Starting January 1, pet stores in California will only be allowed to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits obtained from animals shelters or rescue organizations, as the law known as AB 485 goes into effect, making California the first state to ban the sale of non-rescue animals in retail pet stores.
The bill takes aim at so called “puppy mills,” and other “high-volume” animal breeders, which breed animals for profit, with little consideration for their long-term physical and emotional health. It does not affect sales from private breeders, or from owner to owner, but under AB 485, retail pet stores must get their dogs, cats, and rabbits from a “public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter,” or a rescue group that is “in a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter.” Any store found to be in violation of the law will be fined $500.
“It takes the emphasis off the profit of animals and puts the emphasis back on caring for and getting these cats and dogs a good home,” Californian Mitch Kentdotson told NBC4 Los Angeles when he and his wife visited the SD Humane Society to adopt a kitten last week.
Although widely praised, the new law has its critics. In a statement, the American Kennel Club wrote:
In essence, retail pet store bans, including AB 485, remove available consumer protections for new pet owners, limit the ability of pet owners to obtain the appropriate pet for their lifestyle, and potentially increase public health risks (which are not limited to geopolitical state boundaries).
Patrick O’Donnell, the California Assembly member who introduced the bill, called its passage a “big win” for “four-legged friends,” and noted that it would save California taxpayers millions of dollars on sheltering animals. As the BBC notes, the ASPCA estimated that 6.5 million pets enter shelters every year, 1.5 million of which are put down.
While the Humane Society has not yet been contacted by any stores wishing to obtain pets, a spokesperson says the organization isn’t yet sure if it would partner with pet stores.
“We’re not prepared to do that ourselves, because we have a fairly robust adoption program.”