California Takes Us One Step Closer to Eradicating Puppy Mills

California has been making lots of history as of late some of which has been wonderful and some really terrible. Last week I reported on the terrible- the horrific firestorms in Northern California. This week it’s all about the wonderful.

Approximately one week ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed off on Assembly Bill 485. This new law stipulates that, beginning in 2019, all dogs, cats and rabbits sold in pet stores within the state of California must be obtained from shelters, rescue organizations or animal control agencies. The law also demands greater transparency from pet store proprietors who will be required to keep clear records on how each animal was obtained and post this information on each animal’s cage. While several cities and jurisdictions have already passed such legislation, California is the first state to do so.

Puppy mills and pet stores

As it stands now, puppy mills supply the vast majority (as in 99%) of puppies sold in pet stores. Every puppy sold puts cash in the pockets of a ”puppy miller” perpetuating the heinous practice of breeding dogs and raising puppies under horrifically inhumane conditions. In helping to write AB 485, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell is hoping to suppress the puppy mill industry as well as decrease the number of animals in California shelters. He stated, “This is a big win for our four-legged friends, of course. But also for California taxpayers who spend more than $250 million annually to house and euthanize animals in our shelters.”

For and against

The usual parties are voicing their opinions for and against this newly passed California legislation. The ASPCA and Humane Society of the United States believe the new law will help break the supply chain of animals coming into pet stores from puppy mills and irresponsible breeders. According to Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA, “By prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores, California will cut off the supply of inhumanely bred puppies into communities across the state, and prevent consumers from unwittingly supporting this cruel industry.”

Predictably, on the other side of aisle is the American Kennel Club. Sheila Goffe, AKC Vice President of Government Relations, stated that the new legislation “blocks all of California’s pet lovers from having access to professional, licensed and ethical commercial breeders.” Why oh why does the AKC continue to insist that puppies sold in pet stores come from ethical breeders? I’m hard pressed to come up with a reason other than the obvious direct correlation between numbers of puppy mill dogs and the revenue stream that flows into the AKC when they become registered.

How do I feel about California AB 485? The only way I could be more pleased is if other states jump on this bandwagon. Yes, I think it’s possible that a small percentage of ethical breeders could be negatively impacted by this new legislation. I also believe this is a small but necessary price to pay on the road to eradicating puppy mills.

Way to go California! Now, let’s hope other states follow your lead.

How do you weigh in on this new legislation?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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11 Comments on “California Takes Us One Step Closer to Eradicating Puppy Mills

  1. I don’t believe this will do anything to stop puppy mills, I am sure our neighbors on the southern border of the US are ready to meet the demand of puppies with their puppy mills. Worse, there are very likely no regulations at all so if we care about dogs in general, I am sure we have just made things a lot worse for many dogs across our borders. People want puppies and there will be people who will make sure to meet the demand. It would be a lot smarter to encourage people to become breeders in our own communities. Make it reasonable for them the comply with good practices, treat them with respect, give them your business, encourage locals to buy local etc. A lot of good breeders have given up because they truly love their dogs and they are afraid, and rightfully so, that they become a target and have their animals taken away and it would break their hearts. So they stop breeding to protect the ones they love. That leaves the ones who don’t care that much, because to them, if their animals are taken away, it’s a minor hurdle, they will just move and replace their breeding stock.

  2. I totally agree with Liz Ferayorni on this topic. If a hobby breeder is truly ethical then this legislation shouldn’t concern them at all.

  3. Nancy, once again, you have hit the nail on the head. While there may be downsides to the California legislation, I feel that the benefits outweigh the negative aspects.

    The Golden Gate Basset Rescue takes in around 100 Bassets every year from either shelters or from owners who for some reason are forced to surrender them. The area covered is from Fresno to the Oregon border.

    A considerable number of rescues have been from “puppy mills” where the dogs have been living in total filth requiring considerable expense. We are a rescue organization recognized as such by local and state agencies. Our annual budget runs around $100k.

    Properly administered, rescue is very gratifying. Personally, I feel that more people should get involved with rescues.

    Great blog. Keep up the great work!

  4. In support of this legislation, I also addressed my concern to our state representatives and Governor Brown that puppy mills might label themselves as rescue organizations, as some already do! Our representatives should instead be directed to remove dogs’ designation as livestock and remove all puppy mills from USDA jurisdiction. Unfortunately, too much public perception mistakenly equates all responsible breeders, who breed for the improved health, temperament, and function of their breed, with puppy mills, who breed for profit.

  5. Comment directed for Sue above: I have worked with puppy mill legislation in Iowa. I don’t know who did more damage to undoing addressing of the bad actors in the commercial breeding community in Iowa.

    The local hobby breeders? AKC? HumaneWatch FCOL? (That’s where that myth that ASPCA wants to end pet ownership. Who believes this stuff?) National Animal Interest Alliance? Iowa Federation of Animal Owners? The Iowa Pet Breeders Association? All kept up a constant drone of obfuscation and disinformation. It was hopelessly frustrating.

    The hobby breeders were the worst for me because I know these people. There were a couple of exceptions who “got it.” I love purebreds and purchase from reputable hobby breeders only. The hobby breeders were distrustful and refused to even listen to let alone work with the groups who were trying desperately to include them. The AKC needs to get on the right side of this crap. They register dogs treated horrifically in USDA-licensed kennels. Not all USDA-licensed kennels are filthy repositories of disease and mistreatment. I guess if you want a dog raised as livestock, rock on, but why IN THE NAME OF GOD would anyone who is as passionate about dogs as hobby breeders not even care one bit to learn what is really going on and help these animals?

  6. Go California! Great news. As you say, hope other states will follow suit.

  7. While I wholeheartedly want to see the end of puppy mills, those who want to make their money in such a heinous manor will easily get around this law. Retail Rescue as it is called has been lining pockets for quite a while now. Puppy Millers breed their designer dogs, and sell them under the guise of being a rescue, and an “adoption fee”, a very high one. Also, with our online society, people wanting a purebred puppy of a particular breed will buy online. Unfortunately, a “Buy Now” button next to a cute puppy picture pretty much guarantees a puppy mill pup. Responsible breeders would never place puppies that way.

  8. Nancy, usually I’m pretty much in agreement with the opinions you express, however on this issue I do have some reservations.

    It helps to be familiar with the background of people involved in designing this bill and pushing it through the CA legislature. Judy Mancuso, who is named as the person responsible for this bill, has been an HSUS proponent for many years. She was one of the driving forces behind AB 1634… described as the “California Healthy Pets” bill about ten years ago that would have mandated sterilization for all puppies and kittens by the time they were four months old. A legislator named Lloyd Levine was a sponsor if AB 1634, which was also supported by Wayne Pacelli and PETA representatives whose stated goal is to eliminate the ownership of pets and other animals. Mandatory spay/neuter would have been a big step towards that goal.

    The bill was introduced two years in a row, underwent many revisions, and was defeated both times, largely due to the efforts of hobby breeders in a number of states. The problem with the bills was that while they were advertised as ‘anti-puppy mill’ laws, they also had substantial negative impact on people who breed purebred dogs for show, for performance activities, for working purposes (including herding dogs, working dogs, service dogs, etc.). Breeders of other species were similarly impacted. Even after many rewrites, the bills had serious flaws and fortunately were defeated.

    LA County subsequently passed a mandatory sterilization law, however, in the years that followed, there was no indication that it had made any difference in their shelter intake rates, and license revenue predictably dropped substantially.

    Since then, CA has also passed laws that burden hobby breeders with all sorts of requirements that seem to be more of a hassle factor than necessary to protect animals or consumers.

    While I partially agree with your interpretation about the motives of the AKC, if you look into the activities they have been involved in with commercial breeding, the benefits of the programs they have participated in are clear. They have participated in conferences to educate breeders in MO for example about good husbandry practices, nutrition, kennel management, health care, OFA screening, etc. Yes, they likely benefit from registration revenue, but in the end, dogs are benefiting from better care, and consumers are benefiting because purchased puppies are coming from facilities that have improved their practices. Hopefully when people know better, they do better, and when they see that these practices benefit them financially too, they will continue.

    One of the biggest problems I see in the dog world these days is that rescue is no longer a case of protecting homeless animals and finding them safe, caring families. Instead, it has become a brand… “Don’t Shop… Adopt!” … instead it’s become a highly competitive retail activity with individuals and groups claiming to have 501(c)3 status in order to garner donations (although when I check, I often find that there are no corp filings or IRS records to support the claims). I would love to see more oversight to weed out some who have found a real cash cow niche, and a tax free one at that.

    I am personally aware of “rescues” who not only lacked legal filings, but were cited numerous times by multiple animal control agencies in multiple counties due to their unsanitary facilities and shoddy practices, yet continued to operate for many years, placing sick dogs with unsuspecting people. There needs to be more oversight in this regard as well, instead of allowing dogs to be placed in even worse circumstances than they were in before they were “rescued.”

    Shelters and multiple rescues in my area import hundreds of dogs and cats at a time from other states (including regular shipments from California) and even other countries because “We don’t have enough animals to meet the demand in this area.” In the process though they have also imported rabies, parvo, lepto, and parasites that were not here previously, needlessly exposing the pets of our citizens to diseases that were largely controlled in the past…. just so shelter and rescues can have more dogs to sell. When did rescue come to mean meeting the needs of consumers? Doesn’t creating this artificial “demand” just encourage people to continue to breed indiscriminately?

  9. Kudos to California for leading the way once again! Our rescue group (Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue) is firmly against puppy mills. We have taken in many Shelties that had been purchased from pet shops, nearly every one of them with problems – health, behavior, longevity – stemming from having been bred by unethical breeders (i.e., puppy mills). Pups purchased in pet shops are horrendously expensive, come with a very short “health guarantee,” and often sit in cages for months before the price is lowered enough for someone to be tempted to “rescue” the dog from the pet shop. Vans that deliver pups to pet shops often have 100 dogs jammed inside. Everyone, keep sharing this information as widely as possible. Wonderful dogs CAN be found without going to a pet shop.

  10. Yay for California! At least they are doing something right. And on the other hand, What ethical breeders do you know that would allow their pups to be sold in pet stores? None that I know of, nor would I acquire a new pup without going to see them onsight with their parents. AKC again has their noses in the $$$ jar.

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