Burbank adopts strict ban on retail sale of pets

Burbank this week joined the growing list of cities that have banned the retail sale of pets, but built in a six-month grace period for existing pet stores.

Under the ban adopted by the City Council Tuesday, pet shops in Burbank can only obtain cats and dogs from animal shelters or rescues.

During the six-month grace period, pet shops are required to obtain the animals from breeders licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and must post the name, address and license number of the breeder, as well as information on how the consumer could trace the animal’s origin.

Dozens of animal activists swarmed the council chambers Tuesday with emotional testimonies in support the ban, contending that mill animals are bred in unsanitary conditions and often end up ill.

Eight-year-old Yanellie Ireland took the stand, tugging at the council’s heartstrings with a video in which kids stood behind a dirty wire fence to give a voice to the voiceless.

“Puppy mills are bad places,” Ireland said. “[Puppies] can’t talk, can’t tell you how they feel or have been treated…I hope you be a voice for them too.”

Still others took a more economic stance.

Burbank High School economics teacher Bob Shaw worried the ban could devastate small businesses.

“No one wants to have a small business to have so many restrictions that it wont be able to survive,” Shaw said.

But during the meeting, Peggy Wood’s Pet Emporium operators, who’ve been under fire in recent months following accusations of profiting off puppy mill dogs — allegations they’ve strongly denied — surprised the crowd when they announced the store would convert to a pet adoption center.

“The health of pets we sell have always been our No. 1 priority,” said store owner Ira Lippman. “I want to thank those customers who remained loyal to us, and welcome back to those who have not seen us for a while.”

The council’s move not only bans the sale of mill-bred animals, but also the ability for stores to sell pets from any breeder — commercial or hobbyist — a move that some said was draconian.

“Do we ban all products from other countries because they use child labor?” Shaw said. “If that were the case, then the majority of Burbank businesses would be hurting big time.”

Councilman Gary Bric also struggled with the severity of the limitations, calling them “just a little too restrictive,” but ultimately supported the ban.

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy contended that would-be Burbank pet owners could just buy pets directly from responsible breeders.

“I think the ban limits the convenience of choice, but it does not take away nor limit choice,” she said.

The council approved the ban 4-1, with Councilman David Gordon the lone voice of dissent.

-- Alene Tchekmedyian, Times Community News

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.

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