State bill would ban puppy breeding for profit

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SAN DIEGO — Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, Tuesday unveiled a bill aimed at ending the practice of breeding and selling pets for profit.

AB 2152 — known as “Bella’s Act” — would prohibit the retail sales of dogs, cats and rabbits while still allowing pet stores to partner with rescues and shelters for adoption events. Pet stores would be prevented from receiving any compensation from pet adoptions or for the use of the store and its resources in connection with adoption events.

“When we have animals in California who are still being bred and raised in unhealthy and inhumane conditions for profit, we cannot turn a blind eye,” Gloria said. “Bella’s Act will fulfill our promise to end the inhumane puppy mill industry by officially prohibiting the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in California and encouraging pet retailers to partner with rescue groups and shelters. We will no longer continue to facilitate or tolerate puppy mill cruelty in California.”

A prohibition went into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, on the sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in California retail stores unless the animals were acquired from a shelter or rescue group that has a cooperative agreement with a shelter or humane society. AB 2152 would close loopholes that have allowed  “bad actors” to get around the law, according to backers of the bill.

The San Diego Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are among the supporters of Bella’s Act. They say animals sold in retail outlets are often unhealthy, which leads to “heartbreaking discoveries” once they are taken home.

According to Gloria’s office, the bill is named after a corgi named Bella who was bred in a puppy mill and sent to a pet store in San Diego County, where she was advertised as a rescue and sold for thousands of dollars labeled as an “adoption fee.” The canine was declawed and developed a severe case of bronchitis that caused her new owner to spend thousands of dollars to get her healthy, according to the lawmaker.

The San Diego Humane Society, the animal care agency for a dozen municipalities in the county, found last June that three local pet stores were using a loophole in the existing law to get around the ban, finding 102 violations in total.

“As San Diego Humane Society’s humane law enforcement officers attempted to enforce the provisions of previous legislation, it became clear that loopholes exist for unscrupulous pet store owners to continue shipping puppy mill puppies in to our state for local pet store sales,” said Bill Ganley, chief of humane law enforcement for the San Diego Humane Society. “It is obvious to us that the only solution is to cleanly ban retail sales and remove the profit incentive for bad actors to continue harmful business practices.”

Other states and cities, including National City, have passed “clean bans” to eliminate loopholes.

“We applaud Assemblyman Gloria for introducing legislation that will cut off the puppy mill to pet store pipeline for good,” said Sabrina Ashjian, California State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “California’s existing puppy mill law was a big first step, and with the changes proposed by AB 2152, California will again be at the forefront of the anti-puppy mill movement.”

An Assembly policy committee will hear the bill in the coming weeks.

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