Millennials love our pets. Some of us think they’re even more important than a relationship with a significant other, and a number of us even opt to adopt pets instead of having kids. Pets can be one of the best parts of life, but where they come from — be it a responsible family breeder, a rescue organization or shelter, or a terrifying puppy mill — matters a lot. In an effort to prevent the mistreatment of some common pets in mass breeding operations, California has become the first state in the US to ban pet stores from selling animals that come from mills.
The law, which won’t go into effect until January 1, 2019, will hit pet sellers with a fine of $500 if they are caught selling dogs, cats, or rabbits who come from mass breeding centers, also called “puppy mills” or “kitten factories.” The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which was very supportive of the new law, said in a statement sent to Brit + Co: “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.”
The practice of breeding animals at mass scale for profit is widespread in the United States. According to the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), a jaw-dropping 99 percent of puppies sold in pet stores or online come from puppy mills. Not only are animals sometimes severely neglected and abused in puppy mills and kitten factories, but breeding pets for profit on a large scale also means that people are discouraged from adopting rescue animals who need homes. Mass scale breeding leads to the euthanization of about 1.5 million animals each year, according to the HSUS.
Because of this, animal rights activists have been outspoken against puppy mills and kitten factories for decades. And though it seems like a no-brainer to limit the market for mass-bred pets given the burden on animal shelters, not everyone is happy about California’s new legislation.
The American Kennel Club, which boasts a more than 100-year-old registry of purebred dogs in the United States, did not support the legislation. Framing the law as one that limits choice, the Club’s vice president of Government Relations, Sheila Goffe, said in a statement sent to Brit + Co: “This is a sad day for responsible dog ownership and for Californians to who are losing the opportunity to choose which type of dog they want to add to their family… Great pets can be obtained from a variety of sources — breeders, pet shops, rescues and shelters, but the that choice should belong to the future owner.”
But the ASPCA’s senior director of state legislation, Susan Riggs, tells Brit + Co that in fact, California’s legislation doesn’t quite limit choice for families looking to add a pet to their home.
“Consumers who are looking to bring a new pet into their family still have many options available to them. They can adopt from a local shelter or rescue group, purchase directly from a responsible breeder, or find a breed-specific rescue group,” Riggs says.
Regardless of the opposition, California has been making headway on the issue for some time. According to the New York Times, many cities in California have had similar laws on the books. Other cities across the country have similar laws too, but results have not always been what activists might hope.
The sale of dogs bred in puppy mills is illegal in Chicago, but as of last year, at least one boutique dog shop in the city was selling dogs that came from puppy mills. DNA Info reported in December of last year that Pocket Puppies Boutique was slapped with about $10,000 in fines for illegally selling mass-bred puppies. Pocket Puppies, along with Park Pet Shop, a pet store also located in Chicago, and the Missouri-based dog breeder Cedar Woods Farm, challenged Chicago’s law in court, but were shot down by a judge just last month, according to the Chicago Tribune.
As for other states and cities, Riggs tells us that “Jurisdictions in several states continue to work on local prohibitions to add to the more than 230 cities and counties across the country that have already instituted bans. While we are not aware of any current efforts at the state level to ban pet store sales, we anticipate there will be some activity in 2018 as states look to follow in California’s footsteps.” Riggs adds that two states, Georgia and Florida, are working on legislation that would “prohibit local pet store bans” in order to prevent mass-bred pet legislation.
Most state legislatures are adjourned for the year, so it’s unclear if more state-level laws will be coming up for more states next year. However, the precedent set in California will help demonstrate how effective these laws can be, how effectively they can be enforced, and ultimately, how many pets can be saved.
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(Photos via Getty)