California Bill Includes Important Amendment Protecting Breed Rescue

2020-09-18 | AKC Government Relations Department

Recently, the California Legislature passed a bill (Assembly Bill 2152) to further clarify and restrict pet store sales. AKC does not support the underlying ban on pet store sales, but is grateful to the bill’s author for including an amendment we requested to protect breed rescues. 

In 2017, California passed a law that limited consumer choice in the state by banning the sales of dogs and cats at pet stores, unless they are sourced from a shelter or rescue.  Since this went into effect, there have been concerns expressed that loopholes remain.

According to the official bill analysis for Assembly Bill 2152, the author, Assemblyman Todd Gloria of San Diego, introduced the bill to address a very specific problem that has arisen since the 2017 law was passed:

“Several lawsuits have been filed in California and Iowa against commercial breeders fraudulently registering as animal rescue non-profits, in order to skirt [the state’s] pet sale laws. These lawsuits allege that commercial breeders, or shell organizations linked to them, obtain nonprofit status with the Internal Revenue Service in order to disguise themselves as animal rescue groups. These groups can subsequently label puppies bred…as ‘rescues’ for eventual sale at animal pet stores. This practice, coined by some as ‘puppy laundering’, allows [substandard breeders] to circumvent local and state laws.”

In an attempt to stop this fraudulent practice, the bill was drafted to redefine “rescue” in order to exclude any rescue affiliated with a breeder from showcasing or offering dogs for adoption at pet stores. 

California is not the only state to introduce this broad definition of “rescue”.  The City of Chicago, which also has a pet store sales ban, introduced a proposal in July 2020 to address the same loophole with similar restrictive rescue definitions. 

The language redefining rescue was so broad that it severely limited opportunities for a dog in a legitimate rescue to be placed, and limited adoption events in conjunction with pet stores.  Early versions of AB 2152 and the introduced Chicago Proposal O2020-2827 sought to exclude any rescue from pet store sales and adoption events if the rescue obtains animals from a breeder, has any personnel in common with a breeder, or is on the same premises as someone who breeds animals.

AKC strongly agrees that the issue of fraudulent rescues needs to be addressed.  However, redefining rescues to exclude any association with breeders undercuts the excellent work historically done by responsible breeders, who as part of their commitment to their breeds also assist with rehoming or “rescuing” dogs in their breed of expertise.

Balancing Accountability with Protecting Breed Rescue

It’s important to note that AKC Government Relations does not support retail sales bans and restrictions on pet choice.  These laws attack consumer protection and responsible pet choice because they arbitrarily limit options for future pet owners to obtain the best pet for their lifestyle, and repeal consumer protections for pet owners who obtain their pet from a regulated source.      

However, if such bans do unfortunately become law, AKC agrees that the false and misleading business practices that led to AB 2152 and the Chicago proposal must stop and those involved should be held accountable. 

Yet it is essential that any proposal addressing the issue differentiate between fraudulent and legitimate rescue efforts. 

To address this concern, AKC reached out to the author of AB 2152 and asked he amend the bill to protect responsible rescues.  He agreed to a slightly modified version of AKC’s recommended amendment, and the current bill pending action by the governor simply states that rescue groups cannot breed dogs.  Additionally, breeders can still be affiliated and provide assistance to rescues that are working with pet stores, so long as they are not breeding the rescue dogs. 

AKC GR and its Illinois federation have requested similar amendments in Chicago, where the proposal is still pending. 

Implications and Protection for Breed Rescue

The amendment passed in California and requested in Chicago is crucial to protecting the connection between responsible breeders and responsible breed rescue/ rehoming groups.  If broad rescue restrictions such as these become law, many of our most qualified breed experts would no longer be able to assist rescues that showcase dogs in need of homes at pet store adoption events.  Perhaps even more importantly, it would codify the dangerous and inaccurate implication that rescues affiliated with breeders are in some way disreputable and should not be permitted.  

AKC clubs and club members donate significant resources to breed rescue activities including time, expertise, and housing.  Years of experience place these breeders and breed experts in a unique position to ensure that dogs in need of rescue get the breed-appropriate care and home the dog needs and deserves. 

Restricting rescues that are affiliated with breeders ignores the historic, vital, and important work of AKC breed clubs and many local AKC dog clubs.  Responsible breed experts have a commitment to both the appropriate breeding of certain breeds and also assuring that all dogs of their chosen breed have good homes. Implying that these experts should not be involved in rescue activities undermines this important commitment and harms those dogs that most need their expert assistance.

AKC GR will continue to work diligently to ensure this vital work is protected.

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