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Make pet stores havens for pets in need of rescuing

January 5, 2019

The new year is getting off the ground with a change for the better where our nation’s heart is concerned, particularly in California.

The reason? A law that targets high-volume dog-breeding facilities known as puppy mills.

California’s Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, which passed in October 2017 and went into effect Tuesday, requires pet stores offering dogs, cats or rabbits for sale to get those animals from an animal shelter or a rescue group. Under this law, stores offering animals for sale would be required to provide records of origin for those animals.

Potential pet owners still will be able to buy from breeders, but stores won’t be allowed to do so.

Although there are federal guidelines regulating dog breeders and dog-breeding operations, and mandating licensing and inspections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many of those regulations seem weirdly out of place in a society that also boasts pet resorts and outfits for dogs.

In a fact sheet put out by the state of California in support of the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, the state points out that a cage at a breeding facility only needs to be 6 inches taller than the animal it contains. Further, the cage only needs to be cleaned once a week.

Think abut that — once a week.

And those are the ones who follow all the rules knowing that the Ag Department isn’t going to come by for an inspection every single day. In the more unscrupulous operations, animals are reduced to breeding entities.

According to the Humane Society of America, there are 10,000 puppy mills operating across the nation, with more than 165,000 dogs kept solely for the purpose of creating more puppies. The group estimates more than 2 million puppies are sold each year from puppy mills, which is why it targets this practice as one of its big fights.

Under the new law, animals from shelters will have a bigger chance at a better life. Stores that cater to animal lovers will showcase shelter animals, which would otherwise be housed, fed and cared for at taxpayer expense.

PetSmart Charities reports that the public greatly underestimates the number of animals that end up in animal shelters. Of the 8 million animals that enter shelters in the U.S. every year, 4 million are euthanized. Many of those are healthy pets that nobody wanted, pets that couldn’t find a home.

In San Antonio in January 2018 alone, 2,079 dogs were taken in to Animal Care Services, according to statistics posted on its website. That includes animals that were picked up and those that were surrendered. Of those animals, 80 dogs that were considered healthy — which means they probably would have made excellent companion animals — were euthanized. Even with the group’s 96 percent live release rate, that’s a lot of potential pets. Giving them more chances to find a family who could love them might have improved their odds, as well as the finances involved.

That’s why laws such as the ones in California are important; they make a difference.

In April, Maryland became the second state in America to pass a law prohibiting the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores.

If the way we treat the smallest and most vulnerable among us defines who we are, then this is the kind of legislation we want to get behind as we move forward.

It won’t solve all our problems, but it can do a little to heal us. And that is a start.

mariaanglinwrites@gmail.com

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