A green iguana stood guard as a customer looked at other reptiles at Petco in Needham.
A green iguana stood guard as a customer looked at other reptiles at Petco in Needham.

In what may be the most sweeping such ban in the country, pet shops in Cambridge will soon be barred from selling most animals unless they come from an animal shelter or rescue organization.

After a year of debate, the Cambridge City Council approved on Monday a ban on the retail sale of commercially-bred dogs and cats, as well as birds, amphibians, reptiles, arachnids, and so-called pocket pets, such as hamsters and gerbils.

The ordinance, which will go into effect after a year, takes aim at the commercial breeding of animals, a controversial industry plagued with allegations of inhumane practices.

The Cambridge ordinance follows a similar one passed in Boston last year banning the retail sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits, and one recently approved in Stoneham that banned the sale of dogs and cats from so-called puppy and kitten mills.

But Cambridge, which last year also banned the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows and circuses, went a step further than Boston, Stoneham and hundreds of other US cities and towns with similar bans by including a wide variety of commercially-bred species.

“It’s really a landmark ordinance,” said Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “High-volume production is what’s driving the business model. … At our adoption centers we have seen a very large influx of these very small animals and birds.”

Last year, about 2,000 birds and pocket pets were surrendered to the MSPCA, Hagen said, adding that on average, one in four people surrendering a small animal or bird said they bought them from a pet store.

Currently, the only two pet stores in Cambridge are national chains Petco and PetSmart. Neither chain sells dogs or cats nationally, instead encouraging customers to adopt. But the stores sell other smaller live animals, many from out-of-state…