Solana Beach latest to regulate puppy mills

Solana Beach latest to regulate puppy mills
Kahoots, the only pet store in Solana Beach, will have six months to comply with a proposal regulating the sale of commercially bred animals. But the impacts should be minimal because the store sells mainly pet supplies and rabbits, not dogs or cats. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

SOLANA BEACH — Solana Beach is the latest city to regulate the sale of commercially bred pets, directing staff at the May 25 meeting to create an ordinance banning pet stores from selling dogs, cats and bunnies that come from “puppy mills,” “kitten factories” and “rabbit mills.”

The Humane Society of the United States defines such establishments as inhumane, commercial breeding facilities in which the health of the animals is disregarded to maintain low overhead and maximize profits.

Animals born and raised in these mills and factories are more likely to have genetic disorders and lack adequate socialization, according to the staff report.

Additionally, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claims that animals used for breeding at the facilities may be subject to inhumane housing conditions, the report states.

In 1966 Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act, which outlines specific minimum standards of care for dogs, cats and other types of animals bred for commercial resale.

Under the AWA, certain large-scale commercial breeders are required to be licensed and regularly inspected by the Department of Agriculture, but according to the Humane Society website there are many inefficiencies and loopholes in the system.

Only large-scale commercial facilities that breed or broker animals for resale to pet stores or sell puppies sight-unseen, such as over the internet, are required to be licensed and inspected because they are considered “wholesale” operations.

Those that sell directly to the public face-to-face are not required to adhere to the Animal Welfare Act or to any federal humane care standards.

Inspection records obtained by the Humane Society show that many USDA-licensed breeders get away with repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

According to the Humane Society, violators are rarely fined and their licenses are rarely suspended.

“Facilities with long histories of repeated violations for basic care conditions are often allowed to renew their licenses again and again,” the agency’s website states.

Solana Beach received more than 30 emails from people urging council members to adopt the ban, which was being discussed at the request of Councilwoman Lesa Heebner.

Another half dozen addressed council with the same request during the public comment period. There were no comments opposing a ban.

“This isn’t just a city issue, but a humane one that concerns all of us who care about the welfare of animals,” said Laurie Michaels, a resident of Encinitas, which recently adopted a similar ban.

“The very existence of a store that makes money from breeders that mass-produce dogs in a world that is already highly overpopulated is a moral abomination,” Rebecca Snyder, a 15-year military member, said.

“I urge you to be very careful with the wording to prevent any loopholes,” Solana Beach resident Vicki Cypherd said.  “Just keep it really simple. The bottom line is I don’t want to see the sale of any dogs, cats or rabbits in Solana Beach.”

The new law, which will be presented for adoption at upcoming meetings, will be modeled after an ordinance recently authorized in San Marcos.

There will be a six-month grace period to allow Kahoots, the only pet store in Solana Beach, to comply.

A store employee said Kahoots sells mainly pet supplies and rabbits and no dogs or cats. The business does hold pet adoptions, which will continue to be allowed under the proposed ordinance.

At press time, phone calls to the Kahoots headquarters in Ramona for comment were not returned.

Animals that come from publicly operated shelters, animal control enforcement agencies and nonprofit rescue organizations can be sold or adopted.

The Solana Beach ordinance will be more restrictive than the one in San Marcos and other nearby cities such as Carlsbad and Oceanside because it will prohibit the sale of animals from private, hobby or noncommercial breeders and those born and reared on premise.

“It’s truly stomach-turning and disgusting,” Councilman Peter Zahn said. “I think we have a moral and legal obligation to really make sure that this doesn’t happen in our town. … I’m pretty much in line with being more restrictive rather than less restrictive.”

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