Now that a new bill in California has been signed into law, the puppy you see in the pet shop window will be coming from a rescue group or animal shelter instead of a breeder. Unanimously passed by the state Senate then signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 13, AB 485 prevents the sale of commercially raised dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores across the state.
The legislation is the most high-profile attack against large-scale commercial breeding operations known as puppy mills. With the goal of making money, some breeders at these facilities house animals in crowded and unsanitary conditions, with little or no socialization and often limited medical care.
“This is a big win for our four-legged friends, of course,” said bill author Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell in a statement.
The requirements in the bill go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Stores can be fined $500 for each animal for sale that is not a rescue.
Not surprisingly, high-profile members of the animal rights community were quick to celebrate the legislation.
"Californians recognize that pet stores enable the work of puppy mills, which cause suffering for dogs and heartbreak for consumers," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, in a statement. "We are grateful to Governor Brown for putting his stamp of approval on a state policy to dry up funding for this inhumane industry."
"By signing this groundbreaking bill, California has set an important, humane precedent for other states to follow," said Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society.
"This is a significant milestone in easing the overcrowding of homeless animals in California shelters, relieving county budgets and stopping the abusive puppy mill industry," said Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society. "We commend Governor Brown for signing AB 485 so California can continue to lead the country in the protection of animals and helping end the cruelty of commercial puppy mills once and for all."
So far, 36 jurisdictions in California — including the cities of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco — have enacted similar ordinances.
A growing effort nationwide
But California isn't the only place in the country to limit animal sales from so-called puppy mills. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), more than 230 cities, towns and counties across the country have already passed some form of a pet store ordinance to regulate the sales of animals in varying degrees from for-profit facilities. Best Friends Animal Society has compiled a list that includes every ordinance.
According to the ASPCA:
Despite enticing claims that they only source from licensed, humane or small-scale breeders, pet stores across the country are invariably supplying unsuspecting consumers with animals from puppy and kitten “mills.” These “mill” facilities are designed to maximize profits at the expense of the animals in their possession. Those animals are generally kept in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. Animals bred in these conditions may suffer severe health problems, including contagious and deadly diseases and congenital defects, as well as behavioral problems.
Supporters of these pet store laws say they help break the supply chain and put the mills out of business.
“This really started as a local movement,” Amy Jesse, public policy coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States’ puppy mills campaign, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “It was people that didn’t want in their own hometown a pet store supporting puppy mills. They didn’t want semi-trucks driving into their town filled with sick puppies anymore. So they went to their local elected officials and asked them to do something about it.”
Not everyone is in favor of this type of legislation. The American Kennel Club, for example, issued a statement against the bill, saying it restricts an individual's right to choose a purebred pet from regulated sources.
“Pet stores represent a well-regulated and reliable source for responsibly raised animals, often breeds which are not readily available nearby,” Mike Bober, president and CEO of the Washington D.C.-based Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, told the Union-Tribune. “We do think that consumer choice is an important part of this.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated.