instituting a 3-year ban on the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits. Under the ordinance, businesses would not be able to put these pets up for sale unless the animals came from an animal shelter or nonprofit animal rescue organization that has been registered with the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services.
City Councilman and Chairman of the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee Paul Koretz proposed the ordinance, and he told the Contra Costa Times that his hope is that by banning commercial pet sales, the shelters in the city of Los Angeles can work towards becoming no-kill.
“That’s going to take a tremendous amount of work and many steps,” Koretz said. “This is just one step in that direction.”
Koretz is also hoping that, by putting this ordinance in place, it will cut down on the number of backyard breeders, puppy mills, and kitten factories, who often house their animals in substandard conditions and neglect to provide proper care.
While the proposed ban has largely garnered support from residents and animal welfare advocates because of the potential positive impact at city shelters, some people are worried that the ordinance would have the opposite affect.
Michael Canning, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, thinks that if such a ban on commercial pet sales were to be introduced, commercial breeders would find smarter ways to break the rules, and the animals that those commercial breeders sell would be the ones paying the ultimate price.
“Anybody that would engage in substandard breeding already doesn’t follow the rules,” Canning explained. “This will just drive people to sell their puppies on the Internet or some other unregulated way like flea markets or out of their trunks on the street.”
Canning also pointed out that, if the ordinance were to pass, more than 60 people would lose their jobs as 11 of the city’s pet shops shut their doors.
“I would like to see the city place rules on the breeding of pets so consumers in Los Angeles can be assured that if they buy a dog in a pet store that they’re getting it from a very good breeder,” Canning said.
“This isn’t about going to a reputable breeder and getting the dog of your choice,” von Roemer explained, “this is about trying to stop people who just want a pet from going to a pet shop and creating the demand for puppy mills.”
Councilman Koretz says that, by instituting the ban, it will encourage people to consider adopting their next pet from a shelter. It is his hope that adoption will become “the new normal.”
The Los Angeles City Council is set to discuss the ordinance at their October 16 session. If the commercial pet sale ban passes, L.A. would join cities like Albuquerque, New Mexico, and nearby Laguna Beach, Calif., which already have similar regulations in place.