to the Board of Supervisors
from the Animal Control and Welfare Commission
The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission was established through the SF Health Code. Sec. 41.3 of the Code states: “The Commission shall render written report of its activities to the Board [of Supervisors] quarterly.” This report fulfills that requirement.
The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission advises the Board of Supervisors on issues involving animals. People come to Commission meetings to offer their opinions about issues under discussion, and to suggest topics that the Commission might investigate further. During the second quarter of 2011, the Commission took the following action:
1) Recommended to the Board of Supervisors that they pass an ordinance requiring the humane acquisition of pets in San Francisco. The Commission suggested the ordinance state that people can acquire pets of all species through the following methods: 1) Pet store adoption events; 2) Pet store permanent adoption centers/partnerships; 3) Adoption from shelters such as Animal Care and Control (ACC) and the SF/SPCA; 4) Adoption from animal rescue organizations. Methods that fall outside of those listed, such as non-adoption sales through pet stores, would not be permitted. Pets would include dogs, cats, birds, small animals (including but not limited to hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, and chinchillas), reptiles, amphibians, and aquarium fish. The Commission considered this issue at several meetings in 2010, with invited speakers representing pet store owners, the pet industry, rescue groups, and animal welfare advocates. The initial discussion concerned stopping the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores because many obtain their animals from “puppy mill” type of situations, where animals are kept in crowded, deplorable conditions, often with inadequate veterinary care and inadequate socialization, and are bred repeatedly. Even if current pet stores don’t get animals from mills, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. Mill animals often develop physical and behavioral problems that can increase the number of surrenders at shelters. ACC reported that many potentially adoptable small animals (not cats or dogs) surrendered to the shelter are euthanized because there are not enough people or rescue groups to take them. Concerns were expressed that many small animals are impulse purchases at a pet store, and, when people realize the care required, they no longer want the animal and it was either released into the wild (essentially a death sentence for the animal; one notable exception being the parrots of Telegraph Hill) or surrendered to ACC. Fish and reptiles were added because of concern that taking these animals from the wild, which happens often in the pet industry trade, has serious ecological and environmental consequences. Rescue groups for all types of animals reported being pushed to the limit trying to find homes for the animals in the shelter.
In mid-2010, a volunteer stepped forward to suggest an educational solution – People would get a certificate after taking an online course (similar to online driving schools) on care of the specific type of animal they were interested in, and pet stores would only sell animals to people who had certificates for that specific type of animal. The Commission tabled the discussion of a ban on sales to allow her a chance to flesh out details of her educational approach. Unfortunately, she was unable to do so. Members of the public asked the Commission to revisit the idea of stopping the sale of animals in stores, and we did so. The Commission was not saying people should not have pets. We were saying that San Francisco should endorse the benefits to animals (and consumers) of adoption from shelters and rescues versus purchases from stores. [Commissioners Young, Gerrie, Russo]
In addition, the Commission has held discussions on the following topics, which highlight animal issues that are of concern to San Francisco residents:
1) Suggestion that San Francisco develop a database of people convicted of animal abuse or proven to have neglected an animal. This database could then be accessed by rescue groups and city shelters to help screen potential adopters and keep abusers from adopting animals through them. The Commission identified concerns about privacy, criteria for inclusion in and removal from the database, and how the database would be maintained. Several cities and counties nationwide have recently created such databases, and more research on what they have done is needed. Several Commissioners are working with members of the public on this, and it is likely to return to return to the Commission if the concerns can be adequately addressed. [Commissioners Stephens and Brooks]