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California Is The First State To Require Pet Stores Sell Rescue Animals

This week, California took a big step towards combating animal cruelty. Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell authored bill AB 485, which will require all pet stores to transition into selling rescue dogs, cats, and rabbits. The Los Angeles Times reports that the bill was created to shut down puppy mills and kitten factories where those domestic animals are abused for the sake of consumers. On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law. The switch needs to be completed by 2019, and every instance of a non-rescue being sold in a pet store is subject to a $500 fine.

In a press release, O'Donnell shared his happiness over the success of his work, and mentioned how this isn't just for the animals, it's also for the citizens of the state.

“This is a big win for our four-legged friends, of course,” Assembly member O’Donnell said. “But also for California taxpayers who spend more than $250 million annually to house and euthanize animals in our shelters. I am very grateful for the strong support we received from animal-lovers across the state and from Social Compassion in Legislation, the bill’s sponsor.”

The ASPCA shared statements from department heads at animal care and rescue groups from all over California, starting with their CEO and president, Matt Bershadker.

“With this important step, California can build on its humane reputation by prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores,” said Bershadker. “We urge Governor Brown to sign this animal protection bill on behalf of all the people and pets in his state, and make clear that industries supporting animal cruelty will not be tolerated.”

Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, stated that the bill was “setting an important, humane precedent for other states to follow," and Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, President of the San Francisco SPCA, wrote that the bill stops "pet mill cruelty, while giving rescued animals the second chance they deserve."

But there are still people who contest the bill, which doesn't make any distinction between puppy mills and supposedly ethical breeders. Sheila Goffe, Vice President of Government Relations for The Kennel Club, gave a statement to the LA Times expressing their frustration.

“AB 485 blocks all of California’s pet lovers from having access to professional, licensed, and ethical commercial breeders,” said Goffe. “This is not good for Californians or their companion animals.”

According to the ASPCA, California's decision is one that reflects a growing attitude about keeping pets. There are 230 other cities, towns, and counties in the U.S. with similar pet store ordinances. While it is possible to buy directly from a reputable breeder, there isn't a way to easily vet pet stores for their animal supply chain, no matter their claims. 

Animals raised in mills are often poorly socialized, frequently unhealthy, and many don't survive to end up in a store, let alone a loving home. A rescue can make a wonderful companion and California is giving all the furry creatures who need home a chance to show it.

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