San Francisco should ban the sale of pets. And so should everyone else.

 

James, I’m guessing you haven’t spent much time in animal shelters. Every year in America, five million cats and dogs are gassed to death or lethally injected with sodium pentobarbital in these shelters. The word ‘euthanasia’ is a grotesque euphemism. There is no mercy in these deaths. Most of the animals are healthy, rambunctious, and young. They die terrified, and they die pointlessly: very few are vicious; most are capable of forming deep affectionate bonds with humans. This is what happens — what really happens — every day in these shelters. The links are graphic and upsetting. They’re also reality.

Concern for the welfare and dignity of animals is not confined to nihilist Leftists such as Peter Singer or local totalitarians who seek to regulate pets out of existence. Have you read Matthew Scully’s immensely moving, immensely disturbing book Dominion? A completely conservative case can be made, should be made, for treating animals with mercy and respect. Animals are not ordinary commodities, they are living creatures, and they feel pain and fear. No one need suggest that a kitten’s life is morally equivalent to a human’s to observe that something is terribly wrong when we casually dispose of one much as we would the butane in a Bic lighter: that is the mark of a callow society, a cruel society. It does not speak well for us that we kill millions of sentient, sensitive animals every year through grotesque, painful methods such as gassing and heart-sticking. Pet stores are one of the main reasons we do this.

Now many people may wonder and ask, just why are are there so many unwanted pets in the first place to create this tragic situation and where so many unwanted pets are killed in shelters, whether by gas chamber, heartstick or even by injection to begin with? First, there are the puppy and kitten mills that are still prevalent and where animals are bred and bred and bred, over and over again. Thankfully more and more of these mill type breeders are being shut down. These breeders crank out animals like an assembly line and usually wind up in pet stores for sale. And don’t kid yourself, it’s not just a little local pet shop that sells puppies or kittens from these mills, but also some of those fancy high-priced pet stores in Beverly Hills, California where the likes of celebrities will get their dogs from, and they aren’t even aware that those animals are coming from mills.

Yes, snakes eat rodents. Yes, tigers eat gazelles, and yes, nature is savage and cruel. That doesn’t mean we need to add to the misery. They have no choice but to be beasts: We do. If air conditioning is the mark of an advanced civilization that has elevated itself above the State of Nature, even more so is the mercy we display toward animals.

There are 63 comments.

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  1. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    If you choose not to have a pet, then by all means, please don’t have one. We have a cat and dog. One found us, and one we got from a breeder. You would have me be a criminal for buying a pet. We love our dog and she is fitting into the family well.

    If you think getting a pet from a breeder is OK, I suggest you look at who you are siding with. These folks in San Fran, if asked, would like us all to have no pets at all.

    Dominion advocates not eating meat, I think. Should we advocate for laws against that too because the way we get meat is “disturbing”? This is what happens when too much of the population is too distant from the reality of life. My wife grew up on a farm, and she just shakes her head at all this stuff.

    • #1
    • July 9, 2010, at 3:47 AM PDT
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  2. Matthew Gilley Inactive

    I’ll second your sentiment, Claire, if not your prescription. I have served on a local humane society board that, to its regret, operated a kill facility because it contracted with local municipalities to accept their animals from the animal control operations. We took on that role because the local government had operated its own “shelter” in a truly gruesome manner, so we took on the burden to at least ensure that horrid task was performed with a modicum of humanity. Our staff turnover was through the roof because they had a policy that everyone had to participate in the euthanizations and support each other during the process; however, the emotional toll on a staff of animal lovers was too much to be able to keep them around long. I can’t offer many solutions, except to say that I’ve personally seen the drop in unwanted pets following the implementation of well-enforced spay/neuter ordinances. The best I can do is to encourage anyone thinking of getting a pet to head first to your local humane society or animal rescue. Our dogs are rescue dogs, and you won’t regret it for a second.

    • #2
    • July 9, 2010, at 4:01 AM PDT
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  3. The Mugwump Inactive

    I share Claire’s sentiments. This is one of the few topics that can stoke my emotions. I recall a time walking through a market in southern Chile. I discovered three puppies abandoned, frightened, and shivering in the cold. I was outraged that the locals were simply indifferent to their fate, going about their business while the animals suffered. The locals looked at me like I was some kind of weirdo as I gathered up the pups and took them back to my hotel. I eventually adopted them out.

    I read later in a tract by a Buddhist master that mankind’s recognition that we have a duty to the animal kingdom is part of his spiritual evolution. I suppose so. We’ve come a long way from the days when bear baiting was considered a sport. Does that mean that people who care for animals have a more evolved sense of duty? I guess that’s one possibility.

    • #3
    • July 9, 2010, at 5:01 AM PDT
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  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    No, no, Bryan, I’d like you to have more pets. Please–go to the shelters and adopt them. Save their lives. I wouldn’t have you be a criminal for buying a pet, but I’d ask you to just go to a shelter, first, and look at the abandoned animals there–many of them purebreds, whole litters of puppies and kittens, I promise you–and ask yourself why you’d spend money to buy a pet from a breeder when beautiful, vulnerable animals, like this one, are being gassed. If you’d like to adopt any of these animals, let me know: We’ll fill your home with as many pets as you can responsibly care for.

    golden-puppy-e1278416523431.jpg

    • #4
    • July 9, 2010, at 5:06 AM PDT
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  5. Scott R Member
    Matthew Gilley: I’ll second your sentiment, Claire, if not your prescription.

    Me, too, but that still leaves a rather big disagreement. I agree with Obama’s sentiment in shutting down oil rigs, but not his prescription, and no amount of graphic pictures of the spill are going to get me to make me embrace his prescription.

    Stricter nuetering laws, shutting down mill breeders–these measures make sense. Preventing petshops from selling pets? Not so much. In fact, not at all. Sentiment isn’t everything.

    • #5
    • July 9, 2010, at 5:16 AM PDT
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  6. Scott R Member

    Claire, your last post went up simultaneous to mine. Seems like maybe you do disagree with the San Fran law to forbid petshops from selling pets, which I didn’t get from your first post. Sorry.

    • #6
    • July 9, 2010, at 5:24 AM PDT
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  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    No, Scott, I’m with them, you read it right the first time. Strict neutering laws, shutting down the puppy mills and the pet shops–I’m for all of it. The basis of all moral reasoning, at some point, is sentiment. But it’s also rational: If the shelters are over-brimming with animals that are to be killed, why on earth permit people to contribute to the problem? This isn’t a victimless trade: the animals die, in massive numbers. I don’t see any evidence that the proposed legislation is in fact surreptitiously anti-pet. There are enough animals in American shelters to fill every American household to the rafters with any kind of pet anyone could ever want. I’m pro-pet, believe me. So much so that I don’t want them to be killed.

    • #7
    • July 9, 2010, at 5:49 AM PDT
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  8. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Claire Berlinski: No, no, Bryan, I’d like you to have more pets. Please–go to the shelters and adopt them. Save their lives. I wouldn’t have you be a criminal for buying a pet, but I’d ask you to just go to a shelter, first, and look at the abandoned animals there–many of them purebreds, whole litters of puppies and kittens, I promise you–and ask yourself why you’d spend money to buy a pet from a breeder when beautiful, vulnerable animals, like this one, are being gassed. If you’d like to adopt any of these animals, let me know: We’ll fill your home with as many pets as you can responsibly care for. · Jul 9 at 5:06am
    • #8
    • July 9, 2010, at 6:10 AM PDT
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  9. StickerShock Inactive

    My neighbor brought home a frightened stray kitten he had found in a quarry. It didn’t get along with his dog & my kids had become attached to him, so we are now pet owners. I’m an animal liker, not animal lover, but would be horrified to see any animal abuse. I agree that there is a huge problem with shelters overflowing and puppy mills/pet shops just contributing to the awful fate of these animals. But making it illegal to sell pets doesn’t sit right with me.

    Don’t dog people get very attached to certain breeds and go to great lengths to find their pets and investigate their lineage? It’s not something that would ever interest me, but I would hate to have safe, ethical breeders put out of business and the freedom of dog lovers quashed. I imagine other types of pets have breeding networks in place, too.

    One pet related legal measure I’d enthusiastically support would be constructing stocks in the town square where dog owners who let their animals leave surprises on my lawn can be locked up for a day or so.

    • #9
    • July 9, 2010, at 6:14 AM PDT
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  10. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    I am not going to go get a rescue dog, considering all the crazy stipulations that come with it. Telling me once I buy something that I have to inform them when I move? Getting my yard inspected? No thank you. Some rescue organization has no business nosing into my life that way. It is bad enough the government does it; I am not going to let some private non-profit tell me how to treat my dog.

    As far as shelters go, how do I say this: I am not sure what I am getting at a shelter. We wanted a collie. We found a nice breeder, who has a lovely farm, where the dogs ran around happy. We have a nice yard and for the last two weeks, our new addition has seemed thrilled, as are the kids. Since we got this dog for the breed’s temperament, specifically to help my son (for reasons I am not going into), we wanted to get exactly what we expected. That’s why we spent the money.

    • #10
    • July 9, 2010, at 6:18 AM PDT
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  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Collies! I’ve got so many collies for you–would you consider adopting another one, if I can convince you the adoption requirements are reasonable? The rules these groups have in place generally exist because they’re trying to make sure these animals won’t be abandoned: People who rescue animals are extremely concerned that the animal’s temperament will be suitable for your family; they’ve seen far too many cats and dogs dumped at shelters because no one at a pet store was concerned to ask, “Is this dog’s temperament suitable for apartment living, or a household with children?” The last thing anyone who works in animal rescue wants is for you to be unhappy with your adoption.

    For every breed, there are hundreds of groups like these. And of course, mixed-breeds make wonderful pets: Often more wonderful, as they tend to be healthier.

    http://www.wibordercollierescue.com/

    http://www.pueblocolliesheltie.org/

    http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/OR162.html

    http://www.greatlakesbcrescue.org/

    http://www.collie.org/

    http://www.svcsr.org/

    http://victoriancollierescue.com/

    http://www.dogster.com/breeds/Border-Collie-Rescue

    http://www.animalshelter.org/shelters/Collie_and_Sheltie_Rescue_of_Southeast_Virginia_rId6026_rS_pC.html

    • #11
    • July 9, 2010, at 6:39 AM PDT
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  12. Aaron Miller Member

    Perhaps the problem is more that some pet owners don’t commit to the pets they already own. Generally speaking, I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with letting dogs and cats run wild as long as they grew up having to fend for themselves. Dogs can be more dangerous than other wild animals since people are attracted to them, but we can teach our kids not to approach dogs they don’t know. Stray cats are in every city I visit and don’t seem to be more than a nuisance, if even that. They’re no more prone to rabies than other animals.

    In other words, are animal shelters the problem or a symptom? Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m just thinking out loud.

    Like Bryan’s wife, I tend to view dogs and cats like any other animal. When you live outside of cities, the line between wild and domesticated is often blurry. My relatives have raised squirrels and raccoons. I’ve seen dogs fend for themselves.

    This presents another avenue of adoption, by the way. People often adopt strays off the street or injured animals.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 7:09 AM PDT
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  13. Duane Oyen Member

    Well, our very youngest family member (3.5 years old), Charlie, was a “rescue dog”, left on the doorstep of the humane society at 9 months of age. Knowing him, that strikes me as something akin to abandoning a child. But the world is full of ugly people.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 7:27 AM PDT
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  14. Duane Oyen Member

    BTW, in support of Mr. Lileks, I remind you all to go read up on Jasper, who was a veritable star of The Bleat for several years.

    • #14
    • July 9, 2010, at 7:28 AM PDT
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  15. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Absolutely, Aaron — trap, neuter, vaccinate, release is a wonderful solution where feral cats are concerned. I have no idea why people believe it more humane to kill them than simply to let them be, as they would any wild animal.

    • #15
    • July 9, 2010, at 7:37 AM PDT
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  16. Diane Ellis Contributor

    Claire, I’m an animal lover too. I adopted a pup from a rescue foundation and my roommate took in a stray kitten found in the wilderness (picture below!). And while I secretly judge people for getting pets from breeders and pet stores, I’m with StickerShock — something about banning the sale of pets just doesn’t sit well with me.

    Getting back to James’ original post, the ban would include the sale of hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, birds, rats, etc. This is stupid. In all the shelters I’ve been to, I’ve never seen a guinea pig or rat up for adoption. The only place to reasonably get these types of pets is at a pet store.

    IMG_0134.jpg

    • #16
    • July 9, 2010, at 7:53 AM PDT
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  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author

    Oh? (Randomly chosen zip code.)

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    • July 9, 2010, at 8:02 AM PDT
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  18. Profile Photo Member

    This one is tough but seems to fall right smack in the middle of the issues we debate all the time on Ricochet.

    Claire, what you are advocating at some level is really a government-knows-best prescription for a problem you care passionately about. Your argument for government intervention is equally valid, it seems to me, as that of the passionate environmentalist who would restrict oil drilling in order to preserve the natural environment. Or the devout vegan who would ban breeding highly-intelligent, but not-so-cuddly pigs for slaughter. Or for that matter, the health-conscious mayor that would outlaw beverages with no redeeming benefits and that contribute to health problems in the population.

    A free marketeer would argue that if the shelters really had such a wide range of perfectly-suited solutions and the price was free, the pet shops and breeders would be forced out of business. Obviously that has not happened. So why is that — why has the market failed in this instance?

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    • July 9, 2010, at 8:04 AM PDT
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  19. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Claire,

    I am quite happy with the one dog thank you. I have desire for more, nor do I feel any moral obligation to save animals from shelters. Diane might judge me secretly (or not so much so, since she, you know, posted that she does it), but I got just what I wanted for very little effort more than an internet search. Further, I have no one to answer to about my dog. Rescue operations don’t sell me a dog, they want to license one to me. If at any time I don’t live up to their standards, they want to come take away the family pet.

    Trace has a good point on markets. I would have done a rescue dog in a heartbeat if they would get me the dog and get lost. Instead, with the best of intentions, they want to dictate to me how to care for my dog. So, I am willing to pay a hefty price to be left alone.

    You are arguing in effect, that because their intentions are good, I should not be put out by the effects. That is *not* a conservative stance.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 8:35 AM PDT
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  20. Denise Moss Contributor

    At the risk of turing Ricochet into a cute puppy site, below is my brood as proof that I am a CRAZY DOG lady. Trace, I’m all for free market for buying THINGS. But animals are not things. They are animate. They require proper training, medical care. All stores rely on impulse. And it’s one thing to buy a purse on impulse, but to pick up a Yorkie at a mall and then realize you can’t just stick it in the closet is another. And those Yorkies are littering (sorry) our shelters.

    I support the sale of dogs through qualified breeders. If you want a certain dog with a certain temperament, you have the right. I’ve bought from a breeder. But you wouldn’t shop for it at a pet shop. (Or at Harrods where they sell purse dogs right beside the purses.)

    But Bryan, why the indigination? Rescuers are simply trying to protect the dog and some not all are that strident. The two flat coated retrievers below came from a woman who specializes in rescuing that breed. (A rare one.) She met our other dog and off we went with these knuckle heads.

    DSC00471.jpg

    • #20
    • July 9, 2010, at 9:30 AM PDT
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  21. Scott R Member

    Ahhh! I’m in an argument with my favorite contributor! Very uncomfortable….

    Claire Berlinski: No, Scott, I’m with them, you read it right the first time. Strict neutering laws, shutting down the puppy mills and the pet shops–I’m for all of it. […]There are enough animals in American shelters to fill every American household to the rafters with any kind of pet anyone could ever want.

    Claire, I’ve owned several iguanas in my life that I bought at petshops. I can’t imagine that right would exist under the Berlinski plan, since I don’t think iguana shelters exist. I could bear the deprivation, but we can’t pretend that choice wouldn’t be sacrificed.

    But more importantly, currently I own two rescue greyhounds and a rescue mutt, the latter of which was purchased at a petshop, which coaxed me into providing a nice home for the pup by essentially marketing it to me when I was there for another purpose. Seems a win-win, which is why I think the problem needs to be addressed by regulating where and how petshops get their animals, not by eliminating petshops. A possible compromise, friend?

    • #21
    • July 9, 2010, at 9:38 AM PDT
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  22. Ottoman Umpire Inactive

    Great points, Trace and Bryan. The market failure aspect of this is pretty interesting, and it might be related to:

    • Merchandising – With the exception of the adopt-a-pet displays that department stores like Macy’s sponsor around Christmas, shelters seem disinclined to display their cute and cuddy “wares” in ways that stimulate impulse adoptions.
    • Price-quality association — When buyers don’t really know what they’re doing (e.g., for infrequently purchased goods like pets), they’re more inclined to believe that more expensive items are better.
    • Ignorance or lack of concern about upstream activities — this is the same problem that confounds agitators against conflict diamonds, non-Fair Trade coffee, and sneakers made in sweat shops.
    • Perceived constraints on adoptive parents — it probably doesn’t help their cause if shelters lecture or in other ways judge the pet worthiness prospective pet owners. I’m pretty sure pet shop owners aren’t so fastidious.

    Could it be that the market would be improved through better information and, perhaps, the more customer-oriented practices of for-profit enterprises?

    • #22
    • July 9, 2010, at 9:53 AM PDT
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  23. Matthew Gilley Inactive

    @ Brian – Rest easy, my friend. Yes, rescues and shelters check you out pretty close. Realize, though, that these organizations are like any other business or non-profit: they don’t want to spend more money than they get, and are on very tight budgets. If they take a dog abandoned by some yo-yo who had no business having a pet in the first place, they don’t want to turn around and send the dog home with another yo-yo who will wind up dumping the dog on them again. If they do that, they’re wasting time and money. I don’t know whether that’s conservative, but it’s prudent.

    In your case, it’s obvious you’re not a yo-yo. You researched breeds that would be right for your situation. You made sure you had the proper space. You sought out a reputable breeder and were ready to care for your dog. Many, many folks in the market for a pet don’t act as responsibly as you did; they’ll watch Lassie in their cramped apartment, buy a collie, and only then discover collies like room to roam.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 10:00 AM PDT
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  24. Rob Long Founder

    Okay, fine. First, though, this:

    Beach.jpg

    And now a confession: I’ve had two dogs in the past 17 years — my first was a rescue, and my second, pictured here, was something sort of in the grey zone — she was a backyard puppy, a litter of 9, and a dog wrangler I know (a term of art in the film business, used to describe someone who gets the dogs to hit their marks) sourced a bunch of Lab puppies for the film “Marley & Me,” which I still can’t see due to its sad ending. So I’m sort of on the fence here, in the breeder vs. rescue debate. My favorite dog writer, though, the perfectly named Jon Katz, has written well on this subject here, and also here and here.

    Meanwhile, please admire my beautiful and perfect dog, Illy.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 10:11 AM PDT
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  25. Matthew Gilley Inactive
    Ottoman Umpire: Could it be that the market would be improved through better information and, perhaps, the more customer-oriented practices of for-profit enterprises? · Jul 9 at 9:53am

    You bet. When our board was starting a capital campaign for a new shelter, the plan was to locate the new adoption center in a well recognized commercial area and replicate a traditional retail experience. We meant to increase revenue from adoptions that could in turn fund additional shelter space to cut down on the number of euthanizations.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 10:14 AM PDT
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  26. Aaron Miller Member

    Sometimes, a person should be allowed to fail. Governments don’t exist to eliminate pain and injustice.

    I agree completely that acquiring a pet should seldom be an impulse decision (picking up strays and injured often is, necessarily). But that doesn’t mean it’s a mistake that should not be tolerated. Perhaps, like adultery, abandoning an animal is a sin that merits social reproach but not legal action.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 10:49 AM PDT
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  27. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed. Post author
    Scott Reusser: Ahhh! I’m in an argument with my favorite contributor! Very uncomfortable….

    Not for me, Scott, I love a good argument. And thanks for calling me your favorite contributor.

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    • July 9, 2010, at 11:22 AM PDT
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  28. Profile Photo Member
    Aaron Miller: Perhaps, like adultery, abandoning an animal is a sin that merits social reproach but not legal action. · Jul 9 at 10:49am

    Or a little kick boxing action from you-know-who… what about a reality show that sends Claire around the country kicking the mattress-stuffing out of puppy-mill operators? Hmm… Or maybe that’s why she had to leave the country in the first place?

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    • July 9, 2010, at 11:59 AM PDT
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  29. KEN McAULIFFE Inactive

    I completely disagree, however, I won’t say “when we ban the sale of pets only ciminals will have pets” but it would be close because the kind of people who buy a pet then dump it will still get them and dump them. Nothing will change!! They’ll just be bought illegalally then dumped on some country road. If you want to do something perhaps you could crusade for the pet stores to be required to take them back. Might even be good for their bottom line. Certified Prevously Owned Hamsters, could be big!

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    • July 10, 2010, at 1:42 AM PDT
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  30. Duane Oyen Member

    Aaron Miller: Governments don’t exist to eliminate pain and injustice.

    They don’t? That’s about all I’ve heard since about January 2008.

    • #30
    • July 10, 2010, at 2:31 AM PDT
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