California, a state that has historically been an incubator for laws that will spread throughout the nation, has passed a law that forces pet stores to only sell cats and dogs that have been acquired from recognized shelters. The intent of this law according to legislators is to drastically reduce the possibility of profiteering by so-called puppy mills that breed cats and dogs in substandard conditions, then selling them simply for the profit. The statewide ban is the first in the country, but a number of cities in Georgia and other states already have suck laws on the books.
Though there are those who want to make this a political issue (the bill was sponsored by two Democrats and pet stores are primarily small businesses) the fact is there are people who simply are profiting from seriously inadequate breeding conditions. But while the law seeks to put a serious crimp in such operations, it is not likely to make a significant impact on the profiteers. The reason is obvious: the Internet.
California Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the bill into law, does not understand the realities of the Internet. When you consider that the American Kennel Club (AKC), that organization which approves specific breeds into its national registry, has a website that will put you into contact with AKC approved breeders to buy a dog, the California law makes about zero sense. Arguing that most people don’t buy or cannot afford AKC quality dogs does not address the issue. There are thousands of places people can go on the Internet to get a dog or a cat for a price they can afford.
That leaves us asking why should there be a law of this kind at all. Other than appeasing animal rights groups such as the ASPCA, which is very much in favor of the law, it will be difficult to determine exactly where a specific dog or cat came from at any given pet store. The first and most obvious way will be to send out investigators who will perform random checks on random pet stores, which will cost the taxpayers money in some shape or form. Another possibility is to enlist animal rights activists to conduct their own investigations, covertly talking with pet store owners to get information or actually buying a pet and tracing its history.
What prevents pet store owners from recommending breeders for a percentage of the profits? They can fill their stores with state-approved dogs and cats, but if none of them find homes because of the new California law what will the advocates have to say about their eventual euthanization? We are likely to hear that there is a law in place, and people need to follow the law. Of course, pet store owners are doing exactly that.
Will this law put some pet store owners out of business? If it does, it will likely be more out of frustration than profit, especially if they realize they are being spied upon by the government or do-gooders simply by conducting their normal business. From this perspective, while there will always be some pet store owners who will opt for profit over puppies, the law implies that there are a majority of owners who have the same profiteering mind set. Insulting people and impugning their character is not a good way to encourage business.
Should the worst case scenario follow, where the number of pet stores dwindles significantly, people will have to choose between going to a state adoption facility (which may be the unspoken intent) or go to the Internet and shop around there. The breeds in highest demand will be snapped up quickly, and the puppy mill profiteers will be able to raise their prices and make even more profit. Apparently, this simple redirect escaped the minds of legislators.
Early in 2018, Governor Brown sent out a press release, part of which read:
“Cali Brown, 2 months, of Sacramento, has been appointed Deputy First Dog in the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Born on January 26, 2018 in Herald, California, to Standard Poodle mother Bailey and Border Collie father Murphy, Cali, a Bordoodle, is without a doubt the pick of her 13-puppy litter.”
There is no indication that the Deputy First Dog was from a California state approved rescue or animal shelter.