Ethics and the San Francisco Pet Ban Proposal

San Francisco is considering accessing its inner PETA by enacting a ban on a the sales of any pet with fur, hair or feathers, meaning that little Scotty will have to make do with a boa constrictor, an iguana or a guppy if he wants a non-human companion to cheer him through grade school. The measure began as a ban on pet store sales to stick it to unscrupulous puppy mills, then gradually morphed into a nearly China-like proposal  to ban almost all pets. True, the city’s proposal would still allow the adoption of dogs and cats from shelters, but don’t bet on that being the final result. PETA-ism, once it gains a foothold, won’t be satisfied until we are all tofu-sated and pet-free.

A Los Angeles Times story on the public debate over the ban concentrated on the business angle, for pets are big business. This is, however, an effort by the city government to set ethical values and standards, a legitimate government role when  necessary and reasonable. Protecting innocent and vulnerable animals is an important government function; the question is whether it is necessary to protect animals from those who love them as well as those who abuse them.

Well, why not? There are slippery slopes all over this issue, in all directions. Laws ban the sale of exotic animals like tigers, wolves and chimps in many jurisdictions, because keeping them in private captivity is viewed as inherently cruel. Hmmmm…more cruel than keeping Shamu in that small tank? More cruel than keeping a polar bear in a Washington D.C. zoo? The logic for banning birds and small mammals as pets is pretty much the same: it’s inherently cruel. Does the life of a hamster deserve as much protection as the life of a leopard? Why stop at hamsters, then?

Are ant farms cruel? ( I know what happened to mine, and I don’t want to talk about it…) Continue reading