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Class could keep small pets safer

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Spearmint gum is an impulse purchase, but what about a cute little creature for the kids? Animal officials say no, and now you may be required to take a class on it first.

A crash course pet owners would have to sit through before buying small critters — hamsters, rats, etc. — is an option The City’s animal commission will consider as a second attempt to minimize the hundreds of small animals that are euthanized every year.

Previously the animal commission discussed asking the Board of Supervisors to ban the sale of small pets. Now it will hear about the Pet Ready program at its regular meeting Thursday. The program would require owners to present a certificate of completion before buying a small animal as an alternative.

“With the pet store ban on the sale of small animals that end up getting euthanized, usually they’re impulse buys, then three weeks later it drives them crazy,’’ said commission Chair Sally Stephens. “This way, at least the hope is that people will be more informed first.’’

Teresa Murphy, who is presenting the Pet Ready nonprofit to the commission, has for a decade run a guinea pig rescue program in San Mateo that has re-housed hundreds of the creatures all over the Bay Area.

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“It’s not like going and buying a pair of jeans; hey, it doesn’t fit so I’ll just take it back,’’ Murphy said. “I’m in favor of whatever it takes to stop the front-end problem … I’m trying to put something in place. It’s not a perfect solution, but I do think it’s a huge step in the right direction.’’

The pet ban was kicked around for months, but never surfaced. Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of The City’s Chamber of Commerce, said the alternative could be running down the same path.

“The devil is in the details,’’ Lazarus said, listing questions such as “Who’s going to be regulating it?” and “Who will check the pet store records?”

Lazarus did not reject the idea but did say The City has a habit of biting off more than it can chew.

“Let’s get Muni on time first,’’ he said.



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