The Animal Welfare Commission wants to prevent pet stores from selling dogs and cats, as well as smaller animals including hamsters, rats and chinchillas. Banning the sale of dogs and cats in the city is largely symbolic since few stores actually do, but they are selling the small animals and many eventually wind up at city shelters.
"They may be at the pet store, it may be an impulse purchase or they know that's where to get them. A lot of them end up here," San Francisco Animal Care and Control volunteer Rebecca Katz said.
It goes something like this. Mom and Dad buy Junior a pair of rats. It turns out that one is male and the other a female. Before you know it, there is a litter they cannot handle. Or, mom and dad buy Junior a hamster, but after a while he grows tired of it and it ends up at the shelter which is being overrun by guinea pigs and rats, with some ending up euthanized.
"That's a tough one because they are being euthanized because they've been here a long time and there's a lack of space," shelter volunteer Kathleen McGarr said.
The sales ban might help, but Animal Control Commissioner Sally Stephens admits people who want pets will just go to Daly City or some other nearby municipality. Still, she believes it is important to go on record as caring about lives of the animals.
"Somebody could conceivably go to Daly City and get some animals but the point is in San Francisco we want to say we don't support puppy mills and we want people to realize when they get a pet, it's a commitment," she said.
Another commissioner says he hopes this will encourage the state legislature to come up with a statewide ban. Other cities including South Lake Tahoe and West Hollywood have banned the retail sale of cats and dog.
Jennifer Grafelman is the manager of Animal Connection in the Sunset District. Her store sells lots of small animals, including hamsters, rats and Chinchillas. She calls the city's proposal "unfortunate" and says it would financially impact her store and would end the first pet experience of many young children. Grafelman supports more rules and regulations but not an outright ban.
"I understand they are trying to save lives as well and understand, but I think there need to be more rules and regulations rather than banning everything," she said.
San Francisco would become first in the nation to include the smaller mammals. The Animal Commission will vote on the measure on June 10.