Best Friends Blog
 

At long last, pet sales on the way out in L.A.

It’s a great day for animals in the city of Los Angeles! On Wednesday of this week, the Los Angeles City Council (by a vote of 12-2) approved an ordinance that bans the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in the city.

With only a formality remaining before the ordinance becomes law, Los Angeles will become the largest community in the United States to enact legislation that puts an end to the flow of animals to pet stores from puppy mills, the large commercial breeding farms that supply pet stores.

For the past two and a half years, Best Friends, under the leadership of our Elizabeth Oreck, has been working closely with the offices of the mayor and city attorney, as well as L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz and L.A. Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette to craft an ordinance that effectively shuts down the city of Los Angeles for the sale of these animals.

Los Angeles soon will join 27 other cities in North America, including Toronto and 10 other California communities, in putting a major crimp in the pet store trade. The implications are enormous on so many levels, not the least of which is shutting down retail outlets supplied by these still-legal puppy mills. Additionally, more people will be encouraged to adopt from local shelters rather than purchase from a retail outlet or breeder.

This great success initially gained traction when Councilman Koretz expressed interest in an ordinance that would stop the flow of puppy mill animals into the city. From there, the city attorney’s office, with input from the various parties, chose fair, reasonable language to draft the ordinance.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth marshaled support from across the spectrum of Southern California animal welfare. She sent out legislative alerts to Best Friends members and encouraged them to contact city council members for support. Blogs were written, social media posts sent, and support mobilized to attend the various committee and council meetings.

The goal, of course, was to produce an ordinance that would shrink the market for puppy mill animals and reduce motivation to produce and sell animals. There would also be the net effect of reducing chances that breeding animals spend their lives confined in puppy mill misery, forced to have litter after litter.

Other California cities that have adopted “no retail sale of animals” ordinances are Aliso Viejo, Chula Vista, Dana Point, Glendale, Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, South Lake Tahoe and West Hollywood. Still more California cities have ordinances that have been drafted, with Burbank posed to join the growing group.

Having so many cities adopt such resolutions is good, but having Los Angeles in the fold is by far the most impactful anti–puppy mill accomplishment to date. If Los Angeles can take this kind of step, then other cities may not be far behind.

Passage of the ordinance should also reverberate across the country, and Elizabeth tells us that she is fielding calls from like-minded civic leaders around the country. Chicago, in particular, appears to be the next big municipality to consider such a progressive ordinance.

So, what started as a true grassroots movement by Best Friends Animal Society continues to pick up steam. More communities are coming to the realization that, with city shelters bulging at the seams with homeless animals, it makes good sense to stop the importation of animals that contribute to their shelters’ overcrowded conditions.

“The potential benefits of ordinances that ban the retail sale of commercially bred pets are significant, and it’s not that difficult to get started,” says Elizabeth. “Even if you don’t have puppy mills in your area, you might consider a proactive ordinance that will restrict the sales of animals by unlicensed breeders. 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.

The long, arduous fight to halt puppy mills and their effects on animals goes on. In recent years, the work has been difficult — at times trying our patience and testing our will. And though the journey continues, this most recent success in Los Angeles surely gives us cause to celebrate and, at the same time, reaffirms our determination to cut the demand for puppy mill inventory off at its source.

Want to get involved with your own anti–puppy mill ordinance? Best Friends has considerable resources to help concerned citizens approach government leaders about a pet sale ordinance. For more information, contact Elizabeth Oreck at elizabetho@bestfriends.org.

 

Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Adpjulie

    Hi John,

    During the Best Friends Conference there was a speaker by the name of Rene, he was previously a pet store owner, and he admittedly bought from puppy mills (at the time he did not know this…but once he researched the point past the broker…he understood and made a change)

    His store happened to be visited by a Best Friends volunteer and he was asked” Where do your puppies come from?” He proudly said from different states, etc. She then informed him he was supporting a cruel industry called “milling” he thought this couldn’t be! He researched found out that the Hunte Corporation (broker) was indeed selling him puppy mill puppies.

    He went back to the volunteer weeks later and said I want to make a change, help me. So…thus began his new “store front” which is only rescue adoptions, grooming services, product sales, and doggy daycare. He went from a $100,000.00 annual income selling puppy mill dogs to…..a $300,000.00 annual income working with rescue!! This is because his clients love what he is doing, they respect his work and continually come back for the other services that he now offers to new adopters! Sooo…story told it is better to help rescue than to support puppy mills. Puppy mills, are not regulated to the satisfaction of responsible pet owners. The AWA places very minimal standards on the welfare of these dogs and their puppies, no exercise required, no socialization required, and mesh flooring so most puppies cannot learn to walk properly, but this is acceptable per AWA standards.

    Convince YOUR local pet store operators that there is an alternative, end the cruelty.

    • THIS is EXACTLY the best approach! Educate, educate, educate. Then let the pet store be your voice! Most pet store owners are passionate about animals and are already taking this approach. My store has been doing this since 1988. Those stores who remain behind the times will understand this approach if someone will take the time to actually talk to them. Yes, as pet store owners, they should already know better. Agreed. But if they don’t, instead of alienating them and pitting activists against each other, think more globally and realize we are all on the same side.

  • Susan

    Congratulations Best Friends, LA, and all involved! This is a great message and I hope that more places (like Austin) catch on quickly–you have my vote!

  • Susan

    Congratulations Best Friends, LA, and all involved! This is a great message and I hope that more places (like Austin) catch on quickly–you have my vote!

  • Elizabeth Oreck

    Fantastic! Let me know what we can do to help. Love to see the groups out there striving to reach the same goals 🙂

  • Since it’s hard to get a simple answer here, here’s a copy of the ordinance that should answer some questions:

    http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2011/11-0754_rpt_atty_9-20-12.pdf

    Note that this is a TEMPORARY ban – 3 years. I think that’s a good thing, as they’ll be able to evaluate if it’s working and if it should be kept.

    My reading says that it would not affect small (hobby) breeders.

  • What does this mean for responsible and ethical breeders?????

  • Guest

    What does this mean for resposible and ethical breeders????

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      It means those breeders should see an increase in business from folks who choose to buy rather than adopt. The ordinance does not apply to responsible hobby breeders, only to commercially bred pets in pet stores.

      • Correction: this ordinance bans the retail sale of ALL dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores, regardless of origin. This includes puppy mill dogs and dogs from responsible breeders and individuals who just bred one litter in their home. This includes indiscriminate backyard rabbit breeders as well as one litter of rabbits bred as a 4H project. This is a blanket ban against all retail sales of these animals with no regard to origin – just to be clear.

  • Kaylee

    Is Best Friends also going to work with states and cities on legislation that will ban puppy mills? It seems that going for the source would be a very effective way to stop this problem.

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Unfortunately, Kaylee, puppy mills are legal and therefore can’t be banned. But we have been working with state and local governments for several years to enact legislation to improve breeding regulations, provide pet store disclosure, ban the sale of animals at swap meets, etc., and restrict the sale of milled animals in pet stores.

      • This is the kind of effort that is worth the resources. Not just treating the symptom, but addressing the root of the problem. Kudos!

  • Rhea

    Proud to be an Angeleno today!

  • Pam Stack

    I live in Pittsburgh and would LOVE to see this happen in Pennsylvania……because as we all know, PA has a large puppy mill problem!

  • Linda Wilson

    Whoops — I meant backyard breeders. Not use to using an IPad.

  • Linda Wilson

    This is so wonderful! I wish this would spread like wildfire across the country. It would be my dream come true to end puppy mills and background breeders.

  • Thank you Best Friends for your devotion to animal welfare. You are the best!

  • Michele

    Fantastic! I hope New York City and New Jersey are next. I’d be happy to help with that effort

  • Barking up the wrong tree! Retail pet sales are a tiny fraction of all dog sales. Usually I respect this organization’s efforts but this was a waste of effort and resources. What’s next? When shelters get too popular will you ban the adoption of dogs? This is way off base and solved nothing.

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      As I mentioned in another comment, Sherry, puppy mills are in business to supply the retail pet trade, and they produce 2-4 million puppies every year (the range is due to the high number of unlicensed commercial breeding facilities). We consider that number significant, especially when one considers that about that same number of adoptable dogs and cats are being killed in U.S. shelters every year. It begs the question, why do we continue to manufacture so many animals when we already have so many that we’re having to kill the surplus?

      • This is where we need to get up to speed on supply and demand. Puppy mills were originally in business to supply the retail pet trade. True. But with the retail pet trade of dogs at an all time industry low, and puppy mills in many states at an all time high, anyone can see that the end consumer is still buying from the mills, pet store or no pet store. So while I wholeheartedly agree that pet stores should refrain from selling puppy mill puppies, or perhaps any puppies for that matter, the fact remains that consumer demand is what drives supply.

        Retailers stock what sells and discontinue what doesn’t. Otherwise they go bankrupt. If consumers stopped buying puppies from pet stores, pet stores would stop selling them anyway. They’d have no choice. The simple truth is that consumers want pure bred dogs and they will get them one way or another, with or without a pet store. There will always be demand. The only real hope is to impose strict regulation on all breeders (which will make it easier to shut down mills) and to educate consumers to always buy responsibly. Pet stores are the biggest, most direct link to consumers and the best possible source to educate misinformed consumers.

        Activists need to learn to join forces with good pet stores and use their resources. The consumers we need to reach are the uneducated consumers who don’t realize the importance of responsible pet ownership. They are the ones still shopping for dogs in pet stores. If we team with responsible pet stores to educate these consumers, these pet stores can be our best resource and our direct access to help further our cause.

      • This is where we need to get up to speed on supply and demand. Puppy mills were originally in business to supply the retail pet trade. True. But with the retail pet trade of dogs at an all time industry low, and puppy mills in many states at an all time high, anyone can see that the end consumer is still buying from the mills, pet store or no pet store. So while I wholeheartedly agree that pet stores should refrain from selling puppy mill puppies, or perhaps any puppies for that matter, the fact remains that consumer demand is what drives supply.

        Retailers stock what sells and discontinue what doesn’t. Otherwise they go bankrupt. If consumers stopped buying puppies from pet stores, pet stores would stop selling them anyway. They’d have no choice. The simple truth is that consumers want pure bred dogs and they will get them one way or another, with or without a pet store. There will always be demand. The only real hope is to impose strict regulation on all breeders (which will make it easier to shut down mills) and to educate consumers to always buy responsibly. Pet stores are the biggest, most direct link to consumers and the best possible source to educate misinformed consumers.

        Activists need to learn to join forces with good pet stores and use their resources. The consumers we need to reach are the uneducated consumers who don’t realize the importance of responsible pet ownership. They are the ones still shopping for dogs in pet stores. If we team with responsible pet stores to educate these consumers, these pet stores can be our best resource and our direct access to help further our cause.

  • So sad and shortsighted. Well intended, sure, but futile. I am a true animal activist who finds this ban a waste of resources. In Kansas we go straight to the source and close the puppy mills. Problem solved. What a long way around the issue, California, just to treat the symptom. Maybe other places could learn something from Kansas Animal Heath officials. Has L.A. not heard of prohibition? It didn’t work.

    You must get to the source. The answer lies in education and the elimination of puppy mills. Banning retail sales accomplishes nothing. Most Kansas pet stores voluntarily stopped selling puppies and kittens many years ago but that didn’t stop puppy mills from breeding and consumers from buying. Supply and demand. If someone wants to buy a pure bred dog, they’ll buy a pure bred dog, pet store or no pet store. Plain and simple.

    Banning dog and cat retail sales will not affect consumer demand nor will it increase adoption of unwanted dogs. Educated consumers stopped buying dogs from pet stores a long time ago. They buy directly from breeders and have for many years. People who don’t want a shelter dog are not going to adopt one simply because their local pet store has no dogs for sale. They’ll just buy from a breeder. Our local shelters recognize this and work with the pet stores to promote responsible ownership. In my town, because of education, the slippery slope of a ban is unnecessary.

    In Lawrence, Kansas, pet stores voluntarily stopped selling dogs and cats over ten years ago and yet the number of unwanted dogs and cats increased. The state of Kansas has fewer retail dog and cat sales than at any point in history yet the shelters continue to fill. Do the math. The issue was not and is not the retailers.

    As nice as it seems, merely banning the retail sale of pets will not reduce demand nor increase adoption. We know. We’ve tried it. Our pet store sold a few, mixed breed “oops” puppies for people a few times a year up until the early nineties while promoting adoption since day one, in 1988. We worried, though, that having dogs and cats available in our store might detract from the adoptions we were promoting, so we chose to stop selling them. Then we led the charge, 15 years ago, for all pet stores to voluntarily reduce sales or completely stop retailing dogs and cats, hoping to reduce overpopulation.

    We willingly promoted adoption in our store weekend after weekend long before it was politically correct. Many Kansas stores followed suit, including PetCo and PetSmart. But nothing changed. The unwanted population continued to rise — proving that pet stores are not the problem. Irresponsible breeding is the problem. Shut down the mills and only responsible breeders remain. The price will go up but educated, responsible consumers won’t mind because they’ll understand why.

    It’s sad to see what a nation full of band-aids we are becoming. For all this effort, this ban will accomplish nothing except to jeopardize pet stores which are the most prevalent, direct link consumers have to pets and the best possible source of education for pet owners. Let’s think this through. Other than a brief, emotional pacifier for us animal activists, this ban does no good. A retail ban will not stop people from buying pets any more than prohibition stopped people from drinking alcohol. Direct intervention with puppy mills and education regarding responsible pet ownership is the only solution. I’m just grateful I live in a forward thinking community who recognizes the value of responsibly fostering the human-animal bond so bans that only treat the symptom are not needed.

    • This is the only post on this page that makes sense.

      • Thank you, Julia. I’m not trying to rant at all. Just hoping to shed some painfully accurate light on how this ban, like others before it, makes us feel good temporarily but ultimately accomplishes no good. The effort would be better spent focusing on closing puppy mills and educating consumers. I hope we activists can now refocus on the real task at hand.

        • Kaylee

          Sherry, you had a great post. But I’m curious; did Kansas run into problems getting a law banning puppy mills or was it really just a matter of getting people to commit to the concept?

          • Our animal health officials went after the mills before we even passed any laws. There are only a few state inspectors but with voluntary help from pet stores and a lot of hard work they’ve been able to really put a halt on puppy mills. of course new ones will always surface now that they can hide behind a web site. But our inspectors stay on top of them.

            With the franchise pet stores reducing overall puppy purchases and willingly ceasing purchases from puppy mills and most of the independent stores enacting a self imposed ban, we thought – like California – the problem would take care of itself. It didn’t. Dog supply sales and unwanted dogs increased. Consumers kept buying dogs. The state had to go after the mills directly to make a difference.

            It’s a more difficult approach but far more effective and a better use of limited resources. Pet store owners are a tight group. We all know each other. If a few of the top stores set a precedent, most of the others will follow suit — for better business if nothing else.

          • As a licensee who attended the Governor’s Pet Animal Advisory Board meeting Oct 31st in Salina, I applaud the efforts of the KS Animal Facility Inspection Program, but I don’t think any of the inspectors would say that mills are a non-problem in KS.

          • Puppy mills, illegal or not, will never be a non-problem in any state. Close one down, another opens. That will probably never change. That is why our efforts need to be spent addressing the issue directly. Find the original source of retail puppies and if it is a mill, shut it down. Then fine or shut down the pet store for violating the rules and not knowing the origin of their puppies. A blanket ban merely takes the pet store out of the equation and makes it easier for mills to go unnoticed. Adding strict requirements to pet store licensing (with regard to animal origin) could have accomplished the same thing as this ban without enabling puppy mills even further.

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Actually, by decreasing the supply of these animals, it will decrease the demand. It is simple economics. As long as puppy mills are legal, we can’t just shut them down, which is why we address the problem through legislation, education and adoption programs. Puppy mills are in business to supply the retail pet trade, and as long as pet stores continue to import those products into their stores, people will continue to purchase them, keeping the industry alive and thriving. We understand that there are differing opinions on this strategy, but since 27 cities have taken this step, it seems there is general consensus that this is a reasonable and effective step toward mitigating the puppy mill problem throughout the U.S.

      • Thank you for your comment. I agreed with that concept at first but what happened in Kansas proved that decreasing puppy supply did not decrease demand. Much like prohibition. It only forced more of the supply to go off the radar. It should work – in theory it does work – but with something people really want, it doesn’t. Example: We’ve been trying to reduce the supply of marijuana for decades by keeping it illegal yet it is still available everywhere and, in fact, the quality has gotten worse and even become increasingly dangerous with no regulation.

        With something that is not in such demand, or that has a simple, better alternative, reducing supply might work. With the number one pet in the country, though, we need a more direct approach.

  • Dani Duran

    Thank God and Thank you Best Friends for coming to Calif. and making a difference!

  • Sydney Cicourel

    I am the San Diego Campaign Coordinator for the Companion Animal Protection Society. For the last two plus years, I have been by the side of Carole Raphaelle Davis, West Coast Director for our organization and saw her remarkable introduction to the City Council of LA for the ban on the retail sale of pets in their city. She presented to them, two years of LA pet store investigations, and investigations of the puppy mills that supplied the LA stores. She also provided the sample ordinance language to City Attorney Dov Lesel by way of the other two ordinances she introduced and saw pass in West Hollywood and Glendale.

    Cumulatively, her ordinance package presented to the City of LA involved eight years of information by Davis and “CAPS.” Information she provided also came from protests of LA city pet stores, including one of the largest puppy dealer chains in the US, Barkworks. The protest of Barkworks in the Westside Pavillion marked the first protest of it’s kind in a major mall setting where over one hundred protestors showed including kids from a local inner city school. The store will now have to go “humane” or close because of Davis’ seminal contribution.

    My interest in posting this message is that many organizations, unfortunately, “rush in” when success for animals has been achieved to take credit. I believe credit needs to be given where it is due. Ms. Davis worked tirelessly for CAPS and for breeder dogs in puppy mills and MUST receive the credit she is due!

    Thank you, Carole. Because of your amazing contribution, animal lovers everywhere can rejoice. To the innocent animals suffering in puppy mills, we won one for you!

    • You won nothing for those animals. Shut down all puppy mills. Then rejoice. This ban accomplished nothing. Check the stats a year from now. You’ll see this ban won’t make a dent in the real issue – puppy mills. What a waste of effort treating a tiny symptom instead of getting to the source of the problem.

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Thank you, Sydney. There are many individuals and groups who have contributed to the fight against puppy mills. We are particularly proud of the Best Friends volunteers, who have been peacefully demonstrating at nearly every location of Barkworks, including the Westside Pavilion store, every single weekend for 3 and 1/2 years, and supplied the evidence for the current legal action against the Barkworks corporation. The animal welfare movement can only be stronger and more effective when we all work together and don’t get bogged down in competitiveness or concern about “credit”, so we appreciate that there are so many folks who are putting their self interests aside and focusing their energy on fighting the good fight for the animals. I’m sure the CAPS folks, with all their excellent commitment to the protection of animals, would agree. Keep up the good work!

  • Sarah

    I feel like Best Friends is going to change the entire nation! One movement at a time, one win at a time!

  • Jean Silva

    Thanks for including rabbits! Too often they remain one of the few animals you can find in pet stores after the puppies and kittens have gone.

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Thanks, Jean. We focused specifically on the animals that are dying in the highest numbers in our shelters.

  • Sorceress

    But what if I want to purchase a pure bred animal? I understand that you want to eliminate puppy mills, but I was a breeder (ocicats) for a time. This was not some sort of “mill”, but was a small home based program. What happens to the licensed breeders? Will this new ordinance be interpreted to include the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits from licensed breeders?

    • michael

      No. This ordinance prohibits retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits. You can still buy animals from breeders directly (where you can see what’s going on) and you can **always** find pure bred animals at the pound (they are a dime a dozen) and at animal rescues groups. This legislation is a good thing. There will be less false demand (people who think the pet store is the only place to buy an animal) and therefore less mass production of puppies, kittens and rabbits who will wind up in animal shelters after the honeymoon phase of pet ownership is over.