I'm "sure you'll be satisfied with Silver Blaze," says the distinguished gentleman in the cigar lounge of San Francisco's exclusive Bohemian Club. "The horse has run well at both Golden Gate and Del Mar, and you're getting him at a bargain price."
"Time will tell," smiles the buyer, handing over a handsome check.
"More than you know," replies the seller, flashing a badge. "I'm agent Watson, Municipal Animal Anti-Slavery Enforcement, and I'm afraid you're under arrest for trafficking in animals in violation of San Francisco city ordinance ... unless, of course, you can prove you intended to eat Silver Blaze."
If the scenario sounds insane, just turn elsewhere in your paper, these days.
The initial idea, it appears, was to simply ban "puppy mills and kitten factories" in the city of San Francisco. But this year's incarnation of the Humane Pet Acquisition Proposal hopes to see the city's Board of Supervisors "protect" from human ownership everything from Great Danes to goldfish.
"If it flies, crawls, runs, swims or slithers, you would not be able to buy it in the city named for the patron saint of animals," reported the Los Angeles Times last week.
Representatives of the $45-billion to $50-billion-a-year pet industry call the San Francisco proposal "by far the most radical ban we've seen." Animal activists say it will save small but important lives, and end needless suffering.
"Why fish? Why not fish?" said Philip Gerrie, a member of the city's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare and a co-author of the proposal. "From Descartes on up, in the Western mind set, fish and other nonhuman animals don't have feelings, they don't have emotions, we can do whatever we want to them. If we considered them living beings, we would deal with them differently. Our culture sanctions this, treating them as commodities and expendable."
Actually, America has led the way in banning gratuitous cruelty to animals. But we're way beyond that, here.
Remember, this is the same place where in 2006, the U.S. Navy decommissioned the U.S.S. Iowa, one of the biggest battleships that ever sailed. It wanted to give the ship to San Francisco to use as a tourist attraction, but the board of supervisors voted against accepting it because it was a warship and the crew didn't include openly gay members.
Then In 2007, the city's board of supervisors successfully passed the nation's first ban on plastic shopping bags. Smoking is illegal there, not just indoors but at ATMs, while waiting in line, and at outdoor cafes.
In November 2010, targeting McDonald's "Happy Meals," the board of supervisors voted by a veto-proof margin to prohibit restaurants from giving out free toys with meals whose calories, fat, and sugar exceeded set levels.
And activists have gotten enough signatures on a proposed measure banning the practice of circumcision to see it on this fall's election ballot.
O brave new world, that has such people in it!