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New Pet Sale Law could be Creating fake “Pet Rescues”

By January 9, 2019February 24th, 2019Legislation

California Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (AB 485) – What the Rescues Say

Dog Adoption

On Jan 1 2019, California officially became the first state to ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits that aren’t from pet rescues, adoption centers, and other similar organizations. The bill (AB-485) was introduced for the first time by assembly member Patrick O’Donnell on Feb 14 2017.

History of Pet Rescue & Adoption Act (AB-485)

AB-485 is co-authored by assembly member Patrick O’Donnell and Matt Dababneh. The bill was sponsored by the Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL), a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding solutions for the welfare, protection, and rights of animals. The following chart provides a summary of AB-485’s history.

California Bill AB 485 History

What the Pet Rescues have to say

We reached out to over 100 pet rescue and adoption organizations in California to get their thoughts on the new law. Of those who participated in the survey, 70% were the founders or presidents of their pet rescue organizations. The remaining 30% were volunteers. Here are the key takeaways.

Working with Pet Stores
We asked the survey participants if their pet rescue/adoption organization already had partnerships with local pet stores. Only 29% mentioned they already had existing partnerships.

Working with Pet Stores

Almost half of the respondents mentioned their organization had no existing partnerships with pet stores and didn’t plan to in the near future. When asked why, some mentioned that there wasn’t a specific need for such a relationship since they were running a small-scale operation (40% of respondents were part of rescue organizations that had a maximum capacity of 1 to 10 animals).

Unfamiliarity with the New Law

Positive Reaction to Pet Rescue and Adoption Act

One of the first questions we asked survey participants was on their overall sentiment of the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act. Interestingly, 22% of respondents mentioned that they didn’t have an opinion yet as they were either 1) not familiar with what the new law covers or 2) this was the first time they heard of it.

For respondents that did have knowledge of AB-485, the sentiment was, to no surprise, very positive. 68% of respondents stated that they had a positive sentiment of the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act. There was, however, a lot of skepticism over how much effect this law would actually have on the pet industry.

Existing Pet Sale Legislation
One respondent noted that many cities in California already have local laws that are similar in scope to AB-485. Back in 2012, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of mill-bred dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores. San Diego, Irvine, and Laguna City are other notable cities in California with similar legislation in place.

“Our stores are based in the LA area where there are local laws like this on the books already, so it shouldn’t have a significant impact. We do feel that any legislation that tilts the scales towards rescue/adoption and away from breeding/selling is positive.”

California City Retail Pet Sale Ban

A Decade too late?
Some respondents mentioned that the new law may have come too late. Articles, such as from RetailDive, point to a growing shift to online commerce in the pet industry. In the past decade, pet sale and adoption at brick-and-mortar stores have dropped in favor of online transactions, which isn’t included in AB-485.

“Brick and mortar adoptions at 3rd party pet stores are an increasingly shrinking model for pet placement, and it’s being replaced by online commerce, which isn’t impacted by the Act. 15 years ago I would estimate that close to 80% of our group’s adoptions started and finished at 3rd party pet stores (Petco, Petsmart, Centinela Feed) that hosted weekend mobile adoptions. Now that number is down to around 10% – virtually everything happens in a virtual space between private individuals, or on our private property which isn’t impacted by the Act.”

“Rescues” Set Up by Pet Stores
A few respondents mentioned they heard of pet stores that plan on or have already set up their own “rescues” in order to circumvent the new law.

“Recently heard of a local pet store in San Diego area obtaining a 501c3 non profit status on the side – so they can get purebreds in Mexico (puppy mills) and say they are rescues to sell.”
“I believe that it will have ‘rescues’ popping up claiming to be rescues to avoid the law which will put legitimate rescues in the line of fire and under more scrutiny than we are already under.”

Importance of Education & Publicity
Despite there being a lot of skepticism over how much impact the Pet Rescue & Adoption Act would have on commercial breeding practices, many were positive about the publicity and awareness the law raises.

“Nationwide awareness is critical to making a sea change to the prevention of factory dog breeding and dog ownership.”
“Rescue should be more regulated; adoption screening process better, not first come first serve like puppy stores. People have this mentality and it’s about promoting EDUCATION within every rescue and adoption to make sure these dogs find permanent homes that will keep them vetted, healthy, happy, well trained and part of the family forever.”
“This law benefits the voiceless animals being irresponsibly bred in puppy mills and sold in stores. Our hope is that stores will partner with rescue groups and choose not to “stock and sell” the animals themselves, but rather have reputable groups who bring animals in for adoption events.”
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