First Reactions

San Francisco's pet ban: First reactions

A new law aimed at reducing "impulse purchase" pet sales would make selling cats, dogs, and most other creatures illegal. But critics say the city's barking up the wrong tree

Animal lovers in San Francisco are rabid over a proposed law that would render the sale of almost all household pets illegal within city limits. (Watch an AP report about the proposed pet ban.) Advocates argue that pet abandonment rates have left the city with a glut of furry creatures destined for premature death. The ban — which, somewhat oddly, excludes fish — theoretically makes it harder for fickle owners to procure objects of (fleeting) affection. Predictably enough, pet-store owners and plenty of bloggers think otherwise. Here, a sampling of reaction:

"This is a stupid idea," says Brian Moylan in Gawker. As if a 30-minute drive outside of city limits is really going to be a deterrent to impulsive pet buyers. Instead, maybe we should "treat pets like cigarettes and alcohol and put heavy taxes on them."

That won't work either, says Michael Yaki in the San Francisco Chronicle. "Pets are not a vice. Pets are not, for the most part, accidents waiting to happen." A ban on pets will only lead to the black-market establishment of "pet store speakeasies," which could prove more damaging than legitimate pet stores.

What about a time out for pet lovers? In lieu of a total ban, perhaps San Francisco officials should enforce a "cooling off period" for pet lovers, says James Joyner in Outside the Beltway. Would-be purchasers could leave a deposit and "come back three days later if you really want that puppy." Such a rule would surely be more effective "than making people go to Oakland for their hamsters."

Speaking of hamsters, says Jeff Blyskal in Consumer Reports, they're a disproportionately large part of the problem, as city officials have noted. "Too many San Franciscans buy hamsters as an impulse purchase," and almost immediately regret the acquisition of a beady-eyed friend. Banning pet sales altogether is like "banning parking for all cars in the city because some drivers park illegally." Ban hamster sales only, and let the sale of other pets continue.

Actually, the ban could be a good thing for all pets, says Sarah Han in Pawsome. Purchasers who now see animal shelters as a kind of Goodwill thrift store for animals, as "unworthy second-hand tossaways," might take a second look at pets housed there. Perhaps those who might otherwise buy a pet new will see that shelter animals are the pets "they've been searching for all along."

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