The future of a controversial ordinance in National City is one step closer to going before voters after a tense City Council meeting Tuesday.
Councilmember Ron Morrison was the only member who voted against putting the ban on retail sale of pets to a vote of the National City residents.
Council chambers were packed Tuesday with people on both sides of the issue. Some dressed in neon shirts, many of them employees and customers of National City Puppy, argued against the ban.
"I can guarantee you we take very good care of the animals. It’s great knowing we’re doing everything we can to give a healthy happy puppy to a family,” one employee said.
But supporters of the ban say the ordinance isn’t about the ban, it’s about where the puppies come from.
“What the public isn't seeing or hearing about is where the puppies are coming from, where are the mother dogs, and that’s what we're fighting for,” said Karen Clayton.
The new National City law banning pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits was supposed to go into effect in October, but implementation was postponed because of a lawsuit filed by David Salinas, manager of National City Puppy.
He also led the charge to get the more than 2,400 signatures needed to overturn the ban and put the referendum on the March 3 ballot.
“It’s a great win,” said Tony Young, spokesman for National City Puppy. “We’re happy we’re able to have this conversation in the public.”
National City’s local law is more restrictive than a state law that bans pet store sales unless the animals come from rescue organizations or shelters. National City’s law requires the animals come from authorized rescues, like The Humane Society. The goal is to prevent the sale of animals from puppy mills or what some call “fake rescues.”
Led by David Salinas, the manager of National City Puppy, opponents of the law turned in 3,400 signatures to the City Clerk’s office Wednesday. They hope to put the issue on the March ballot.
“We believe the City Council’s decision is government overreach and will not address the problem of illegal puppy mills,” said Salinas. Salinas claims the law will lead to pet stores closing and people losing their jobs.
Supporters of the law were at City Hall when opponents turned in the signatures. Karen Clayton said the pet stores in National City found a way to get around the state law by using “fake rescues,” that are getting animals from puppy mills.
“Come on! How can pet stores be filled with eight to 10-month-old puppies and sell them for $5,000 to $10,000? This is not rocket science,” she said.
Clayton also said voters who signed the petitions were misled by signature gatherers. She showed pictures of signature gatherers in front of signs with what she said was false information, but Salinas said the signature gatherers in the pictures were not with his campaign.
Salinas said he’s not violating any laws, and said his animals are not from puppy mills.
“They can call them fake rescues, or whatever name, loopholes, puppy laundering. The bottom line, we are in compliance with state law,” he said.
Salinas filed a lawsuit at the beginning of September challenging the local law which was supposed to go into effect Thursday. On Tuesday a Judge issued an order putting the law on hold until a hearing on October 22.
Clayton said she was disappointed with the Judge’s decision. Salinas said between the lawsuit and the referendum, he feels hopeful the law can be overturned.