The governor signed the bill into law over the weekend.

By Austin Cannon
September 21, 2020
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Isabel Pavia / Getty

A new California law bans the state’s pet stores from selling dogs and cats, hoping to cut off puppy mills’ and kitten factories’ pipelines.

KGET reported Saturday that Gov. Gavin Newsom had signed the bill, known as Bella’s Act, into law. Previously, California pet stores were allowed to sell dogs and cats only if the animals originated from a shelter, rescue group, animal control agency, or a similar organization. 

The San Diego Humane Society, however, says that “bad actors” were still finding ways around the law to get their unethically bred pets into stores to be sold. The new law would ideally prevent that by banning all store sales.  

“This would eliminate a critical loophole in state law that’s allowing for the continued operation of puppy mills supplying our state. We don’t think that animals should be kept in such inhumane conditions, and we’re trying to stop that practice,” Assemblyman Todd Gloria, the bill’s author, said at a February event introducing the legislation

Puppy mills are commercialized operations that breed dogs with little to no thought to the dogs’ health. The mills often make the pups live in inhumane conditions and breed the dogs continuously. Many of the resulting puppies, who likely didn’t receive the proper veterinary care, are then sold to pet stores.  

The cat equivalent—kitten mills or kitten factories—also exist

Instead of selling dogs and cats, stores will be permitted to provide space to credible shelters and rescues for adoption events, the new law states. The pets available for adoption will have to be spayed or neutered, and their adoption fees have to be $500 or lower. The pet store is also prohibited from profiting in any way from any adoption.

Any pet store that violates the new law can be fined thousands of dollars. The law also enables a judge to shut down a violating establishment. 

Bella’s Act is named for a corgi who was bred in a puppy mill and then sold in a San Diego pet store for “thousands of dollars,” San Diego Humane Society writes. As she was raised and sold, she developed bronchitis and was declawed, forcing her owner to spend thousands to get her healthy. 

“In California, we are putting an end to the cruel puppy mill industry for good,” Newsom says, per KGET. “I am proud to sign this legislation to advance California’s nation-leading animal welfare protections and help more pets join loving families.”

The newly signed measure also applies to the sale of rabbits. 

Other states are also moving toward banning the sales of dogs and cats at pet stores. A bill doing so in the New York legislature has passed the state senate. A Maryland law banning the sale of puppies and kittens also survived a court challenge earlier this year. California’s governor over the weekend also signed a bill into law requiring that shelters and animal control agencies microchip all dogs and cats before they’re adopted, KGET reported.