Vista council expected to pass pet store ordinance

VISTA — In a proactive move against potential sales of puppy mill animals, the Vista City Council instructed city hall staff to clarify language for banning retail pet stores within city limits.

During its Aug. 25 meeting, the council listened to more than a dozen residents voice their disgust for puppy mills and praise for the council’s foresight into taking steps to ban the sale of dogs and cats produced by mills.

Currently, pet stores are allowed in C-1, C-2, C-3 and M-1 zones and the city has five stores selling fish, small rodents and reptiles.

Taking a cue from the city of Encinitas and other entities, Vista councilman Cody Campbell submitted an ordinance to the council, although the matter was tabled to the Sept. 25 meeting.

Nevertheless, the council is expected to pass the item at its next meeting. On Aug. 25, meanwhile, at least 26 residents appeared at the meeting displaying a unified front in support of the ordinance.

Also in agreement with the council is the San Diego Humane Society. Austin Gates, senior director at the Oceanside Campus, spoke on behalf of CEO Gary Weitzman at the meeting reading a statement from Weitzman.

In part it read: “San Diego County is one of the most pet friendly communities in the nation. It is important we set the standard of humane treatment of animals and welfare issues nationwide. The reason is to stop the sourcing of puppy mills. We know puppy mills are nothing short of commercially sanctioned animal cruelty.

As for the city, Campbell said if the council does not act quickly, Vista could become a “safe haven” for retail stores.

“They don’t meet our moral standards of our community,” Campbell said. “We want to prevent those types of businesses from coming in.”

So, Campbell drafted an ordinance with two exemption options. The first was to allow reputable breeders who produce less than 20 animals per year to sell their animals.

The second allow breeders to rear and sell their animals from their “premises (homes).”

Residents, meanwhile, chided the puppy mill industry as a cruel and inhumane treatment of dogs and cats.

Karen Clayton said the industry is fixed with cruelty in the name of profit and salespeople at retail stores will “tell anything to sell a puppy.”

She also spoke to 20 reputable California breeders who unanimously agreed they would never allow their animals to be sold to a retail outlet.

In one example, Jim Filby described how two elderly Oceanside residents were shocked to discover they leased a dog in November 2014, with no ownership rights, from Oceanside Puppy. The couple thought they bought the dog for $495, but had actually agreed to a 27-month lease and spent more than $2,700 over the lease including service and maintenance of the animal.

After being allowed to return the dog, the couple adopted a rescue dog.

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