SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A bill requiring pet stores to only sell certain rescue animals could make California the first state to do such a thing as the legislation headed to Gov. Brown's desk Thursday.
The state could be the first in the country to ban the sale of animals from puppy mills or mass breeding operations. Animal rights groups cheered the bill, which was written by Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D-Long Beach).
Private breeders would still be allowed to sell dogs, cats and rabbits directly to people, but pet stores would be required to work with shelters and rescue operations to sell those same animals.
"Dogs, cats and rabbits are shipped out to California from puppy mills, often from the Midwest, many times are unhealthy and aren't the animal that people are seeking to become part of their family," said Aimee Gilbreath, executive director for Michelson Found Animals Foundation.
The bill would also require the stores to keep public records that show where each dog, cat or rabbit came from. A violation would mean a $500 fine.
Supporters of the legislation said it will encourage families and individuals to work with breeders or adopt pets in shelters as well as ensure the animals are healthy and sold humanely.
But not everyone supports the bill. Dustin Siggins, director of communications for Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, said businesses could lose money or even their livelihood if the law is enacted. He also said some consumers are worried they won't have protections that pet stores can offer.
"They don't know their history. They don't know their genetic history, you don't know their illness history," he said.
Thirty-six cities in California, including Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco already have similar bans in place, but no statewide bans exist.
"Californians spend more than $250 million a year to house and euthanize animals in our shelters," O'Donnell said in a statement to the Associated Press. "Protecting the pets that make our house a home is an effort that makes us all proud."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.