San Francisco bill proposes to ban the sale of pets

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As if taking up arms in defense of the humble foreskin wasn't enough, San Francisco is now considering banning the sale of pets in the city.

Last year, the proposed ban just included the sad puppies, abused cats, and other distressed furry mammals that we so regularly see in ASPCA infomercials set to emotionally crushing Sarah McLachlan songs. Now, the proposal, titled The Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal, has been radically expanded and is on its way to the Board of Supervisors. Currently, the bill bans the sale of fish, fowl, reptiles, amphibians, cats, dogs, gerbils, rats, chinchillas, ferrets… hell, pretty much anything that Noah would have put on the ark. 

Advocates for the $45- to $50-billion-a-year pet industry call the proposal "by far the most radical ban we've seen" nationwide and argue that it would mean the death of multiple small businesses, not to mention a sudden dearth of viral pet videos. Animal activists say it will save lives and taxpayer money.

"Why fish? Why not fish?" said Philip Gerrie, a member of the city's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare and a coauthor of the proposal.

"From Descartes on up, in the Western mindset, fish and other nonhuman animals don't have feelings, they don't have emotions, we can do whatever we want to them. If we considered them living beings, we would deal with them differently… Our culture sanctions this, treating them as commodities and expendable."

But here's where things get screwy: the ban would not stop the sale of animals in San Francisco for eventual human consumption. So markets can continue selling live fish, poultry, turtles and seafood to eat, but not to domesticate or take for walks. So, presumably, you will be able to buy a dog… but only if you promise you will kill it and eat it. 

Look, San Francisco, this is getting ridiculous. Your foreskin war was one thing — I was willing to just shake my head and casually remark how wacky you all are over there on that crazy West Coast. But banning pets without banning the sale of those same animals for food is ludicrous. And that ludicrousness is entirely autonomous from the ludicrousness of banning pet sales because people are too irresponsible to care for them. That happens everywhere, and there are better ways to deal with it than to introduce a wholesale ban that's going to put a lot of people out of business, not to mention make it a lot harder for the people out there who do love their pets and care for them well.