At long last, pet sales on the way out in L.A.

By Gregory Castle

It’s a great day for animals in the city of Los Angeles! On Wednesday of this week, the Los Angeles City Council (by a vote of 12-2) approved an ordinance that bans the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in the city.

With only a formality remaining before the ordinance becomes law, Los Angeles will become the largest community in the United States to enact legislation that puts an end to the flow of animals to pet stores from puppy mills, the large commercial breeding farms that supply pet stores.

For the past two and a half years, Best Friends, under the leadership of our Elizabeth Oreck, has been working closely with the offices of the mayor and city attorney, as well as L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz and L.A. Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette to craft an ordinance that effectively shuts down the city of Los Angeles for the sale of these animals.

Los Angeles soon will join 27 other cities in North America, including Toronto and 10 other California communities, in putting a major crimp in the pet store trade. The implications are enormous on so many levels, not the least of which is shutting down retail outlets supplied by these still-legal puppy mills. Additionally, more people will be encouraged to adopt from local shelters rather than purchase from a retail outlet or breeder.

This great success initially gained traction when Councilman Koretz expressed interest in an ordinance that would stop the flow of puppy mill animals into the city. From there, the city attorney’s office, with input from the various parties, chose fair, reasonable language to draft the ordinance.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth marshaled support from across the spectrum of Southern California animal welfare. She sent out legislative alerts to Best Friends members and encouraged them to contact city council members for support. Blogs were written, social media posts sent, and support mobilized to attend the various committee and council meetings.

The goal, of course, was to produce an ordinance that would shrink the market for puppy mill animals and reduce motivation to produce and sell animals. There would also be the net effect of reducing chances that breeding animals spend their lives confined in puppy mill misery, forced to have litter after litter.

Other California cities that have adopted “no retail sale of animals” ordinances are Aliso Viejo, Chula Vista, Dana Point, Glendale, Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Beach, South Lake Tahoe and West Hollywood. Still more California cities have ordinances that have been drafted, with Burbank posed to join the growing group.

Having so many cities adopt such resolutions is good, but having Los Angeles in the fold is by far the most impactful anti–puppy mill accomplishment to date. If Los Angeles can take this kind of step, then other cities may not be far behind.

Passage of the ordinance should also reverberate across the country, and Elizabeth tells us that she is fielding calls from like-minded civic leaders around the country. Chicago, in particular, appears to be the next big municipality to consider such a progressive ordinance.

So, what started as a true grassroots movement by Best Friends Animal Society continues to pick up steam. More communities are coming to the realization that, with city shelters bulging at the seams with homeless animals, it makes good sense to stop the importation of animals that contribute to their shelters’ overcrowded conditions.

“The potential benefits of ordinances that ban the retail sale of commercially bred pets are significant, and it’s not that difficult to get started,” says Elizabeth. “Even if you don’t have puppy mills in your area, you might consider a proactive ordinance that will restrict the sales of animals by unlicensed breeders. It all helps mitigate the puppy mill problem, or other situations that are the byproducts of irresponsible breeding, such as the online sales of animals shipped around the country that, again, put a strain on local shelters.

The long, arduous fight to halt puppy mills and their effects on animals goes on. In recent years, the work has been difficult — at times trying our patience and testing our will. And though the journey continues, this most recent success in Los Angeles surely gives us cause to celebrate and, at the same time, reaffirms our determination to cut the demand for puppy mill inventory off at its source.

Want to get involved with your own anti–puppy mill ordinance? Best Friends has considerable resources to help concerned citizens approach government leaders about a pet sale ordinance. For more information, contact Elizabeth Oreck at

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society