Forget, “How much is that doggie in the window?”
A law that took effect Tuesday will have pet-store customers asking, “What shelter did that doggie in the window come from?”
Authored by Long Beach Democrat Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell and signed into law by Gov. Brown, AB 485 prohibits pet store operators from selling dogs, cats or rabbit unless the animals are “obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group.”
Violators can be fined $500 per animal.
Chief among the bill’s backers was Companion Animal Protection Society, which bills itself as “the only nonprofit investigating inside California pet shops and the mills supplying them.”
CAPS’ undercover work includes investigations of every California pet shop that sells puppies and kittens, and some that sell rabbits.
The group’s president, Deborah Howard, testified before the Legislature regarding the O’Donnell bill and also handed over video evidence from its investigations.
In advocating for the law, Ms. Howard argued that it would help keep animals produced in inhumane mass-breeding facilities, aka “puppy mills,” out of California.
“Two of our investigators worked undercover at Petland franchises,” she told lawmakers. “‘Dateline’ featured some of our Petland evidence in the hour-long segment, ‘A Dog’s Life’ … The exposé, which examined every aspect of the pet shop/puppy mill industry, won a Genesis award.” (Presented by the Humane Society of the United States, the award recognizes individuals in news and entertainment for producing outstanding works that raise public awareness of animal issues.)
CAPS also conducted undercover investigations of the 90 pet shops selling puppies and kittens in New York City and adjacent counties.
The bill was signed into law by the governor in October 2018 but didn’t take effect until New Year’s Day to give pet shops time to adjust.
Among the stores that made changes even before Jan. 1 was Montecito Pet Shop, on Cliff Drive.
“We sell no puppies, no rabbits,” said an employee who asked to be identified only as Lynn. “Just hamsters, fish.” And, of course, pet supplies.
Any felines the shop makes available come from ResQcats kitten rescue and cat adoption in Santa Barbara, she added.
The American Kennel Club opposes legislation like AB 485, saying such laws stop sales from “known, regulated and inspected sources” including breeders and handlers subject to federal licensing, while encouraging sales from “unregulated and uninspected sources that are not subject to state consumer protection laws or other guarantees.”
“In essence, retail pet store bans, including AB 485, remove available consumer protections for new pet owners, limit the ability of pet owners to obtain the appropriate pet for their lifestyle and potentially increase public health risks (which are not limited to geopolitical state boundaries),” organization officials said in a statement.
Furthermore, the AKC says the law “will dramatically reduce every Californian’s access and ability to choose a pet with the predictable type, mandated care and substantiated health backgrounds that come with purebred pets from regulated sources.”
Kerri Burns, executive director of the Santa Barbara Humane Society, praised the law.
“This is a huge step forward in the fields of animal rights and animal welfare,” she told the News-Press in an email. “People who adopt a pet will now not only be improving their own lives, as multiple studies have shown, but will also be providing a warm and loving home for a formerly homeless animal.”
She saluted the state for this “visionary” legislation and urges everyone “to continue to recognize the importance of the human-animal bond.”
The Santa Barbara Humane Society is an approved adoption partner with PetSmart.
Stacy Silva, spokeswoman for Santa Barbara County Animal Services, said the new law affords more adoption options “through an avenue that has not been previously available.”
“Although this is a great step forward in the realm of animal welfare and overpopulation,” she added, “our biggest challenge is the backyard breeders, Craigslist, animals being purchased at swap meets.”
None of which, noted Ms. Silva, are addressed by AB 485.
“(O)ur biggest challenge is the backyard breeders, Craigslist, animals being purchased at swap meets.”
Santa Barbara County Animal Services
“(R)etail pet store bans … remove available consumer protections … and potentially increase public health risks.”
American Kennel Club