Animal rights extremists are on the march, with their eyes set squarely on your freedom to choose a dog. If they prevail with a new law in California, and it looks as if they might, they will press as many states as they can to adopt similar measures making it illegal for consumers to purchase a purebred puppy through a retail pet store.
The outlandish law, recently approved by the California Senate, still must be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. All indications are that the governor will capitulate to the extremism.
The California law that its proponents hope to replicate far and wide eliminates the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits sourced from professional breeders in all pet shops throughout the state. Instead, pet shops will be forced to sell only those animals obtained through shelters or rescues.
One of the many ironies about the law is that the very pet sales that this bill seeks to stop are already subject to rigorous federal animal welfare regulations and consumer protection laws, while the sales it encourages are not.
In other words, the breeders the bill would close down are already subject to welfare regulations and the stores that sell purebred dogs already are subject to consumer protection laws. Bad actors are already in violation of the law. New laws that cast a net around all professional breeders won’t make bad ones any better.
Rigorous enforcement of the current laws is a lot harder than creating new laws and flashy media campaigns. But it’s the only approach that’s likely to achieve any real success. So the victim here — and the true target of the measure — will be the vast majority of responsible and professional dog breeders, who operate ethically with great care and concern for the welfare of their animals.
The effort to shut down ethical dog breeders might not have been a big deal years ago, because consumers could find a breeder with relative ease. But restrictions on owning dogs that have not been spayed or neutered and even anti-breeder extremism have discouraged small, local hobby breeders. For many people, especially those who don’t have access to small, private breeders, professionally bred pets are their only option to get a pet of their choice.
Another of the law’s ironies is that it encourages the despicable and unregulated treatment of dogs in “rescue” animal mills. The federal animal welfare act currently regulates the breeding, care, conditions and other standards of welfare for professionally bred pets sold at pet stores. By contrast, pets that are labelled as “rescue” or “shelter” are not subject to the same requirements.
The California law, and those that would mimic it around the nation, effectively take away the most regulated, health-tested and temperament-checked sources of pets on the market and promote pets from sources that lack this regulation and oversight.
Selling only shelter or rescue dogs creates a perverse incentive to import greater numbers of street dogs and dogs of unknown origins for U.S. retail rescues. The United States already has become a dumping ground for foreign “puppy mill” and rescue dogs.
These foreign street dogs that animal extremists are forcing Americans to adopt may be carrying serious diseases. While importation laws require all dogs to be examined by a licensed veterinarian, foreign paperwork is commonly invalid or forged, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If animal extremists truly want to help dogs in need, they should, first, encourage responsible local and breed-club charitable rescues. Second, they should push to regulate importers, distributors and retailers of “rescue” pets at the same high standard that purpose-bred pets are regulated.
Third, activists should focus on boosting oversight of rescues and shelters. Despite the increasing popularity of pets marketed as “rescues,” there is almost no regulation of animals that are labelled as rescues.
The decision to acquire an appropriate pet is a deeply personal choice. Extremists have no right to foist their choice onto others and end responsible dog breeding.