Editorial: Throw humane pet stores a bone

A cat up for adoption sits inside a "play room" in Petopia Animal Rescue in Woodland Hills.
(Los Angeles Times)

When the city of Los Angeles barred pet stores from selling commercially bred cats, dogs, and rabbits, it required instead that animals sold in stores come from shelters, humane societies and rescue groups. The purpose was to end Angelenos’ complicity with cruel breeders and puppy mills, and to encourage the adoption of animals in need of rescue. A fine idea, but the ordinance, which passed in late 2012, prompted an unforeseen zoning problem.

Many animals sold in “humane” stores are older, no longer puppies or kittens. Under the city’s municipal zoning code, any pet store selling four or more dogs that are four months of age or older is deemed to be a kennel. While pet stores are allowed by right in commercial C2 zones, kennels are only allowed in industrial zones. The city planning department ordered that these humane stores not be considered kennels, but a lawsuit led the Los Angeles Superior Court to invalidate the order on the grounds that the planning department didn’t have the authority to issue it.

It’s time for all this legal growling to be put to rest. Most pet stores are in commercial areas because that’s where people shop. And there’s no good reason for humane stores not to be there as well. On Wednesday, the city council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (PAW — funny) recommended that the city pass an ordinance specifically exempting pet stores from falling under the definition of “kennel” in the zoning code even if the shops have four or more adult dogs. The council should have done that when it passed the humane store ordinance.

Some people have expressed concern that adult dogs could be more of a nuisance (louder, for one thing) than traditional pet store puppies, bothering patrons of other stores or residents of nearby homes. But the humane pet stores still must get permits to operate from Los Angeles Animal Services. That department should tighten up its oversight to ensure those issues aren’t a problem.


Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook