Solana Beach planning ban on ‘puppy mill’ pets

Solana Beach will soon join the growing list of cities throughout San Diego County that ban the sale of commercially-bred dogs, cats and rabbits.

The Solana Beach City Council on May 25 unanimously directed staff to draft an ordinance that will prohibit stores to sell what critics call “puppy mill,” “kitten factory” and “rabbit mill” pets.

“It’s truly stomach-turning and disgusting,” Deputy Mayor Peter Zahn said. “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.”

The council’s action comes less than a month after Carlsbad’s City Council unanimously prohibited the sale of puppy mill pets, joining the cities of Oceanside, Encinitas, Vista and San Marcos, which passed similar bans over the past year — following the lead set by San Diego and Chula Vista.

“We were lucky because no disreputable pet business had yet attempted to infiltrate our city with this self-serving in humane business,” said Encinitas resident Holly Jill St. John, a Navy veteran who serves on the board of Save the Dalmatians and Others Canine Rescue.

“Having lived in many places, we can attest to the fact that many pet stores can exist without selling pets,” she added.

Solana Beach doesn’t have any stores that sells dogs or cats, which could help make the ordinance easier to implement in the city. Kahoots Pet Store on San Rodolfo Drive, however, sells rabbits, in addition to pet food and supplies.

The San Marcos ordinance the council directed staff to model the city’s ordinance after allowed the pet store there six months to cease sales.

“Solana Beach is a very pet-friendly area,” said Councilwoman Lesa Heebner, who brought the issue before the full council. “We don’t have pet stores that sell dogs or cats.”

The city received two-dozen letters from community members and citizens across the county in support of the ban. Seven animal advocates also spoke before the council, arguing 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.

Stephen MacKinnon, chief of humane law enforcement for the San Diego Humane Society, called puppy mills “nothing short of commercially-sanctioned animal cruelty.”

“San Diego County is one of the pet friendliest communities in the nation, so it’s important that together we set a standard for humane treatment of animals and for animal welfare issues nationwide,” he said.

“I don’t want to see the sale of any dogs, cats or rabbits in Solana Beach,” added Solana Beach resident Vicki Cypherd, who called for the council to close all possible loopholes to the ordinance, including exemptions for animals sold from hobby breeders.

Most of the speakers and members of the council agreed that the ban should not affect people who breed animals and sell them from their homes. Therefore, the proposed ordinance will only apply to retail pet stores.

“I have never encountered a reputable breeder of any breed anywhere in the country who would ever sell to a pet store,” said Andrea Cunningham, an Escondido resident who said she has been breeding, showing and training dogs for 40 years. “Reputable, responsible breeders do not breed specifically for profit. Their goal is to better the breed.

“By contrast, pet stores provide a retail outlet for the nefarious puppy mill industry. Puppy mills consistently sacrifice quality in favor of quantity. There’s no consideration for anything but how many litters can be produced in the shortest period of time for the greatest amount of return under the most deplorable conditions.”