ENCINITAS — Encinitas does not have any commercial pet stores in its city limits — and likely will never have one after Wednesday night.
The council enthusiastically voted 4-0 to enact an ordinance that bans such stores, after council received an hour of testimony from animal rights activists and residents imploring them to act proactively on behalf of animals.
Mark Muir was absent from the meeting.
“Encinitas has to be the most pet friendly city in the county, we are just going to own that one,” Mayor Kristin Gaspar said.
The council members said their inboxes were flooded with hundreds of emails in the week leading up the council meeting, almost exclusively in favor of enacting the ordinance.
Cities across the region have been grappling with how to deal with commercial breeders, but Encinitas is believed to be the first one to deal with the issue proactively. San Diego, Oceanside and most recently San Marcos, enacted emergency measures after stores had set up shop in the community.
Those stores, since they were in business before the ordinances were enacted, were not impacted by the bans.
Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said she didn’t want this to be the case in Encinitas.
“I am very concerned of the risk of stores moving in and having to grandfather them in for a short time or indefinitely if we don’t have the ordinance already in place,” Shaffer said before moving approval of the ban.
Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear also echoed Shaffer’s sentiments, calling it “cleaner” to enact the ban now rather than in a reactive manner.
City Hall was packed with animal activists — and some who brought their four legged friends — who spoke for more than a half our espousing the virtue of local shelters and discussing the reported ills of commercial breeders, which have been dubbed “puppy mills” due to the conditions animals have been documented to be in under such breeders.
Several speakers said that such bans could ultimately have the effect of forcing commercial breeders to change their practices in order for their businesses to survive.
“The more of these ordinances that are passed, one day they (commercial breeders) are going to walk the walk, that means the way people treat dogs, and the way people acquire dogs, will have changed,” said Dale Bartlett of the Humane Society of the United States. “So dogs won’t have to suffer in those terrible places any more.”
Encinitas staff in drafting the proposed ordinance also included information about several lawsuits involving commercial pet stores, including one in Arizona federal court that would have an impact in California if a ruling favored the pet store owners.
But residents urged the council to pass the measure tonight and deal with any potential changes at a later date.
Wednesday’s discussion wasn’t totally unanimous. A pair of speakers urged the council to take no action, given that Encinitas does not have a documented problem with pet stores and breeders.
“You have three tasks: pave our streets, keep us safe and leave us alone,” local resident Greg LaFave said. “The reason why Encinitas does not have a puppy mill ordinance is because the problem doesn’t exist here. You are seeking to ban a product not sold here to a population that rightfully deplores the concept.
“It takes courage to say, ‘let’s set this aside and not burn through payroll,’” LaFave said.