New Law Requires California Pet Stores To Sell Rescue Animals Only

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Law aims to put animal mills out of business

If you’re thinking about adding a new pet to your family, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “adopt, don’t shop.” The slogan is meant to encourage people to adopt their animals from shelters instead of purchasing them from pet stores, some of which rely on questionable breeders or “pet mills.” Now, California has gone a step further: as of January 2019, it will be illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats, or rabbits unless they come from rescue organizations or shelters.

Anytime you want a specific breed of dog, or if you’re looking for a puppy or a kitten, chances are you’re going to need to go to a breeder or a pet store. And while there are many highly reputable and humane breeders out there, the same cannot be said of your average pet store. According to The Humane Society of The United States, “the suppliers of pet store puppies are largely ‘puppy mills,’ commercial facilities that mass-produce puppies for sale.” The same can also be said of their kittens and rabbits.

The bill, A.B. 485, is meant to end the sale of animals coming from so-called “mills,” “farms,” or “factories,” which breed them en masse and in inhumane conditions. The fact sheet for the bill describes these mills as places that “…house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care.” Anyone who has seen an image from one knows that putting them out of business is a no-brainer. The question for some, however, is whether this bill is the right way to go about it.

Sheila Goffe, vice president of government relations for The American Kennel Club, says in a statement that, “AB 485 blocks all of California’s pet lovers from having access to professional, licensed, and ethical commercial breeders. This is not good for Californians or their companion animals.” There are, undoubtedly, a lot of people who are going to take this bill as an indictment against all breeders. That’s wrong, of course, but it could still have an effect on some businesses who love their animals and treat them well. It’s important to note, however, that good, reputable breeders generally have a policy against selling their animals to pet stores in the first place.

I have adopted all of my pets from shelters, but I have many friends who have purchased their pets from breeders. Some of them wanted puppies, some needed certain breeds due to allergies, and other wanted to ensure that they got a dog who would get along with their kids. All of them got terrific, happy dogs from wonderful, caring breeders. Where the problem lies — and what California’s law means to avoid — is the purchase of a puppy from a pet store or online when there’s no way of knowing where they came from originally. Because unfortunately, if you don’t know where that puppy or kitten or rabbit came from, chances are it was not a good place.

Of course, whenever a rule is put in place there will always be people who find ways to get around it. One pet store owner quoted in The New York Times article worries that the bill will lead more people to become “sneakier” about how they get the animals they want. That is undoubtedly true, but hopefully, the overall affect of the bill will be that more abandoned animals find their forever homes and puppy mills, rabbit mills, and kitten factories will lose a lot of business. At any rate, this bill is a good place to start.