IRVINE — The City Council is considering legislation that would ban cat and dog sales at retail shops in Irvine, make neutering and spaying of cats and dogs mandatory, and bar travelling animal entertainment acts such as circuses, petting zoos and rodeos from coming to town.
Legislation to protect "companion animals" is being drafted, and a council majority voted last week for formal plans for implementing the set of three animal welfare ordinances to be drawn up and presented in 120 days.
After a lengthy discussion during Tuesday's council session between city staff, public speakers from the community and local activists groups, the council voted 4 to 1 to send the proposals back to city staff for further review.
"In general, Irvine has shown great interest in animal welfare," Mayor Sukhee Kang said at the meeting.
"The ordinance proposed would position Irvine with other progressive cities implementing ordinances to prevent instruments and exploitation of animals within their respective city boundary," he said.
Only one pet shop in town, Russo's Spectrum Pets in the Irvine Spectrum, still sells cats and dogs. The shop may be allowed to continue selling the animals until its lease runs out or for a yet-to-be determined time period if the council adopts the ordinance banning retail sales of cats and dogs.
"We have no problems with the store; we just don't want to see puppies sold there anymore, which we know come from USDA-approved puppy mills," Stephen Terry, founder of Desperate Paws Orange County dog club, said Friday.
Phone calls to Fashion Island Russo's Wonderful World of Pets, the pet shop's flagship store in Newport Beach, were not returned Friday.
Terry was one of more than a dozen animal-rights activists who turned out at Tuesday night's meeting.
In his comments to the council, he said that allowing such practices to continue would mean that "we are truly, just completely, not human."
"You're talking about animals living entire lives in cages, breeding until they can't anymore," Terry said on Friday. "Then they're euthanized or discarded in our shelters."
However, despite his pushing for the ban, Terry would not support mandatory spaying or neutering of dogs, he said.
Kennel clubs require that dogs remain "unaltered" in order to compete and to impose mandatory spaying or neutering violates an owner's rights, he explained.
If passed, the ordinance may require the spaying or neutering of pets 6 months and older, those picked up by animal control or those that are turned over animal control by residents more than three times.
Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway, who cast the lone dissenting vote, also voiced concern about enacting legislation which, he said, might interfere with individual rights.
"I would do everything possible to encourage it and I think the city should get more involved in encouraging it in any way possible, but I just don't feel it's the right thing to do to make people take their dogs and cats to be spayed and neutered, " Lalloway said before voting.
He also questioned the impact such legislation would have on local businesses, such as veterinary offices and dog breeders.
The last of the discussed ordinances, which would ban traveling animal entertainment acts, may conflict with the city's contract with Cirque du Soleil, which uses horses in its performances at the Great Park, Lalloway said.
If passed, the ordinance may stipulate that a committee be formed to oversee the protection of animal rights in cases such as animals that travel with Cirque du Soleil.