New California pet store law looks to end 'puppy mills'

A new California law would require pet store owners to purchase stock only from animal shelters and non-profit rescue organizations.  Sales of purebred puppies and kittens from breeders would be illegal, punishable by a $500 fine per animal.


The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act was introduced by assembly member Patrick O'Donnell and signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown in October 2017.

Under the law, individuals are still allowed to buy from private breeders, but stores are prohibited from doing so.

In a press release issued at the time, O'Donnell touted the law as an end to "puppy mills" and "kitten factories."  California is the first state in the country to introduce such legislation.

O'Donnell called the law a "big win for our four-legged friends" and also for taxpayers, who he said spent more than $250 million a year to house and euthanize shelter animals.

The act specifies that pet store operators can sell dogs, cats and rabbits only from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group in cooperation with an animal shelter.

It requires "each pet store to maintain records sufficient to document the source of each dog, cat, or rabbit the pet store sells or provides space for, for at least one year, and to post, in a conspicuous location on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign listing the name of the entity from which each dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained."

The stores also will be required to give public animal control agencies or shelters periodic access to those records.

Opponents, including the American Kennel Club, believe that the law is a slippery slope that would empower animal rights extremists in their bid to prevent purebred breeding and even pet ownership.

As recent history has shown, many anti-breeder animal rights extremists continuously advocate for incremental breeding and sales restrictions that they hope will eventually lead to outright bans on all animal breeding and ownership.  They collectively consider all breeders and pet stores as substandard and inherently not interested in practicing or promoting animal welfare.  These politically aware extremists recognize that most purebred dog fanciers and enthusiasts have not historically thought of themselves as similar to, or aligned with, pet stores or professional breeders.  As a result, they employ a "divide-and-conquer" strategy to further split the political strength of breeder groups.  This is the strategic foundation that California's AB 485, which seeks to limit Californians from purchasing purpose-bred dogs from regulated retail sources, is built upon.

These fears are not groundless.  At the same time, something must be done to put disreputable breeders and uncaring pet store-owners out of business.  The enormous suffering they inflict on puppies and kittens simply cannot be tolerated in a civilized society.

Does the law go too far?  The AKC's worry about a detrimental effect on reputable breeders may be overblown.  "Purpose-bred" dogs like police dogs, working dogs on farms and ranches, and other service-type dogs mostly come from well known sources that are familiar to customers.  And the AKC itself keeps careful tabs on breeders of show dogs, tracing the lineage of each animal.  No puppy mills there. 

The law seeks to sever the connections between pet stores that don't care where their stock comes from and disreputable breeders.  In this, they should succeed.  Besides, many communities across the country have already passed similar legislation.

On balance, this is a good law, and the state of California should be congratulated for becoming the first state to pass such legislation.

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