A recent bill, A.B. 485, has made it so that beginning in January 2019, California pet stores will be required to get their cats, dogs, and rabbits from shelters and rescue centers exclusively. No longer will they be able to source animals from private breeders. With the bill, California becomes the first to pass such a law on the statewide level (prior measures have been enacted at the local level).
The bill was written by Democratic California Assembly members Patrick O’Donnell and Matt Dababneh.
Stores found to be in violation of the new law will be subject to a $500 fine. While stores will be prohibited from purchasing animals from breeders, individual buyers are still able to use those services with no punishment.
The benefits of the law are clear. “Puppy mills” are notorious for attempting to churn out living animals on an industrial scale. They are overcrowded and unable (or at least unwilling) to treat their animals humanely.
However, while it’s easy to see the motivation for the bill, there has been some pushback.
As some business owners have noted, not all private breeders are puppy mills. Some are very small scale “backyard breeders” who treat every animal with care and compassion. Some private sellers aren’t even breeders per se. Some are just pet owners whose cat or dog (or rabbit) just had a litter of young.
Further, mandating that stores use shelters and rescue centers takes away the ability for interested potential pet owners to shop based on their needs. For instance, families with small children or those with certain allergies may need to limit their search to specific breeds. The new law makes that difficult.
Still, despite the concerns, the bill does stand to negatively impact puppy mills and take a bite out of unethical animal sourcing.