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New law prohibits sale of puppy mill animals

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Alondra Campos
Staff Writer

Pet stores are now prohibited from selling live animals that come from breeders, including dogs, cats and rabbits, according to Assembly Bill 485, which went into effect this year. 

Approved by former California Gov. Jerry Brown, AB 485 allows pet stores to obtain live animals from shelters or rescues only, along with documents that identify the source of each animal.

Along with requiring such documents, the bill also mandates pet stores to always display these documents stating where the animal was obtained and who to contact for adoption questions near the cage or designated space for the animal in the pet store.

Animals that are available in pet stores can now only be obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, the humane society shelter or a rescue group, according to the bill. 

The Companion Animal Protection Society, or CAPS, the only national non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to protecting companion animals from cruelty in pet shops and puppy and kitten mills, laid the groundwork for the bill through various undercover investigations of breeders.

CAPS President Deborah Howard led the investigations and laid out the fundamentals for the bill.

“The intent of the bill is to help homeless animals find forever homes and to help decrease the euthanasia rate of California shelters,” Howard said.

Before the bill, there were a total of 32 pet shops in California, Howard said. Every one of the pet shops went under investigation by CAPS. After the bill was passed, only 19 remained.

CAPS members went undercover and investigated all 19 remaining pet shops to check if they were following the new rules and regulations of the bill. The animals they saw in the shops confirmed their doubts.

“The puppies were all designer dogs, 8 to 14 weeks old and were sold for thousands of dollars,” Howard said. “That is not the price of a rescue dog.”

Howard said the highest a rescue dog could cost is $500 and the highest a shelter dog could cost ranges from $100 to $200.

After further research, CAPS discovered that the pet shops were obtaining their puppies from Bark Adoptions rescue and Pet Connect rescue, both of which were receiving their puppies from puppy mills, Howard said.

“We believe that these rescues, which are nothing more than fronts for dog brokers, are being formed to circumvent laws,” Howard said.

Each year approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized, Howard said. CAPS strives to reduce that number and hopes to put an end to the puppy laundering scheme.

Petco stores are some of the pet shops included in the bill that will have to follow the new regulations when obtaining animals.

Amelia Diaz, a guest adviser at Unleashed Petco, said this bill could help the overall health of animals that are adopted and can reduce the establishment of breeders.

“Those dogs from mall stores have health and behavioral issues,” Diaz said. “Breeders are all about making money more than anything and the animals they sell are the least of their worries.”

Many breeders lie to potential customers about the environment they breed the animals in and the kennel licenses they own, Diaz said.

In order to own a kennel, one must obtain a kennel license and have the property approved by the animal services department.

“Anyone can get a kennel license regardless of the facility,” Diaz said. “The property is rarely checked in detail and that is how many breeders get away with breeding animals in unsustainable places.”

When obtaining an animal from a rescue or shelter, the customer’s household will be checked for any hazards or dangers to the animal’s health, Diaz said.

“Petco works hand in hand with rescues in order to provide prospective dog or cat owners a trustworthy place where they can adopt healthy animals,” Diaz said.

Shaidyn Dezara, the assistant manager at Katie’s Pet Depot, said that although the bill seems to be for the best, it does not work out well for everyone.

“For mom and pop shops like Katie’s Pet Depot, the bill restricts us from taking in surrender animals,” Dezara said.

Dezara said Katie’s Pet Depot has housed over 250 stray dogs and cats.

Since the bill only allows pet stores to receive animals from shelters or rescues, stray animals will no longer be helped by pet stores.

“Shelters are not the best place for animals to be in either,” Dezara said. “Animals from shelters tend to be isolated from social interaction, whereas in a pet store, it is much easier for animals to socialize with humans.”

Dezara said shelters are already overcrowded with animals that do not get adopted and the bill will only increase that number.

Dezara added on that Katie’s Pet Store would spay and neuter the animals they took in for free as well as provide any necessary vaccinations and grooming.

“We did chipping and cared for any animal that needed it in our animal hospital and now we unfortunately cannot do that as freely anymore,” Dezara said.

Taylor Correas, freshman communications major, owns two dogs and said the bill could increase the chances for animals living in shelters to find better homes.

“Many animals who have remained in shelters for a long time will not have to be put down as often anymore,” Correas said. “No one goes to the shelters because many people buy their pets from breeders, mainly because the animals are said to be ‘pure.’”

Correas said she hopes adoption rates will surge for animals in shelters with the bill and hopes prospective animal owners will be accepting of animals that do not necessarily come from pure breeds.

“My dogs are of mixed breeds and it is the best thing because they love, play, and eat the same way as pure breeds,” Correas said. “In the end, I hope people see this as an opportunity to help more animals out.”

Alexander Rivera, freshman communications major, has had experiences with dog breeders and said that it is almost always a risk for prospective dog owners.

“I got my dog from a breeder and up to now he thankfully has not had any health issues,” Rivera said. 

“However, you never know what you are going to get from a breeder. For all you know, they could be lying to you about the health of the dog or the licenses they supposedly have.”

Rivera said the bill could reduce common health problems for many animals that live in unhealthy environments as well as increase a chance of finding a happy home for these animals.

The next step for the bill is to ban pet shops from making a profit from the supposed rescue fees charged for dogs and cats, Howard said.

“We urge you to adopt, not shop,” Howard said.

Alondra Campos can be reached at alondra.campos@laverne.edu.

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