The West Hollywood City Council on Monday voted 5-0 to direct the city attorney to research the feasibility of expanding the current ban on retail sales of dogs and cats in West Hollywood to add other animal species to the list such as hamsters, rats, mice, and a limited number of fish. The motion also aims to expand the current ban to prohibit the sale of arachnids, birds, other mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

The City of West Hollywood prides itself on being a “cruelty-free” city. The city’s legislative priorities have, for many years, included an entire section focused on animal welfare, and as such, the city has taken positions on several legislative initiatives aiming to reduce animal cruelty and in furtherance of animal rights, according to the motion.

In 2004, the City of West Hollywood was the first city in North America to ban declawing. On February 17, 2010, the city council adopted Ordinance No. 10-836 which banned the retail sales of dogs and cats in West Hollywood’s pet stores.

Then, in 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 485 which banned the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores. The law went into effect on January 1, 2019. The bill makes an exemption to the ban on the sale of animals if a cat, dog, or rabbit has been procured from an animal shelter.

In 2023, the city council also made history by adopting a local ordinance banning glue traps, and other localities are now using West Hollywood’s ordinance as a model to adopt similar restrictions.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, about 50 percent of Americans own a dog and about 34 percent own a cat. But only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters and rescues. Three million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters every year.

“It is no secret that the pet shop/pet trade industry consistently displays a callous and reckless disregard both for the animals and for humans as well,” Madeline Bernstein, President of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCALA) said in a statement. She added, “As they are unconcerned for public health issues, (zoonotic diseases) environmental impact, (poaching, invasive species) consumer protection, (none unless legislated) and they certainly have no interest in the impact on local shelters that are dealing with pet overpopulation issues.”

According to information provided by the World Animal Protection (WAP) organization, virtually all animals sold in pet stores come from mills — large-scale commercial breeding facilities — or importers that house hundreds or thousands of wild animals. These mills sell animals to dealers, who in turn, sell them to pet stores.

“These animals are denied everything that is natural and important to them, and when they can’t be sold or bred, they are killed and thrown away like trash,” Jakob Shaw, Special Projects Manager for PETA, told the council. “PETA has led investigations into major animal dealers, and the findings have been horrifying. In one case, a PETA eyewitness at a facility that supplied small animals to Petco and Petsmart reported that buildings reeked of urine and feces and that one building’s floor was spattered with blood where helpless prey animals had apparently been attacked by cats who were allowed to roam freely throughout this facility, one hamster who a cat had attacked was just left to flail and die on the floor.”

Shaw added, “For decades now, West Hollywood has been a trailblazer for animals, and the city’s actions have inspired city councils and state legislatures around the country to pursue better protections for animals. We hope that tonight, you’ll continue to guide us toward a kinder future.”

Councilmember Lauren Meister suggested taking the motion to the county board of supervisors, which she explained could “make a difference” due to Petco having 23 stores across L.A., compared to just one in West Hollywood.

Vice Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers agreed with Councilmember Meister and explained that West Hollywood is a good place to start due to the city’s long-term history on animal rights. She further added other municipalities “Won’t even look at these sort of ideas until there’s sort of that big push happening.” She continued, “I’m with you. I think we should take this fight and leverage it towards the next one. Take it to the county, take it to the state,” said Byers.

The city attorney will return to the city council at a later date with the results of the analysis and recommendations for further consideration.

Photo of dwarf hamster by Jpbarrass from Wiki Commons.

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