Why Californians Need to Worry About AB 485, the “Pet Store” Bill

GSD Puppy

As recent history has shown, many anti-breeder animal rights extremists continuously advocate for incremental breeding and sales restrictions that they hope will eventually lead to outright bans on all animal breeding and ownership.  They collectively consider all breeders and pet stores as substandard and inherently not interested in practicing or promoting animal welfare.  These politically-aware extremists recognize that most purebred dog fanciers and enthusiasts have not historically thought of themselves as similar to, or aligned with, pet stores or professional breeders.  As a result, they employ a “divide-and-conquer” strategy to further split the political strength of breeder groups.  This is the strategic foundation that California’s AB 485, which seeks to limit Californians from purchasing purpose-bred dogs from regulated retail sources, is built upon.

Over the past few years, a multitude of local jurisdictions have considered proposals to ban the sale of pets at pet shops, claiming that such proposals would put substandard breeders out of business.  As the proposals move from one jurisdiction to another, the template stays largely the same.  Proponents make inflammatory allegations about abuses by breeders (whom they collectively call “puppy mills”) or unsubstantiated or false claims of animal population issues.  Their proposed solution to these ills urges banning the sale of purpose-bred pets in lieu of sales of animals obtained from shelters and rescues.  Animal rights groups count on the idea that the philosophical division between breeder groups will prevent them from uniting against their incremental, yet no less radical, agenda.   

Sponsored by the same group that attempted to institute mandatory spay/neuter in California in 2007, AB 485 seeks to ban the sale of pets from known, regulated and inspected sources (including breeders and handlers subject to federal licensing), and requiring pet shops to only sell pets from unregulated and uninspected sources (i.e., shelters, rescues, and other similar organizations) that are not subject to state consumer protection laws or other guarantees.  In essence, retail pet store bans, including AB 485, remove available consumer protections for new pet owners, limit the ability of pet owners to obtain the appropriate pet for their lifestyle, and potentially increase public health risks (which are not limited to geopolitical state boundaries).  Furthermore, AB 485 will dramatically reduce every Californian's access and ability to choose a pet with the predictable type, mandated care, and substantiated health backgrounds that come with purebred pets from regulated sources.

AB 485’s proponents misleadingly claim that the bill will promote the purchasing of purebred dogs from local breeders.  That claim, however, fails to shed light on the fact that many local anti-breeding laws and breeding restrictions, also supported by these groups, have already eliminated hobby breeding and now make obtaining a specific type of dog bred by a local breeder increasingly difficult.

Predominantly, when governments attempt to limit the legitimate sources from which a person may obtain a pet, it not only interferes with individual freedoms, it also increases the likelihood that a person will obtain a pet that is not a good match for their lifestyle and the likelihood that that animal will end up in a shelter.

It has never been more important than it is now for all dog lovers and those concerned about the future of our breeds to work together to preserve the freedom of individuals to choose from a variety of pets and to find one that is the right match for their lifestyle.  Such pets can come from a variety of sources including directly from the breeder, from a retailer, or from a shelter or rescue.  The decision to acquire an appropriate pet should be made by consumers themselves, not restricted by an arbitrary government limit pushed for by extremists who ultimately seek the end of dog breeding and animal ownership. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) emphatically supports freedom of choice in selecting a pet. AKC actively promotes efforts to ensure that people are educated, understand the demands of responsible ownership and have access to a pet that is right for them. AKC strongly opposes any measure that restricts choice by compelling people and/or retailers to obtain pets solely from shelter or rescue distributors.  On these principles alone, AKC opposes Assembly Bill 485

AKC will provide updates on AB 485 as developments warrant.  For more information on AB 485, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at doglaw@akc.org.