No pet store in California can sell dogs, cats or rabbits from breeding mills under a new state law a Laguna Beach animal activist sponsored.
Judie Mancuso campaigned for the legislation in cities across the state before taking it to Sacramento in 2015 with a pitch to Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach).
The purpose of the law, she said, is to cut off demand for animals bred by mills in the Midwest. Many of those animals end up in California shelters, she said, and dogs, cats and rabbits are the most common types in stores.
A pet store operator who violates the law would be fined $500 for each non-rescue animal in the store.
“Bringing these animals in from out of state, it’s just propagating [the] pet overpopulation problem and adding numbers, lots of big numbers, to the pet population and then causing this burden on our state,” said Mancuso, founder and chief executive of the 12-year-old organization Social Compassion in Legislation. “Taxpayers are the ones that pick up the tab. We pay for these animals to be sitting in shelters.”
Another reason to limit the number of animals coming from breeding facilities is the condition of some commercial breeding mills, Mancuso said. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website contends that some breeders cram animals together in cages, don’t provide routine veterinary checkups and overbreed female animals.
“Animals are often without adequate food, water, socialization or veterinary care. As a result, the animals face an array of health problems,” O’Donnell said on the Assembly floor when the bill passed the chamber in 2017. “Because pet stores are several steps removed from the breeding of the animals they sell, store owners rarely know the conditions of their animals.”
Some people have voiced concerns that the law will take too many pets out of the commercial system, but Mancuso said the problem of overpopulation needs to be solved first.
“It would be best, ethically and morally, to get all the unwanted animals that are already here a home instead of ... shipping in tens of thousands,” she said.
The law does not prohibit people from buying animals directly from breeders or from breeding pets personally, depending on local laws, Mancuso said.
“If somebody wants a purebred, then it’s up to them to find one that’s coming from a good place,” said Mancuso, who just finished her second term as a member of the state’s Veterinary Medical Board.
At that law’s three-year review mark, Mancuso said, the number of shelter animals being put to death had decreased. She took the Los Angeles law as her cue to lobby the state to follow suit.
“This is a big win for our four-legged friends, of course,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “But also for California taxpayers who spend more than $250 million annually to house and euthanize animals in our shelters.”
By the time the state law passed, at least 36 local jurisdictions around California already had ordinances banning the sale of certain mill-bred animals at pet stores, according to Social Compassion in Legislation.
Laguna Beach passed an ordinance in 2012 prohibiting the retail sale of dogs and cats, though the city hasn’t had a retail pet store since before that regulation.
“In animal services, our mission is also to look out for the welfare of animals, so we thought it fit with the values of Laguna Beach,” said Jim Beres, the Laguna Beach Police Department’s civilian services administrator. “Judie had the right goal — to get legislation passed at the state. It usually starts at the local level.”
Mancuso said Social Compassion in Legislation has secured authors in the state Legislature for 12 new bills, including one that would require that every dog or cat leaving a shelter be microchipped for tracking purposes.
Brown signed another bill supported by Mancuso’s organization last year that will prohibit the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, effective in 2020.
The group also advocated for a bill passed in 2014 allowing restaurants to open their outdoor dining areas to pet dogs.
In addition to her work with Social Compassion in Legislation, Mancuso created a specialty “pet lover’s” license plate with the state Department of Motor Vehicles to raise money for free and low-cost spay and neuter services statewide.