Friday, May 3, 2013

Letter - San Diego Pet Store ordinance

Mayor Bob Filner and City Council Members
City of San Diego
202 “C” St.
San Diego, CA 92101
Fax 619-236-7228
May 2, 2013

Dear Mayor Filner and City Council Members,

The California Federation of Dog Clubs, founded in 1990, represents thousands of dog owners across our state. We are advocates for animal welfare, for promotion of responsible dog ownership and for protecting the rights of responsible dog owners. Our current projects include conducting breed identification workshops for shelter workers, distribution of a dog care and training brochure for new owners who adopt from shelters, and providing a 1-800 help line for pet owners struggling with behavior or training problems. We also maintain and administer a relief fund for animals affected by disasters such as earthquakes or fires. We support animal legislation that provides positive benefits to society.

The CFoDC is OPPOSED to bans on retail sales of pets, regardless of exemptions. Pet sales bans encourage the growth of a totally unregulated underground market. This ordinance would, in effect, trade a heavily regulated business for a largely unregulated industry, the pet rescue industry. A sales ban would only hurt legitimate businesses and responsible, regulated breeders and do nothing to improve animal welfare.

Sales bans create a shortage of desirable pets, a black market for dogs and cats, and a rise in imports from other countries. And, replacing pets from licensed breeders with unregulated “rescue” animals is very unwise. Many “rescue” groups are already importing dogs from overseas to meet the demand for pets. This is happening right now in southern California. A rescue group in LA imports dogs and sells them for hundreds of dollars each. Per the “Dogs Without Borders” website: “We currently rescue most dogs from local shelters and strays, but sometimes we rescue dogs from as far away as Taiwan!....Some of the dogs you see on our site are not here in the States.”

The demand for shelter dogs in San Diego is such that no adoptable dog is ever euthanized. It is this demand that drives the importation of dogs for the rescue niche market. San Diego's Helen Woodward Humane Society imports dogs on a regular basis from other states and even from other countries as far away as Romania. Allowing pet stores to market themselves as rescues is not simply disingenuous, it is dangerous. San Diego is already a magnet for homeless dogs from distant states and even foreign countries where diseases exist that have been eliminated from the US for decades, such as rabies and screwworm. Bans on animal sales exempting “rescues” would exacerbate the situation.

There is ample evidence collected by the LA County Veterinary Public Health Dept, the US Customs and Border Patrol, and the Centers for Disease Control proving that a high and rising number of dogs
in the marketplace are being imported into the US for the rescue-shelter enterprise. More than 10,000 dogs enter San Diego County from Mexico each and every year. Some dogs are imported for the rescue trade from as far away as Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The practice of so-called “humane relocation” is not only outrageous, but is also very irresponsible on the part of the shelters/rescues that participate. There are diseases and parasites in other countries which are transmitted from dog-to-dog or from dogs to humans which put the safety of our citizens and our dog population at great risk. In late 2004, the first case of canine rabies in Los Angeles County in 30 years was confirmed. The dog had recently come in from Mexico. Rabies is a fatal disease that still claims over 50,000 human lives annually worldwide.

Claims of high incidence of illness in pet store puppies are totally unsubstantiated. Pets bred under USDA rules and regulations receive regular veterinary care. There is evidence that the pet industry provides more veterinary care for puppies than the public at large. DVM/VPI Insurance Group, the largest provider of animal health insurance, testified during a hearing in California that "preconceived notions" concerning pet store puppies "could not have been more wrong."

After insuring more than 89,000 pet store puppies and kittens and handling health claims from a pool of more than 500,000 insured animals, the insurance company reduced its premiums for pet store puppies and kittens substantially by as much as 22 percent compared to premiums charged for animals from other sources. Why? Pet store puppies receive more veterinary attention during the first 12 weeks of age than any other puppies and, as a result, have fewer claims.

California law provides consumer protection for pets purchased in pet stores. Shelter and rescue animals are EXEMPT from the health, safety and disclosure requirements and from the consumer protection laws which are required of traditional pet stores and breeders under the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act and the Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act. This proposal would eliminate consumer protection and would result in more sick pets, not fewer.

In point of fact, some animal rescue groups raise the animals that they sell under poor conditions, the very conditions this ordinance seeks to eliminate. Consumers will have no recourse when they purchase a rescued pet with health problems and resultant big veterinary bills.

Just last January, dogs purchased from a Simi Valley rescue/shelter operation only days before came down with parvo. This operation, like most of its counterparts, offers no warranty nor is it required to by law. Vet bills for the purchaser of these rescued pets ran into the thousands of dollars. Laws that prohibit sales of USDA regulated and inspected pets will have the unintended consequence of promoting operations that legally sell sick animals and there is no legal redress for consumers.

The proposed ordinance would affect only one store in your city, possibly causing it to go out of business. If implemented, this law will not provide a home for even ONE shelter animal. The true intent for this proposal is to promote an agenda of animal rights fanatics who oppose ANY intentional breeding of pets, and who wish to inflame public outrage where none is warranted. Please reject this unwise proposal.

Commercial breeders are a legitimate source for healthy, well-bred animals. Studies show pet store animals are generally very healthy. Shelter and rescued animals are a different matter, with unknown health, temperament, parasites and infectious diseases. We urge you to reject the proposed ordinance to prohibit the retail sale of pets and replace them with unregulated “rescue” animals.

Sincerely yours,

Geneva Coats, R.N.
California Federation of Dog Clubs

CC: Bob Filner, Sherri Lightner, Kevin Faulconer, Todd Gloria, Mark Kersey, Lorie Zapf, Scott Sherman, David Alvarez, Marti Emerald

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