The City of Vancouver has joined two other B.C. municipalities in banning the sale of cats, dogs and rabbits at pet stores within its boundaries.

The motion, put forward by City Coun. Heather Deal, was approved by council unanimously on Wednesday.

Deal said that she was surprised to learn that the sale of pets like dogs and cats was still allowed in the city. So she drafted the bylaw, citing similar policies in Richmond and New Westminster.

"It's not what people want in the City of Vancouver. We've had over 1,200 emails from people telling us to please implement this ban," she said.

The proposal states that commercial breeding facilities might raise animals in “horrible conditions” that feature neglect, abuse and suffering.

“As a result of the inhumane conditions these animals are produced in, they often suffer from disease, and other physical, emotional and behaviour problems,” the motion reads.

The ban stipulates that cats, dogs and rabbits cannot be sold in retail outlets, but stores can have animals that are available for adoption through recognized animal rescue societies or shelter organizations.

Granville Pet and Garden is currently the only store in Vancouver that sells dogs and cats – listing the live animals on its website as for sale. But the pets aren't on display inside.

"They're actually kept in the back," said Kathy Powelson with Paws for Hope Animal Foundation. 

"They won't allow you in the back to see the animals. You have to ask to see a specific animal, and they'll bring that animal out."

An employee at the store confirmed that there were cats and dogs for sale inside but wouldn't let CTV News see them, saying the owner was overseas and couldn't grant permission to the media.

Powelson said those at Paws for Hope, a foundation set up to create "purposeful companion animal protection" in B.C., are thrilled that the motion was passed.

"This is something we have been working on as an organization for five years," she said.

Amy Morris, public policy and outreach manager at the BC SPCA, praised the city for taking a proactive stand.

"We are really excited about that, to see them joining the ranks of other responsible municipalities."

The Granville store will have to stop selling the animals, Deal said, but she hopes that its owner will consider a new idea.

"Hopefully our staff can work with them on potentially having them move to a model where they have adoption animals available at the store. Many other stores do that," she said.

The BC SPCA maintains that the motion not hurt reputable and small scale breeders, saying the Canadian Kennel Club and Cat Fancier’s Association do not allow breeders to sell to pet stores in their Codes of Ethics.

However, a ban will go a long way to curb commercial and large-scale animal breeding organizations – i.e. puppy mills -- where there is little regard for animal welfare.

It will also help more abandoned and homeless animals find forever homes in the region.

“With so many cats and rabbits being abandoned and surrendered to shelters and rescues, this is the right move," said Morris.

The BC SPCA is calling on all municipalities in the province to enact similar bans.

People interested in bringing a new animal into their home can visit an animal shelter, contact a rescue or visit the home of a responsible breeder, Morris said.

She encouraged people to visit the BC SPCA site on responsible breeders, or check out its list of adoptable animals.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson