Best Friends Blog

Best Friends leads effort in L.A. to ban sale of dogs, cats, rabbits

The Los Angeles City Council today formalized its approval of an ordinance (by a 13-2 vote) that bans the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits — an important step on the path to becoming the largest no-kill community in the United States.

This action also makes the City of Angels the largest city in the United States to enact legislation that puts an end to the flow of animals from puppy mills, the large commercial breeding farms that supply pet stores. In the future, dogs, cats and rabbits in Los Angeles pet stores will be from shelters or rescue groups.

“It’s a very good day for the people and animals of L.A.,” says Elizabeth Oreck, Best Friends Animal Society’s national manager of puppy mill initiatives. “Not only will this restrict the flow of animals coming into our city from pet mills and backyard breeders, it will help alleviate the pet overpopulation problem in our shelters by providing more opportunities for rescued animals to find homes.

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

Los Angeles joins 27 other cities in North America, including Toronto and 10 other California communities, in putting a major crimp in the pet store trade.

“More than 70,000 animals are euthanized in Los Angeles city and county shelters every year — at taxpayer expense,” says Elizabeth. “To continue importing puppies and kittens from mills in other states while we are killing the surplus that are already filling our shelters simply doesn’t make sense. Today, Los Angeles took a reasonable and progressive step to addressing these issues in our city.”

Elizabeth says the ordinance will not affect responsible hobby breeders, who will remain a source of purebred animals for those who are not able to find the purebred of their choice through shelters, purebred rescue groups or online databases, such as In fact, the ordinance should actually help increase business for the breeders in local communities, which is preferable to importing business from outside of Los Angeles, she adds.

Elizabeth says that today she received calls and e-mails from people all over the country, asking how they can enact an ordinance to ban retail sales of pets in their own communities.

“We are witnessing a cultural shift that comes from true grassroots advocacy in action,” she says. “It is only a matter of time before there will be very few places where one will be able to walk into a pet store and purchase an animal from a puppy or kitten mill.”


Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Elaine Fisher

    Saying that there would be lost jobs due to no pet sales in pet stores is foolish. The stores sell NEEDED supplies for ALL the animals being taken care of. They are not going to go out of business because of not selling live animals.
    70, 000 animals euthanized and you are asking where all the animals come from if pet sales are down? From all the people out there that are NOT spaying and neutering their animals, no matter how legitimately they got them. It happens all the time and faster than humans can keep up with! From all the irresponsible people out there that HAVE to have a purebred and think they can breed them once in a while and sell the babies for money. From people out there that buy from all the other breeders, reputable, backyard or hobbyist’s. I don’t know what the exact right answer is to the problem, but working together on more than one angle to it, I am sure would be a bigger help.Pet stores could have advertisement boards in them for reputable breeders, or hobbyists, so people who do want purebreds could know where to go. They could bring in rescue animals to be adopted. If it could be worked on changing society from thinking only a cute baby kitten or puppy is the animals they “need” to have.

  • Jimmie Lori, please get OFF your high horse and stop acting like you know better. 70,000 animals euthanized PER YEAR on the TAXPAYER’S dime is unacceptable. There is NO reason for this. Do you also recruit women to breed babies for those who don’t want to adopt an older child. Please, you are pathetic and THE problem with our country. You talk about selling cigarettes and alcohol that kills? It’s an individual’s CHOICE to purchase and use those items. It is NOT an animal’s choice to be breed or to live it’s life in a puppy mill or to be sold only to be abandoned and euthanized at a shelter. Do you even have any concept of what a puppy mill is? Look it up and then shut your mouth, you PIG.

  • How many animals were sold in Los Angeles pet stores every year? The article states that more than 70k are euthanized annually, but I’m curious how many of them came from pet stores in the LA city limits.

    • 250 L.A. pet stores, 180 of which are groomers who don’t sell dogs, leaving 70 pet stores. Subtract the chain stores and shops that don’t sell puppies and about 30 remain. Even if all 30 of these LA shops sell one puppy mill puppy per day that would account for about 11,000 puppies sold per year. (Industry norm is 2-3 puppies per week, 100 per year, about half possibly originating from mills. More realistic annual number is actually 1500 puppy mill puppies from retail sales.) All these numbers are easily accessed on the web and through public listings and industry publications.

      Reality check: About 1500 puppy mill puppies from LA pet stores sold per year with only a fraction of those abandoned. 70,000 unwanted, euthanized dogs couldn’t have come all come from puppy mills, let alone puppy mill puppies sold at pet stores.

      CNN polls consistently report the vast majority of new puppy owners who purchased their dogs (as opposed to adopting) are satisfied. So – worse case scenario – even if we could pin 10,000 puppy mill sales on LA retailers, and 5,000 of those dogs ended up in shelters, from where are these shelters acquiring the other 65,000 dogs they euthanize each year? And what about the dogs they don’t euthanize? The math itself proves retail pet sales are an insignificant symptom, not a cause.

      In 2008, LA Animal Services took in 54,191 unwanted dogs AND cats. Retail dog sales have declined consistently every year the past four years. Yet in 2011 70,000 dogs were euthanized? Where are all these dogs coming from?

      If less than 50% of unwanted dogs are euthanized, the 70,000 put down means another 70,000 were adopted. That’s 140,000 unwanted dogs. If half the purchased puppies are kept, that means 280,000 puppies are sold. All of the 250 LA pet stores combined would have to sell puppy mill puppies at the rate of 3 per day in order to provide this many unwanted dogs – assuming every single one of these dogs is a pure bred from a puppy mill sold through a pet store. If you then consider that the vast majority of unwanted dogs are not even purebred…well the math, at this point, just gets ridiculous.

      So let’s refocus. Having to euthanize even one unwanted dog is too many. Who would argue that point? Everyone agrees the unwanted dog population is a problem. But the numbers here suggest that this ban is barking up the wrong tree.

      Supply and demand. Consumers who want pure bred puppies will buy them, with or without pet stores. Consumers dictate demand, not suppliers. Demand dictates supply. Educating consumers (demand) and regulating breeders (supply) is the only long term solution.

      Pet stores are the best source for exposing mills and educating consumers. Retail puppy sales from stores have been drastically declining industry wide for many years. It’s 2012. Internet sales dominate the puppy market, not retail sales. Savvy, shady breeders aren’t affected by bans like these. Cutting out retail sales at this stage in the game is little more than an emotional pacifier, treating the symptom, merely speeding up the inevitable, and further enabling the mills to fly off the radar. This ban only hastens the lost connection between retailers and mills and provides less opportunity for retailers to help officials expose puppy mills.

      Let’s hope activists will soon wake up and use their limited resources to refocus on their original cause and get back to the heart of the issue. Just because it is easier to attack pet stores who are increasingly selling fewer puppies anyway doesn’t mean it’s the best approach. A little broader thinking on this issue would go a long way.

  • A right to sell, buy, breed is an American Liberty. LA & California also Legalized Marijuana. The connection between the Government telling me what my civil liberties are simply ludicrous. You sell cigarettes and alcohol which is imported that Kills lives. So how do we handle that problem? We hold the person driving drunk accountable for their actions. Come on, we can keep prisoner locked up and well cared for by the best health insurance there is, 0 deductible and 0 premium. We can’t care for our stayed, abandoned, abused animals. Think how many pet stores there are and most very legitimate, also paying takes with the sales they take in, not to mention the employment of all those who work for them. You think you solved a problem all you did is worsen the economy by now putting more people unemployed and seriously you think a pet store owner doesn’t love animals? You and everyone who approved this and likes this notion that the Government can tell me me what I can do when it comes to buying a pet. Screw that I bet all these people are Obama Lovers and supporters. Your all like the bad child who needs reprimanded for their bad behavior, some sort of need to be recognized and told what to do. I for one stand for freedom and liberty, I love pets and bought my guinea Pig from Pet’s Mart and have two dogs, from adoption centers but to think I would tell someone they can’t open up a pet store! Who am I to say that to someone one running a legitimate business? Hold he pet owners accountable for the actions of their pets! Hold the Government accountable for the DEBT & unemployment rate, the housing foreclosure rate. Hold the City of Bell for making Millions as a city Mayor, The Governemnt could have solved the pet adoption problem. Do you really think there won’t be any animal shelters uthenizing pets just because of this ordinace? Hell No! Problem still exits…. Silly Rabbit Pets are for responsible people who can afford to take care of them and Tricks are for the Government Like this one!

    • You are just a sad excuse. “Oh, one solution won’t solve ALL of the problems?! Oh, gee golly whiz, let’s just say f— it then!” Please. Do yourself a favor and get educated. Google puppy mills for starters and then shut your pathetic mouth.

    • “A right to sell, buy, breed is an American Liberty, LA”? Really now – it’s OK to “raise” these animals in inhumane conditions – subject to abuse just for beginners. And how can you compare cigarettes and alcohol to a living, breathing creature? People like this make me sick. Look online and the horrific conditions these dogs live in – dogs just a year old – being bred and over and over. Many are sick, blind, deaf which passes these genes onto their pups. If pet stores want to have pets from animals shelters to try to rehome – that is fine with me PROVIDING good background checks are done. I’m 100% for rescue where each dog is fostered to assess the dog – you may pay more – but for everyone it is a win/win. I have TWO adopted Cocker Spaniels – healthy and just the greatest. DON’T SHOP – ADOPT !!! PSST – NO I am not an Obama Supporter – I am “for the best man” and as there was no best man running – I did not vote – a first for me.

  • Elizabeth Oreck

    I would also like to send a big Thank You to the amazing people we were privileged to work with on this ordinance: council member Paul Koretz, the L.A. mayor and city attorney’s offices, LAAS general manager Brenda Barnette, Social Compassion in Legislation and Mr. Ed Buck. The collaboration of this group, along with the overwhelming support of so many committed animal welfare advocates, really shows how much we can accomplish when we work together.