California is set to enact a statewide law that would ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and require that stores instead source dogs, cats, and rabbits from shelters and rescues. The Senate recently passed the measure with not a single legislator dissenting, and the Assembly concurred in overwhelming fashion, delivering the governor a bill originally coauthored by Assembly members Patrick O’Donnell and Matt Dababneh. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the measure – and he has amassed a stellar record on animal welfare in the last seven years in his second go-around as the state’s chief executive — it would make California the first state in the nation to enact such a policy.
With 38 million residents, California is an enormous market. Californians are animal-friendly, and generally don’t want to contribute to the cruelty of mills, or have sick dogs being sold through in-state channels. At pet stores, we’ve seen employees claim, time and time again, that they source dogs strictly from humane breeders, but we find that’s typically not the case. The HSUS has investigated pet stores in Los Angeles, for example, and found stores denying that the dogs came from mills even when our investigations proved that that the dogs came from some horrible confinement operations.
What’s more, private and public shelters still euthanize thousands of healthy animals, and California wants to stop such needless killing and also to relieve the financial burden on local communities by promoting adoption and spaying-and-neutering. By closing the markets for the sale of dogs from puppy mills, the law redirects consumers to shelters and rescues. What sense does it make for local governments to spend millions of dollars on animal care, and fight every day to reduce the inflow of homeless animals and to promote adopting them to loving homes, when the state doesn’t have a policy to prevent puppies from mills being sold through retail pet stores?
If consumers decide not to adopt when they are looking for their companion animals, this bill invariably pushes them to seek out small breeders who pay attention to animal welfare and proper socializing and care of the animals.
Thirty-six localities in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, have already passed ordinances banning the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores, and those policies collectively remind state lawmakers that this is an issue that is on the minds of the electorate.
An overwhelming majority of pet stores in California have already foresworn selling dogs from mills, or selling any puppies for that matter. An informed citizenry is driving the market, but the law exists in part to codify widely embraced values and to eliminate outliers. In California alone, 391 pet stores have signed the HSUS Puppy Friendly Pet Store Pledge declaring they do not sell commercially raised puppies and will not do so in the future. Pet Food Express, a member of our Puppy Friendly Pet Store program and Pet Business magazine’s Retailer of the Year, has 63 stores throughout California, and takes a strong stance against puppy mills. The company supports this bill, and in a letter to the California Senate noted they do so “because we want to see all pet stores operate responsibly. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s key to a successful business.”
Next, we are taking the fight against puppy mills to Ohio. Earlier this month, The HSUS, along with other groups and nearly 2,500 Ohio residents, filed a ballot initiative with the Ohio attorney general to improve living conditions for animals caught up in puppy mills, and reduce their suffering. The measure says that dogs cannot be sold in the state unless the breeders adhere to basic, common-sense standards for humane care. Ohio is the second largest puppy mill state in the nation, trailing only Missouri in the number of federally licensed commercial dog breeding operations.
Our anti-puppy mill campaign is working in the biggest markets and in the biggest mill states to turn around the problem. We want you to join us in campaigning for these measures. Please call Gov. Brown to urge him to sign A.B. 485.