California Is the First State to Ban Retail Sales of Puppy Mill Pets

By Claudia Kawczynska, October 2017

California became the first state to ban the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits from pet stores. This law, introduced in February by Assemblyperson Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, Oct. 13 and celebrated by animal protection organizations and animal lovers throughout the nation.

California Assembly Bill 485 amends the state’s Food and Agricultural Code and Health and Safety Code relating to public health. Beginning on January 1, 2019, pet store operators will be prohibited from selling any live dog, cat or rabbit in a pet store unless the animal was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animal’s shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group. Pet stores will be required to maintain records that document the source of each animal it sells for at least one year, and to post on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign that lists the name of the entity from which each animal was obtained. Public animal control agencies and shelters will be authorized to periodically review those records. Pet store operators who violate the bill’s provisions will be subject to a civil penalty of $500.

When O’Donnell introduced the bill he explained that the bill’s main intent “is to promote adoption.” And noted that he already saved a couple of puppies. “Two members of my family, a German Shepherd and a Shih Tzu, were adopted from shelters and rescue groups.” It was his belief that the law in prohibiting stores from selling puppies from puppy/kitten mills and encouraging them to only sell pets obtained from shelters and rescue groups, would also promote partnerships advocating for the adoption of homeless pets.

Best Friends for Animals , noted in their press release, that California, as a state, now joins more than 230 cities, towns and counties across that country that have passed pet store ordinances to take a stand against allowing cruelly-bred animals to be sold in their communities. Those animals are generally kept in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. AB 485 should help break the supply chain so that “mill” operations are unable to profit from their abusive practices.

Chris DeRose, president and founder of Last Chance for Animals (LCA), one of a large coalition of humane organizations supporting this bill’s passage, noted that, “the California legislature’s passage of Assembly Bill 485 is a landmark victory and one that we have championed for decades. We are elated that our home state is leading the way on this important issue. Requiring pet stores to sell only rescue and shelter animals is a bold venture— but one that will help rehome some of the six million unwanted animals that enter shelters each year.”

Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, President of the San Francisco SPCA, said that “Right here in California, each year we have thousands of animals who are in need of new homes. By signing this important legislation, Governor Brown can help stop pet mill cruelty, while giving rescued animals the second chance they deserve.”

Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA added that, “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. We thank the California legislature and Governor Brown for sending the clear message that industries supporting animal cruelty will not be tolerated in our society.”

The opponents to the bill was spearheaded by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and variety of industry trade organizations, like Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), breeders and retailer groups. They put up a concerted campaign claiming that this bill would “block all of California’s pet lovers from having access to professional, licensed, and ethical breeders,” as was promulgated by Sheila Goffe, vice president of government relations for the AKC. Obviously this bill does no such thing, it only covers the sale of animals at pet stores, and does not in any way affect responsible breeders from selling their dogs face-to-face to the public. As long as puppy mills can sell their puppies with AKC-sanctioned papers—that provide financial incentives to that organization—the AKC will stand behind them and take on anyone who opposes puppy mills. Some breeders had posted petitions on change.org that used “fake news” arguments and scare tactics such as that this bill “would requires pet stores to sell unwanted strays, not only from Mexico, but some from more distant countries like Egypt and Korea, where dreaded diseases and parasites are commonplace.”

Luckily for California, the legislators saw beyond those specious arguments and enacted a law that has two straightforward goals: to cut down on financial support of large-scale breeding facilities and to promote the adoption of homeless pets. That definitely is something to cheer about!

Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and Editor-in-Chief.