California is starting the new year with a new legislation, one that is aimed to better the lives of animals in the state. The new law, titled AB 485, requires all pet stores in the state of California to only sell rescued animals, specifically, cats, dogs, and rabbits. This means that if a pet store chooses to sell these kinds of animals, the business will have received the animals from either an animal shelter or rescue group. AB 485 was initially signed by Governor Jerry Brown in October of 2017 and has officially been in effect since January 1, 2019. The reason for the gap between signing and implementation was simply to give pet storeowners the time to prepare their businesses for the new compliance.
When selling animals that come from rescues and shelters, by law, all pet stores are now required to provide detailed information on each animal including the name of the given association of origin. Any violations of the new legislation can result in a fine of $500 per animal. California is the first state to implement this type of law and 36 cities in the state already had similar requirements before AB 485 was created. Advocates of AB 485 are hoping other states in the country will follow California’s lead. With 250 cities and local governments across the country already having specific restrictions for the control of mass breeding operations of cats and dogs, this legal trend could very well occur.
According to Kevin O’Neil, Vice President of State Affairs for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), what California has done with this new legislation has indeed started a new direction in the US. O’Neil said other statewide measures are being drafted or considered in Washington, New York, and New Jersey. Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan signed a law in April of 2018 banning pet stores from selling dogs and cats and only allowing such stores to host adoptions instead. That state’s law will take effect in 2020.
AB 485 was written by Democratic State Assembly members Patrick O’Donnell and Matt Dababneh. The bill was written to address the extremely minimal federal standards for animals being sold, which requires cages only six inches larger than the animal inside with cleanings just once a week. According to the fact sheet for AB 485, the law is openly targeting controversial breeding facilities that can often “house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate food, water, socialization, or veterinary care.” Furthermore, financial considerations with the new legislation look alleviate the $250 million a year in taxpayer money that goes to housing animals in local shelters. It is hoped that AB 485 can help curb the animal population and prevent animals in shelters from being euthanized by encouraging adoption and opting for stray breeds.
Although AB 485 does not directly affect private breeders, with private breeding still allowed in the state, those in opposition to the new law argue it could indirectly impact the industry. Ashley Lawson, an assistant manager at a licensed breeding facility, stated that they wish to fight or overturn this law. She mentioned that some customers do not have the option to adopt and that people should be given a choice at pet stores. People can be concerned with the unknown health and behavioral patterns of a rescued animal and plenty prefer to buy a specific breed for personal reasons.
Mike Bober, President of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, spoke on the new law stating it was well-intentioned but misguided. He believes the law could have a negative impact on at least two dozen pet stores in the state and it would have been better to institute a measure providing better enforcement of federal law requiring stores to post credentials from licensed breeders. Phil Guidry of the American Kennel Club stated, “AB 485 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.”
It is no surprise with this new law, first of its kind in the US, that there are sides both for it and against it. But is it possible for AB 485 to actually be a win-win for the state? If someone wishes to purchase a purebred, they can still access any private breeder in the state; while all the animals without homes can now have a better chance of being adopted and saved from euthanization. Steve MacKinnon, San Diego Humane Society Law Enforcement Chief, said it well, “AB 485 takes the emphasis off the profit of animals and puts the emphasis back on caring for and getting these cats and dogs a good home.”