Solana Beach approves ban on ‘puppy mill’ pets


Solana Beach is now among the growing list of cities throughout San Diego County that has banned the sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats and rabbits.

The Solana Beach City Council on June 22 unanimously approved an ordinance that prohibits stores to sell what critics call “puppy mill,” “kitten factory” and “rabbit mill” pets.

“It’s a way of addressing a national problem locally, and doing something positive and proactive for this community,” said Elizabeth Oreck, the national manager of puppy mill initiatives for the nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society.

Several cities in San Diego County have adopted similar ordinances. Following the lead set by the cities of Chula Vista in 2012 and San Diego in 2013, Oceanside, Encinitas and Vista enacted similar laws last year. Carlsbad and San Marcos passed measures this year.

The city of Solana Beach received two-dozen letters from community members and citizens across the county in support of the ban when the council first discussed the matter and directed staff to draft an ordinance in May. Animal advocates argued that pets that come from puppy mills are often treated poorly and come from crowded, unhealthy conditions, which can lead to lifelong mental and physical problems for the animals.

“It’s truly stomach-turning and disgusting,” Deputy Mayor Peter Zahn said at the May 25 council meeting. “We have a moral and legal obligation to really make sure that this doesn’t happen in our town and to support other communities in the area.”

Modeled after the San Marcos ordinance, the Solana Beach ordinance allows the adoption of pets from animal shelters, animal control agencies and nonprofit animal rescue organizations. The ordinance also does not specify or define non-commercial breeders or hobby breeders as the city is not regulating them.

“Restricting the retail sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats and rabbits is a fair, effective and reasonable way to prevent an endless stream of poorly bred pets from entering the community so that consumers are protected and fewer animals will have to suffer in order to supply the retail pet trade,” said Oreck, noting that the ordinance will also help relieve the burden on local shelters as well as taxpayers who subsidize those shelters.

Oreck said that more than 150 communities across country, including 31 cities in the state, have enacted similar measures. She and Carlsbad Councilman Keith Blackburn were the only two speakers on the issue at the meeting, where the ordinance was approved with little comment.

Blackburn, who was there to share Carlsbad’s experience with its ban, said that the city-by-city effort to prohibit the sale of commercially-bred pets in the county is part of a strategy to get California to approve a statewide ban.

“We make a lot of decisions as council people, and they’re usually decisions that are very important, but they’re usually like land use issues,” Blackburn said. “In this particular case, this is an issue that’s going to affect the lives of our future pets. To me, that was a bigger deal than most of the land use issues I take on.”