California Pet Stores Will Soon Only Sell Rescue Dogs And Cats, Thanks To New Law

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Some L.A. dogs (Photo courtesy of Emily Black Favreau)

Soon, pet stores in the state of California will only be allowed to sell rescue dogs, cats and rabbits. The new law, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, will go into effect in January 2019.

The passage of AB 485, as the law is formally known, makes California the very first state in the nation to ban pet store sales from so-called puppy mills, though various cities and counties already have similar ordinances in place. In fact, 33 different cities and counties in California have already banned the retail sale of puppy mill dogs and cats in local pet stores, according to an AB 485 fact sheet.

California taxpayers currently spend about a quarter of a billion dollars a year housing animals in local shelters—a financial burden that could be alleviated in part by requiring animal seekers to opt for rescues, according to the fact sheet. Californians will still be able to purchase animals directly from private breeders.

“There is no doubt that this will help cut down on the number of animals who go into animal shelters,” Daphna Nachminovitch, a senior vice president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, told the New York Times last month.

Animal rights activists, including PETA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, widely supported the bill.

“By signing this groundbreaking bill, California has set an important, humane precedent for other states to follow,” Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, said in a statement to LAist. “We commend Governor Brown’s signing of this lifesaving legislation to codify statewide what cities across California have already done to help put an end to the cruelty of pet mills.”

Many pet store owners, however, advocated against it, along with the American Kennel Club and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. A statement from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council warned that the bill could put pet stores out of business, and could "restrict Californians’ ability to find the pet that best fits their needs and lifestyles."

Ben Ashel, owner of Agoura Hills pet store Puppy Heaven (which, according to the New York Times "specializes in matching owners with tiny dogs — teacup Yorkies and toy Maltipoos — and has a celebrity clientele") told the Times that he feared the new law might have unintended effects, motivating consumers to order dogs online or find other ways to circumvent the rules.