WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – The vote to ban the sale of dogs and cats in this famously liberal enclave will likely have more bark than bite, since no pet stores in the city currently sell animals.
But officials hope that Tuesday's unanimous city council vote will be seen beyond West Hollywood as a symbolic stand against puppy mills and kitten factories.
"You have to start somewhere," said Michael Haibach, deputy to Councilman Jeffrey Prang, who sponsored the legislation. "The more people who jump on the bandwagon the better."
This famously quirky city has a reputation as a trailblazer in animal welfare rights.
It became the first city in the country to prohibit cat declawing in 2003, a measure that has since spread to dozens of other cities, including Los Angeles. Another West Hollywood ordinance officially terms pets as "companion animals" and gives their "guardians" a local tax deduction for pet adoption fees.
Since the pet sales ordinance was introduced earlier this month, the city has received dozens of inquiries from other municipalities across the country interested in replicating it, Haibach said. Some information requests came from Europe, he said.
Pet shops would only be permitted to offer animals from shelters for sale once West Hollywood's ordinance goes into effect in September. South Lake Tahoe adopted a similar ban last year.
Advocates for the pet industry said such ordinances are misguided because they do not tackle the source of the problem — irresponsible commercial breeders who keep animals in deplorable conditions.
"It's not going after the substandard breeders," said Michael Maddox, vice president of governmental affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. "A pet store doesn't get you very far. We support people's right to get their pet from the best source that suits them."
At West Hollywood's D.O.G. Pet Boutique, co-owner Christian Velasco said he is against selling puppy-mill dogs that are sold to stores for $20 to $30 then resold to the public for hundreds of dollars.
"We could make a lot of money doing that, but we don't think it's right," Velasco said.
Instead, the store refers customers to shelters and allows a rescue agency to bring its animals to the store for adoption.