Landmark California Pet Store Ban Treats Animals as Pets, Not Products

October 17, 2017

puppies in a crate

By Matt Bershadker, ASPCA CEO

Update: October 17, 2017, 4:00 PM ET

We are pleased to report that Gov. Jerry Brown signed A.B. 485 on October 13, making California the first state to ban the sale of commercially bred puppies, kittens and rabbits in pet stores. The ASPCA thanks the Governor for taking this historic action and was honored to work with many tireless advocates and legislators—including the bill’s author, Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell, and the bill’s sponsor, Social Compassion in Legislation—to set this humane precedent for the rest of the nation. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2019, allowing pet stores time to transition their business models.

Pets aren’t appliances. They are living, breathing, loving animals who deserve as much loyalty and compassion as they give. This is why we fight so hard to stop the cruel puppy-making factories that create “inventory” for pet stores at an incredibly inhumane cost. 

While awareness of the puppy mill problem is growing, humane regulation at the state and federal level has been slower to evolve. The federal government in particular has continuously failed to protect dogs in puppy mills. But some states are taking the initiative. In California, 36 local jurisdictions are among the more than 230 cities, towns, and counties across the country which have passed ordinances to stop the sale of cruelly bred animals at pet stores in their communities. 

Now, California lawmakers have taken the next big step, passing an unprecedented piece of legislation—The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (Assembly Bill 485)—that would make California the first state in the nation to ban the sale of commercially raised dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores across the state. The bill awaits Governor Brown’s signature, and on behalf of millions of animal advocates and at-risk animals it would affect, I urge him to sign it. 

The brutality of puppy and kitten mills and their connection to pet stores is well-documented. These animals generally live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions—sometimes in wire-floored cages stacked in tall columns—without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. Animals bred in these conditions may also suffer from severe health issues, including contagious and deadly diseases and congenital defects, as well as behavioral challenges. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is currently investigating a multistate outbreak of bacterial infections linked to puppies from retail pet stores which has sickened 39 people. 

By cutting off the puppy mill pipeline that moves cruelly bred animals from across the country into California pet stores, A.B. 485 will also help prevent California consumers from being duped into purchases that contribute to unconscionable animal “production” and suffering. 

On a larger level, this law demonstrates how legislative action on animal welfare in general can advance from the local level to the state level, furthering the hope of creating a culture that values compassion over cruelty.

You can contribute to that progress. If you live in California, let Governor Brown know how much he can help vulnerable and victimized animals with his signature. And wherever you live, consider adopting or fostering an animal in need and telling your friends and family to do the same. That will accelerate the evolution of humane standards in your community and, in the meantime, multiply the amount of love given and received in your home—something an appliance can never do.