Starting in January 2019, pet stores in California will only be able to sell puppies, kittens and rabbits that come from rescues and shelters, and not from for-profit businesses.
The state’s action to ban the sale of pets purchased by pet stores wholesale from commercial breeders and so-called “puppy mills” is a landmark moment. Although a number of California cities and counties already have similar measures in place, California is the country’s first entire state to limit store sales of commercially bred pets. The bill A.B. 485 was passed on Oct. 13, 2017, and calls for a $500 fine to be levied against store owners who sell small animals produced by either breeding “mills” or backyard breeders. It does not, however, prevent individuals from purchasing pets directly from breeders.
“Because pet stores are one step removed from the breeding of the animals they sell, store owners rarely know the breeding conditions of their animals,” report a California Legislative Assembly fact sheet. “In many cases, puppy mills house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care.”
While animal welfare organizations call the bill a victory and hope that more states follow suit, critics are quick to point to job loss and the impact on the end consumer, as well as a possible uptick in animals sold on the black market.
“It takes the freedom of choice from people who want to get a puppy. They don’t want to get someone else’s unwanted dog or something of that nature,” Ben Ashel, who owns a pet store outside Los Angeles, told The New York Times. “They just want to start fresh with a puppy, and this law makes it very, very difficult.”