San Francisco's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare will vote tonight on an ordinance that would ban the sale of all pets—cats, dogs, hamsters, birds, iguanas—in the city. This is a stupid idea.

The intent behind the law is that people buy pets on impulse and then either don't care for them or can't, which means they end up dead or at the pound and then have to be put down. Chairwoman Sally Stephens is also hoping the measure puts an end to puppy mills, those unsafe factories that breed many of the animals sold in less savory pet stores.

If this ordinance passes, it will have to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors (which is another way of saying the city council) before it goes into effect. And if that vote passes, fish would be the only live animals allowed to be sold in stores. To get another animal, residents would have to go to an animal shelter, go to a pet store in a neighboring city, or buy one through a classified ad. Wow, now you really are going to have to get everything on Craigslist!

The thinking goes that if you really want a pet, you're going to work hard to get one, rather than just dropping off at your local Kitty Depot and scooping one up on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The biggest problem seems to be hamsters, which people buy because they're cheap and small and cute but soon find out are majorly annoying, too. More hamsters are euthanized in San Fran than any other animal, it turns out.

But is making fuzzy critters harder to get going to change people's habits? I doubt it. It just means that if you want to get some sort of living play thing for your child, you'll just ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and stop by the nearest strip mall that has a pet store and buy one. A 30-minute drive isn't that much a deterrent. And even people who are very committed to raising a pet and are otherwise responsible might find themselves in a situation where they have to get rid of an animal. Some of these pets just weren't meant to be in urban environments, and if we can't find a real farm for them to frolic in upstate, we're going to have to get them a euphemistic one.

Of course, pet store owners are pissed about this possibility, and we can't really blame them. Maybe we should just treat pets like cigarettes and alcohol and put heavy taxes on them. That might stop people just going out there and picking up pets as often as a subject on an episode of Hoarders takes broken picture frames out of a dumpster. (Actually, it wouldn't.) But San Francisco should give up this silly fight before it even starts. Not only will it not make much of a difference, it just makes them look mean.

[Image via Artem Kursin/Shutterstock]