California is racking up a lot of state "firsts" lately. First state to deploy a zero emissions bus fleet, first state to require solar panels on all new homes, first state to require a woman on a corporation's board of directors. We could go on, but for pet rescuers there's one first that jumps to the forefront. In January, California became the first state to stop pet stores from selling man's best friend (and cats and rabbits) unless they come from animal shelters or rescue groups.
The hope is this will put puppy and kitten mills out of business. Puppy and kitten mills function with little oversight and frequently house animals in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Pet store owners who do not comply with the new law face a penalty of $500 per animal. People may still buy dogs or cats directly from breeders. The law was signed by recently retired California governor Jerry Brown, a dog lover who owns Lucy, a Borgie, who was the state's First Dog and Cali, a Bordoodle, who served as First Deputy Dog.
This statewide legislation is the first of its kind in the United States, but other states are considering similar regulations that affect pet retail outlets including Washington State, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
More than 260 cities and local governments across the country have similar measures that curtail mass breeding operations of dogs and cats according to the A.S.P.C.A. Maryland, which enacted a similar law in 2018 which will take effect in 2020, will become the second state in the country to ban retail pet stores from selling puppies and kittens. Maryland already has strict regulations in place that require stores to disclose information about breeders and bar them from using any that have received citations from the USDA within the past two years. But many including Governor Larry Hogan (left) believe that is not enough to protect animals. The abrupt removal of inspection reports from the USDA’s website last year makes it more difficult to ensure that breeders are being honest about their history and harder to enforce the laws in place.
A new California law now gives pets more rights in some court cases. Judges can consider what's in the best interests of the animal in divorce cases, rather than just treating them as property, the way they've been treated by courts up until now. The measure allows judges to consider "the care of the pet animal" and when necessary, create shared custody agreements. The law differentiates pet ownership from ownership of a material item, such as a car. The law is the third of its kind in the nation. Alaska was the first to pass a pet "best interest" law in 2017 and Illinois enacted one earlier this year.