National City enacts ban on retail sales of dogs, cats and rabbits

Alycia Ostermann, manager at the Carlsbad Pets store at The Shoppes at Carlsbad mall, holds "Jumper," a Pembroke Welsh corgi. All of store's dogs were moved to the company's store in Escondido when the Carlsbad store closed in 2016.
Alycia Ostermann was manager at the Carlsbad Pets store when it closed in 2016. Now two other stores in Carlsbad will be barred from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they are rescue pets.
(Charlie Neuman / San Diego Union-Tribune)

City leaders in National City last week enacted an ordinance that makes it illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats and rabbits.

The council wasn’t swayed by a group of supporters of National City Puppy — one of two stores in the city that sells dogs — who turned out to lobby against the ban.

The group, which included National City Puppy employees and customers, shared the sentiment that potential customers should have the option to buy dogs from a store should they want to. They wore fluorescent yellow T-shirts that read in part, “That’s my choice.”


Proponents of the ordinance, who had come out in greater numbers than opponents before the Sept. 3 council meeting, pointed out that the ordinance still allows dogs, cats and rabbits to be purchased directly from breeders.

They called on the city to enact the ban to close a loophole in a state law aimed at ending sales of animals that stores often obtain from commercial breeders, commonly referred to as “puppy mills” or “catteries.”

Under the state law, which took effect in January, pet stores must obtain animals from shelters or rescue groups. Some stores, however, have reportedly partnered with bogus rescue groups that obtain commercially bred animals, then sell them to the stores.

The ban, which will take effect in 30 days, will force National City Puppy and another store, the Puppy Patch, to shift their business model — perhaps to rely on sales of pet supplies — or close. Neither owner agreed to comment.

“I’ll be making an announcement sometime soon,” said National City Puppy owner David Salinas, whose store has been at the center of criticism from animal-rights activists who claim the dogs he sells come from puppy mills.

Salinas has denied the claims.

Only Councilman Ron Morrison opposed the ban in a 4-1 vote. He said it was nonsense to think that selling pet supplies is a viable business model and that it wasn’t the City Council’s job to close the loophole in the state law.

“To me, [the ordinance] is nothing more than anti-choice, anti-business and an abuse of government power,” Morrison said.

Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis and Councilwoman Mona Rios, who requested the ban, said they didn’t consider the ban anti-business or anti-choice but instead saw it as a way to ensure pet stores comply with the letter of the law.

The ordinance includes some exceptions:

  • The regulations don’t apply to animal shelters, animal control agencies or nonprofit humane societies.
  • The city will allow dogs, cats and rabbits to be purchased directly from breeders and/or the premises where the animals are born.
  • Stores will be allowed to display dogs, cats and rabbits for the purposes of adoption so long as the animals are owned by shelters or rescue groups and the stores don’t collect fees. Stores will also be allowed to offer dogs, cats and rabbits for sale as part of adoption events put on by shelters or rescue groups.

The adoption of the ordinance adds National City to a list of seven other San Diego County cities that generally ban retail sales of animals: Chula Vista, Vista, San Diego, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Solana Beach and San Marcos.