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San Francisco Pet Ban Update

Posted: September 26, 2011, 2:16 p.m., EDT

Differences of opinion within the San Francisco Commission and Board of Supervisors might help avert the proposed ban on the sale of aquarium fish in the city.
John Dawes
There have been several developments to the proposed San Francisco pet sales ban story published June 8 on, under the headline: San Francisco Revives Pet Sales Ban Discussion ( For example, other publications, such as the Los Angeles Times, covered the story.

At the same time, I received a Pet Alert from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) on the same issue, informing me that the proposal from the San Francisco Animal Control & Welfare Commission was discussed on June 9, and that it was duly adopted. “The proposal, and possible language, will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors for future action,” Sources associated with PIJAC commented. We still await further details on this.

In an article published on June 15 in the San Francisco Chronicle, reporters Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, quote Philip Gerrie, one of San Francisco’s commissioners, as saying that “Most fish in aquariums are either mass produced under inhumane conditions or taken from the wild... [leading to] devastation of tropical fish from places like Southeast Asia.” With all due respect to Mr. Gerrie, his lack of knowledge of the ways in which fish are bred or collected, or of the “devastation” caused, is alarming, to say the least.

It’s also alarming that, if the proposal were to become law, it would be illegal to sell ornamental fish in San Francisco. Anyone interested in buying fish within the city would presumably have to follow the same guidelines as for dogs and cats and obtain them through pet store adoption schemes, direct sale by small breeders, or adoption from shelters or animal rescue organisations. Alternatively, one assumes that San Franciscans could buy fish elsewhere (anywhere!) in the U.S. and take them back to San Francisco with them. What a ridiculous scenario!

It’s also emerging that the proposal doesn’t quite have the support the first reading might suggest. Reportedly, the president of the commission, Sally Stephens, opposed the ban on the grounds that it would also include small animal-breeding operations. In her view, it would be up to the Board of Supervisors to decide.

The Board, for its part, is not united in its opinions regarding the proposals. For example, Matier and Ross report that one supervisor, Eric Mar, believes the Board will have to “look carefully” at the proposal, while another, Sean Elsbernd, is of the opinion that the proposal “will end up in the dustbin of history and go absolutely nowhere.” This could happen despite the objectives of the proposal being to act against puppy mills, kitten factories and impulse buying of pets.

While it is widely known that the ornamental aquatic industry strongly supports responsible pet ownership and a responsible trade, it is also known that it opposes draconian, ill-thought-out, flaw-filled legislation, but, in doing so, always strives to find a workable, win-win way forward.

It is therefore hoped that the compilers of the ban proposal will reconsider their position and open the door to sensible, open dialogue before it’s too late. Unless, this happens, the risk that the proposal will go ahead is a very real one. Further, as Sandy Moore, vice president of Ornamental Fish International and board member of the Florida Fish Farms Association, warned: “So far, this is the only legislation that affects fish…If this legislation passes, I would expect to see other municipalities attempt the same ban.” <HOME>

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