by Dan Gibson
San Francisco, a city named after the patron saint of animals, is discussing a ban on the sale of animals for reasons other than eating, which would end to the sale of animals as pets. The city's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare recommended to the Board of Supervisors the ban to encourage the adoption of animals from local animal shelters, however, there will obviously be widely ranging effects:
Rebecca Katz, director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control, said her agency supports a ban on pet sales — particularly one that includes the so-called smalls, such as hamsters, which are euthanized at her city shelter at a higher percentage than any other domesticated animal. Although she did not advocate for the inclusion of fish, she is not against it.
"We're the agency that receives the old, filthy fish bowl with the goldfish at risk and have to determine whether we can make them healthy and adopt them out or flush them down the toilet," Katz said. "These are the lucky ones. Most people just flush them themselves."
Jennifer Scarlett, a veterinarian and co-president of the San Francisco SPCA, notes that only a handful of stores in San Francisco sell animals of any kind and that the effect of a ban would be largely symbolic. But she said that symbolism, and the conversation that it raises, is critical in improving the lives of millions of helpless creatures.
"For us as an organization, we've identified the larger problem of online purchasing of dogs, and we hope this is an avenue to get to that," she said. Still, when it comes to birds and fish, "there's a lot of cruelty around where they are sourced from. We see the cruelty."