By Kim Robson:
State senate legislators in California unanimously voted 32-0 in favor of a new bill that would prohibit pet stores from obtaining dogs, cats or rabbits from sources other than rescue organizations or shelters. If passed, Bill AB 485 would effectively put the state’s puppy mills out of business. Pet owners still would be able to purchase animals from private breeders – the bill targets only so-called “puppy mills, kitten factories, and bunny bundlers,” the terms commonly used to describe large-scale commercial breeders that mass-produce animals under deplorable, inhumane conditions for the purpose of selling them.
Matt Dababneh and Patrick O’Donnell, members of the State Assembly, introduced the bill, which has unsurprisingly garnered opposition from breeders and pet store owners, and support from animal rights advocates.
Opponents claim the bill would put pet stores out of business and deny consumer protections to pet owners. Dustin Siggins, a spokesman for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council called on Gov. Jerry Brown to veto the bill, saying, “Pet lovers deserve to know the medical history of their prospective pet, and to have recourse under certain circumstances if the pet is ill or dies due to illness.” He added that the bill’s supporters “unfairly demonize all commercial breeders.”
In addition, opponents say the bill would put pet stores out of business because it doesn’t require shelters and rescue organizations to provide animals to stores. “Hundreds of pet professionals’ jobs are at risk — even though pet stores are the most regulated group of pet providers,” the council said.
Supporters of the bill say it will cut off a supply of animals bred under horrifying conditions. The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals both support the bill. These animals “generally live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions” and “without adequate veterinary care, food, water, or socialization.” Matt Bershadker, the president of the ASPCA, said in a statement, “While awareness of the puppy mill problem is growing, humane regulation at the state and federal level has been slower to evolve.”
Daphna Nachminovitch, a senior vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says, “Private breeders are licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture, but some fall outside being regulated. There is no doubt that this will help cut down on the number of animals who go into animal shelters. Nothing in this bill stops people from purchasing an animal from a private breeder.”
The legislation would also encourage more people to adopt pets from animal shelters. Last year, an estimated 1.5 million pets were put to death in shelters in the United States, according to ASPCA data. Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society, pointed out that the measure also could save taxpayer money: “California taxpayers spend over a quarter of a billion dollars every year to house homeless animals. The money aside, it eliminates a main source of sales for inhumane commercial breeders.”
Already, more than 230 municipalities and counties across the United States (including 36 in California) have passed local ordinances that ban the sale of mass-produced animals at pet stores, but California would be the first to regulate the sale of pets at the statewide level.
California legislators have sent the bill to Gov. Brown, who has until Oct. 15th to sign the bill into law or veto it. If passed, the law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2019. Violators will face $500 in civil penalties.