By Eunice Kim
I remember when we first brought my dog into our family home and into our hearts. Beyond the fact that he looked like a fluffy cotton ball with a heart-shaped nose, he demonstrated a contagious warmth due to his soft character and fervor for life. With that wagging tail and love of cuddles, I didn’t think to look into his origins, that he was a new member of our family was enough.
However, even a dog as cute as mine can have a sad backstory, often at the hands of dubious pet shelters or retail pet stores.
After all, one of the main issues regarding the sale of pets at pet stores is the topic of where they come from. The Humane Society of the United States and the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act claim that most dogs have their origins in “puppy mills,” commercial breeder sites of substandard conditions where puppies and kittens are mass-bred in the name of profit.
Ordinances protecting such pets have been implemented in many cities, but as of now, the California is the first state in the nation to ban retail sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits.
In California, the harsh breeding conditions as well as heavy financial costs of maintaining shelters (which California taxpayers pay) influenced a bill called The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (or AB 485) which was passed by legislators in 2018 and then signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.
The law, which was put in effect on January 1 of this year, states that pet store operators offering dogs, cats, or rabbits for retail sale can only receive the animals from an animal shelter or rescue group, not breeders. Individuals can still purchase animals from private breeders, however the law does signify an end to the commercial breeding of animals.
Many who support the law believe that it can prevent animals from being bred under inhumane conditions and being consistently sent to shelters. On the other hand, those who opposed the bill claimed that it would put pet stores and thousands of pet professionals out of business. In fact, the Pet Industry Joint Council calls pet stores “the most regulated group of pet providers.”
The latter argument has not been met with unanimous agreement.
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is a law that requires wholesale retailers and dealers who provide animals to pet stores to be licensed with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), an agency that oversees the commercial dog breeding industry. Yet, these two entities are deemed insufficient because of the minimal standards of humane treatment and little enforcement.
There are more than three million cats and dogs that respectively need homes from shelters, according to the Humane Society. So, regardless of one’s stance on the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, there’s no doubt that it is a revolutionary law for the small furry creatures in our lives.