Los Angeles Creates Thriving Black Market for Pet Bunnies

Yet another lesson about prohibition that goes over some people's heads


I admit that I chose to blog about this as an excuse to look at cute bunny photos. Dawww!
Credit: Madeleine_ / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Los Angeles Times writer Carla Hall, in an opinion piece, is heartened to see LAPD officers cracking down on illegal vendors who sell adorable little bunnies, turtles, kittens and other animals on street corners in the city. Somebody actually even got jail time over it. She observes:

Vendors display unweaned bunnies in cages and let them nibble on lettuce leaves (which, by the way, they shouldn't be fed at a young age.) Turtles commonly carry salmonella on their outer shells and skin. Buyers end up with animals that are malnourished, sick, likely to die once they get them home — or make family members sick.

"Not only is this an issue of animal cruelty, it is a public safety issue as well," says Lejla Hadzimuratovic, who set up a foundation devoted to rescuing and caring for rabbits and also works with the police to get illegal vendors of all animals off the street. Children are considered particularly vulnerable to contacting salmonella from picking up and playing with small turtles. (Since 1975, the Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale of small turtles with a shell less than 4 inches long.)

In her conclusion, she declares "[I]t will take more than that to get people out of the business of illegally selling bunnies and turtles. It will take people refusing to buy these animals on the streets and legitimate vendors — and passersby like [Phillip] Horlings — being assertive enough to call the police when they see sales taking place."

There's a problem here in Hall's reference of "legitimate vendors": In 2012 Los Angeles banned (pdf) the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits from pet stores. "Legitimate vendors" in Los Angeles are only permitted to sell rescued animals of the named species, though pet-buyers are permitted to go directly to breeders. This new law is never mentioned in Hall's commentary and it doesn't seem to occur to her that maybe these new regulations introduced a level of pet scarcity that has fostered this black market. If animal lovers don't want people buying sick bunnies from men in trenchcoats on street corners, learn from every other example provided by our endless parade of failed prohibitions. Are those "puppy mills" animal activists hate so much actually worse than this?

More Reason on black markets here.