California's Pet Sales Ban Sets a Dangerous Precedent



Could California’s pet sales ban set off a domino effect across the United States? For the sake of everyone who makes a living in the pet industry, let’s hope not.

California Assembly Bill 485, which Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law, will institute the country’s first statewide ban on the sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores, starting Jan. 1, 2019, setting a dangerous precedent that could have far-reaching consequences.

You see, once a law like this goes on the books at the state or local level, it becomes much easier for lawmakers—and the activists who have their ears—to promote similar legislation in other places by using precedent as justification. With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which we see other one state after another pass their own pet sale bans, similar to what has happened on a more local level in municipalities across the country over the past several years. 

If there is any doubt that this is the strategy activist groups will take, consider this quote from Gregory Castle, CEO of Utah-based animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society, which was featured in multiple media outlets: “By signing this groundbreaking bill, California has set an important, humane precedent for other states to follow.” 

Of course, the idea of other states piggybacking off of the precedent set by California wouldn’t be so disturbing if the law itself wasn’t so deeply flawed. Cast by proponents as simply a prohibition on the sale of pets from “puppy mills,” the law actually states that retailers can only sell dogs, cats or rabbits that are obtained from rescue groups or shelters. That means retailers cannot sell animals sourced from responsible commercial or even small-scale breeders that couldn’t be further from the “puppy-mill” stereotype. 

Unfortunately, this could prove problematic for the continued growth of the pet population in the U.S., particularly when it comes to dogs. Studies have shown that the supply of animals available from rescue groups and shelters falls far short of even the most conservative estimates for what it will take to keep dog ownership at even current levels. That makes responsible breeders, and the retailers they partner with, critical to American families’ ability to continue experiencing the joys of pet ownership—not to mention your ability to continue earning a living in an industry you love.


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