FINALLY WE HAVE SOME PEOPLE WHO CAN THINK:
CARLSBAD — Four weeks after banning pet stores from selling dogs and cats because of concerns over “puppy mills” and “kitten factories,” Carlsbad City Council members reversed course Tuesday and repealed the short-lived ban in a 3-2 vote.
The Oct. 8 vote to ban retail pet sales added Carlsbad to a long list of cities across the nation that have recently passed legislation aimed at so-called puppy mills, where profit-focused breeders allegedly neglect and mistreat animals.
That list includes the city of San Diego, which passed a ban similar to Carlsbad’s in July.
Animal rights groups have been successfully lobbying cities to pass legislation by presenting evidence that most dogs and cats sold at pet stores are mass produced at profit-driven breeding facilities in the Midwestern U.S.
The activists say the animals are trapped in small cages and deprived of veterinary attention. They also say the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t do enough to regulate breeders or correct problems.
Eliminating pet stores would force more people to adopt dogs and cats from shelters and rescue organizations, putting the puppy mills out of business, the activists say.
Carlsbad council members called those arguments persuasive last month, but agreed to revisit the issue a few weeks later because they couldn’t decide whether to exempt the city’s lone pet store — California Pets at Westfield Carlsbad mall.
On Tuesday, the council decided to broaden its debate beyond whether California Pets should be exempt and eventually voted to repeal the ban entirely. They said unscrupulous breeders are the problem, not pet stores.
Mayor Matt Hall, Councilman Mark Packard and Councilwoman Farrah Douglas voted to repeal the ban. Councilman Keith Blackburn and Councilwoman Lorraine Wood wanted to maintain at least some sort of legislation.
“It’s not the pet stores who are troublemakers, it’s the breeders,” said Douglas, noting that only a small number of breeders appeared to be unethical.
When animal rights activists urged the Carlsbad council not to exempt California Pets last month, they said the store was notorious for selling sickly animals and had been sued many times.
City officials said Tuesday that research during the last month shows those claims were exaggerations.
Fiona Everett of the Carlsbad Police Department said six complaints against the store had been determined to have merit since 2002. She also said California Pets, which operates a second store in Escondido, had been sued three times since 1997. Douglas said she was frustrated the activists had trumped up claims against the store to further their own mission.
Blackburn said he was worried repealing the ordinance might allow more pet stores to open in Carlsbad, but Douglas said it wouldn’t be appropriate for the city to create a monopoly by allowing only one pet store to operate.