California Bans Pet Shop Sales of Non-Rescue Animals

PetMD Editorial
Published: October 16, 2017
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As Northern California deals with the aftermath of devastating wildfires, including the efforts to rescue pets in the affected regions, the state has made an incredible stride forward in stopping puppy mills.

In a landmark decision, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will prevent the sale of commercially raised dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores across the state. The law will also require pet stores in California to work with shelters or rescue groups to supply their animals. The law does not prevent residents from buying a pet directly from a breeder.

The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (Assembly Bill 485) was authored by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) and will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Those who break this law will face up to $500 in penalties. 

To date, 36 jurisdictions in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, have already enacted similar ordinances, but this new legislation marks the first statewide prohibition of its kind to put an end to the sale of animals from mills. 

Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA (which was part of the coalition that worked with O'Donnell to get the bill signed), said in a statement, "This landmark law breaks the puppy mill supply chain that pushes puppies into California pet stores and has allowed unscrupulous breeders to profit from abusive practices." 

Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, echoed the sentiment, stating, "By signing this groundbreaking bill, California has set an important, humane precedent for other states to follow." 

John Goodwin, senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills campaign for The Humane Society, told petMD this will be a wakeup call to the people of California and across the nation. 

"Unbeknownst to customers, the vast majority of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills," he said. "The adorable puppy in the window has a mother, and she is likely living in a tiny cage with her paws never touching grass. California has committed to being a part of the solution and setting an example that other states can follow if they want to stop puppy mill cruelty." 

Goodwin noted that the 250 communities across the country that have taken similar measures have seen a drop in euthanasia at their local shelters. "These laws are cutting off profits for cruel puppy mills while helping save shelter dogs at the same time," he said. 

Californians still need to be careful and avoid purchasing puppies sight unseen over the internet or at flea markets, as those are two channels puppy mills use to sell to the general public, he said. If someone from the state still decides to buy from a breeder, he or she should insist on seeing how the mother dog lives, Goodwin added.

If Californians choose to adopt pets in need (rather than buy from the aforementioned sources) and other states follow suit, Goodwin said it could dry up the marketplace for puppy mill dogs.

"This will help transition the pet industry to a humane model that everyone can be proud of," he said. "We are thrilled to see such a major leap forward for dogs trapped in puppy mills. Well-thought-out, smart activism pays off." 

Read more: New Jersey Bill to Regulate Puppy Mills Rejected by Gov. Chris Christie

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