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News, Ethics/Welfare

California Bans Commercially Bred Dogs and Cats

Patricia WuestVice President of Media Strategy, NAVC

California Bans Commercially Bred Dogs and Cats
California is the first state to ban commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits. AB 485 has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
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When Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 485 into law, California became the first state to ban commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits. The law — which Gov. Brown signed in October 2018 and went into effect Jan. 1, 2019 — has stirred controversy. Advocates say it will reduce the needless suffering of animals bred for sale in so-called “puppy and kitty mills,” but those opposed say it will hurt pet store owners and force consumers to find a “black market.” (Individual breeders can still sell to customers; the law applies only to retail pet stores.)

The American Kennel Club has been vocal in its opposition. AKC says the law will make it more difficult for Californians to obtain dogs with the characteristics and traits they want, including breeds that are recommended for health considerations.

Read a Fact Sheet about AB 485.

Under the new law, California pet shops are only allowed to sell animals from an animal shelter or rescue group. A fact sheet for the bill says taxpayers currently pay $250 million to shelter neglected, stray and abandoned animals.

“By offering puppies, kittens and rabbits for adoption from nearby shelters, pet stores can save the lives of animals in search of a home, save the breeding animals trapped in puppy mills and relieve pressure on county budgets and local taxpayers,” a document explaining the bill says.

Officials with the American Kennel Club opposed the bill, writing that “when governments attempt to limit the legitimate sources from which a person may obtain a pet, it not only interferes with individual freedoms, it also increases the likelihood that a person will obtain a pet that is not a good match for their lifestyle and the likelihood that that animal will end up in a shelter.”

AKC says that it “strongly opposes any measure that restricts choice by compelling people and/or retailers to obtain pets solely from shelter or rescue distributors.

“It has never been more important than it is now for all dog lovers and those concerned about the future of our breeds to work together to preserve the freedom of individuals to choose from a variety of pets and to find one that is the right match for their lifestyle, the AKC writes on its website. “Such pets can come from a variety of sources including directly from the breeder, from a retailer, or from a shelter or rescue. The decision to acquire an appropriate pet should be made by consumers themselves, not restricted by an arbitrary government limit pushed for by extremists who ultimately seek the end of dog breeding and animal ownership.”

Animal protection groups, including the ASPCA, are celebrating the bill.

“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,” writes Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. “We’re proud to be part of the coalition that worked alongside Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell to pass this critical animal protection bill, and thank the California legislature and Governor Brown for sending the clear message that industries supporting animal cruelty will not be tolerated in our society.”

Those who violate the new law could be subject to a $500 fine for each animal they sell.

Read the bill.