Do you dream of having your own little business? Being your own boss? Well, here’s a message for you: Don’t do any of that dreaming in West Hollywood.
Why? Because the West Hollywood City Council may crush your little business. And be proud of itself for doing so.
That’s the message from that city’s decision to ban puppy and kitten sales there. The town council is all puffed up and proud of itself for taking a principled stand against some distant puppy mills. But apparently it’s deaf to the whimpers of its own pet stores, which are being euthanized by the city.
As you can see in David Haldane's article in this issue, pet shops in West Hollywood are hurting now that the city’s ban on puppy and kitten sales has gone into effect. One shop apparently is open only sporadically.
Think about it. These City Council members are so concerned with animal welfare that they replaced the word “pet” with “companion” in the official city language. But when it comes to backstabbing their own businesses – shops that represent the hopes and entrepreneurial dreams of their citizens –well, there’s apparently no compassion.
Let’s agree on something. Many puppy mills are heartbreaking factories in which filthy dogs live out their forlorn lives in cramped, fetid cages, made to produce litter after litter. And many pet shops have brokered in the products of those puppy mills. It’s terrible, no doubt about it.
The point is this: The WeHo City Council overreacted to this bad situation by taking it out on some of their local small-business owners.
The City Council could have taken reasonable action. Perhaps it could have asked that pet shops clearly disclose the source of the puppies and kittens they sell, including photos of the breeders’ conditions. Or maybe the pet stores could pay to have city inspectors grade the puppy breeders A, B or C, much like Los Angeles County grades restaurants. In either case, customers could decide for themselves if they felt comfortable with the situation.
Instead, the City Council effectively declared that because some pet stores sell puppies from bad puppy mills, all pet stores that sell puppies must be bad. Therefore, shops that sell puppies should be treated like unwanted strays: rounded up and put to sleep.
From the coverage I’ve read, in this paper and others, there’s not a scrap of contrition or even reflection from the WeHo City Council members about the heavy-handed damage they’ve done.
Business owners in WeHo must be wondering: Am I next? What happens if the City Council doesn’t like what I sell in my shop? Will my shop – along with my investment, my hard work – be exterminated by this overreaching, powerful, arrogant bunch?
West Hollywood is all proud of itself for sending a message to puppy mills. But what it doesn’t realize is that it’s also sending a message to shop owners, businesspeople and entrepreneurial dreamers all over the country. And that message is as clear and chilling as a long howl on a cold night.
It’s this: Stay the hell out of West Hollywood.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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