America’s animal welfare activists have succeeded in raising the awareness of how we handle and regulate livestock and pets. In many respects, that’s a good thing. For instance, a majority of livestock producers adhere to proper animal care and handling techniques in their everyday operations, and most realize such management adds to the industry’s overall image while boosting their individual profitability.

But like many initiatives, the animal welfare movement can be taken to an extreme that is either unrealistic or just plain silly. Such is the case with San Francisco’s Animal Control and Welfare Commission that constantly seeks new ways to hamper business operators and baffle the public.

This week the commission has renewed an effort to ban the sale of pets in the city of San Francisco, and that includes goldfish. Originally, the ban was designed to squeeze puppy and kitten mills that supply pet stores, and to discourage “impulse buys” of hamsters and other small pets that are often dumped at shelters.

Goldfish, guppies and tropical fish, however, left more than a few folks scratching their heads.

"Most fish in aquariums are either mass bred" under inhumane conditions "or taken from the wild," commission member Philip Gerrie told The San Francisco Chronicle. That leads to "devastation of tropical fish from places like Southeast Asia."

After a year of study, the commission adopted the proposed ban that was expanded to cover animal breeders and pet stores. But many local merchants are not pleased.

“The city is taking more and more control,” Justin Hau told The Chronicle. “They are very stupid.”

Sally Stephens, President of the Commission, and one who opposed the ban because it would include small animal-breeding operations, says it's up to the Board of Supervisors to make the final call. "All this is, is a recommendation," she said.

The Chronicle says that sometimes the supervisors act on the commission’s recommendations, such as when they approved a ban on declawing cats. And sometimes they don’t, such as when the animal panel suggested introducing birth control pills into birdseed to solve the city’s pigeon problem.

At least one of the supervisors, Sean Elsbernd, thinks the goldfish ban is silly. “This is another animal welfare idea that will end up in the dustbin of history and go absolutely nowhere.”


Let’s hope common sense such as Elsbernd’s prevails in San Francisco’s great guppy and goldfish grab.