OP-ED: What Will Assemblyman O’Donnell’s Bill Really Do for California’s Household Pets?

File photo.

The Assembly Committee on Appropriations is voting tomorrow on Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell’s Pet Rescue and Adoption Act. According to the Assemblyman, Assembly Bill 485 will ban the sales of dogs, cats and rabbits statewide in order to fight “inhumane breeding facilities” and to prevent “overcrowded shelters [that] euthanize millions of dogs and cats each year.”

Unfortunately, neither of these concerns are addressed by Assembly Bill 485. Under the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, it is already illegal for pet stores to purchase cats, dogs and rabbits from unethical breeders. Pet stores may only purchase dogs and cats from U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed and inspected breeders, or hobby breeders that are too small to be licensed. There are fewer than 1,800 licensed breeders, and they are routinely inspected at least once per year.

California law further protects pets and consumers through health, transparency and warranty requirements for pet stores. AB 485 actually risks undermining the state’s warranty law by making it effectively unenforceable, and – by making pet stores unavailable as a source for dogs, cats and rabbits – sending Californians to the illegal breeders Assemblyman O’Donnell wants to put out of business.

AB 485 will likewise do little or nothing to help shelters reduce their populations. Many shelters and rescues import far more dogs from out of state and even internationally than come from pet stores. Furthermore, the numbers of pitbulls and chihuahuas in shelters greatly exceeds demands for these types of dogs, which creates breed-specific overcrowding issues that won’t be improved by banning pet store sales.

Finally, it is unknown exactly how many dogs and cats are euthanized by shelters, as most do not report this information to the public. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimated 1.5 million – far too many, but far lower than the “millions” cited by Assemblyman O’Donnell. Additionally, many cats and dogs are euthanized for health and behavioral issues, or by owner request – not due to overcrowding at shelters.

For example, the San Diego Humane Society explicitly declares, “We do not euthanize healthy pets.”

Pet stores help Assemblyman O’Donnell accomplish both of his goals. As the most highly regulated partners in pet care, thanks to federal and state laws, these pet providers are only allowed to work with ethical breeders. They also help reduce the burden on shelters and rescues by working one-on-one with prospective pet owners to address their needs and ensure a forever home. In fact, pet stores are frequently the source of pets with traits that accommodate needs and lifestyle considerations such as allergies, disabilities, small children and home size.

California’s pet protection laws can certainly be improved. My organization, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, supports expanding California’s warranty. We also support improved transparency and breeder sourcing restrictions. We urge Assemblyman O’Donnell to take this path—to work with the responsible pet industry to benefit pets, their owners, and California’s hundreds of retail pet providers.

Mike Bober is President and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. PIJAC members include retailers, companion animal suppliers, manufacturers, wholesale distributors, manufacturers' representatives, pet hobbyists, and other trade organizations.



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