SAN DIEGO - The San Diego City Council tentatively voted Tuesday to ban the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores and other commercial establishments in the city.
With the unanimous vote, San Diego now becomes the second largest city in the nation with such a ban. Los Angeles is the largest.
Dozens of people on both sides of the issue lined up to speak their minds at City Hall before the vote was made.
One pet store owner said, "The language discriminates against pet stores. The council should be promoting business to help with the problem, not banning them."
A supporter of the ban said, "In my world, a responsible breeder is the same as a responsible drug dealer."
The amendment to the municipal code makes it "unlawful for any person to display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer or sell any live dog, cat or rabbit in any pet shop, retail business or other commercial establishment located in the city of San Diego, unless the dog, cat or rabbit was obtained from a city or county animal shelter or animal control agency, a humane society or a nonprofit rescue organization.''
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who introduced the amendment, said the condition of pets bred in so-called "puppy mills'' is a "passionate'' issue.
"I really love animals,'' Zapf said. "I just want to ensure that they're treated well, and humanely.''
She told 10News, "I am absolutely thrilled. It was a unanimous vote today at the City Council. San Diego now lives up to its name as the pet friendliest city in America."
Under the amendment -- which was unanimously approved Tuesday but requires
a second reading to take effect -- pet stores will need to keep certificates that identify the sources of their animals and make them available to animal control officers, law enforcement, code compliance officials or other city employees.
The owner of the one establishment that will be most affected, David Salinas of San Diego Puppy, told the council members that he cares about animals.
"Anybody that will tell you that I don't care about puppies, or where they come from, and it's strictly about money, is completely false,'' Salinas said.
The breeder he uses does things the right way, but has been under "constant'' attack by "the animal rights extremist movement,'' Salinas said.
Salinas says his business is being unfairly targeted.
"This has got to stop," he told 10News. "This movement of accusing every single breeder that sells to pet stores as a puppy mill? (It's) absolutely ridiculous."
He said his store has remained in business because he sells quality animals, and has many repeat customers.
Before the meeting, Salinas told reporters that he would go to court or state legislators for relief if the city ordinance was adopted.
He said he is prepared to fight this until the end.
"This is unconstitutional," Salinas said. "We are fully prepared to take this not only to the city, to the state and to the federal level."
Supporters of the ban, however, said it's less about his store and more about preventing an influx of animals from unregulated puppy mills that are outside California.
Private breeders and nonprofit organizations that adopt animals to the public would be unaffected. Chain stores like Petco and Petsmart sell pets through partnerships with animal rescue groups, a practice that would remain legal.
A dozen California cities, including Chula Vista, have banned the retail sales of animals, according to a city staff report.