Oppose AB 485 Save Our right to own Animals of our choice. Pedigree or Rescue.

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This law would make it illegal to sell as a breeder. Not just "Puppy Mills" "Cat Factories" At least one California lawmaker has a different plan for your future: His bill, AB 485, seeks to replace pet store puppies with totally unregulated shelter and rescue dogs, some from as far away as Asia.

PETA does not believe anyone should have pets.

PETA's Statement backing this bill.

Contrary to myth, PETA does not want to confiscate animals who are well cared for and “set them free.” What we want is for the population of dogs and cats to be reduced through spaying and neutering and for people to adopt animals (preferably two so that they can keep each other company when their human companions aren’t home) from pounds or animal shelters—never from pet shops or breeders—thereby reducing suffering in the world.

The author of this bill, California Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell, should be applauded for trying to eliminate bad dog breeders, save animal lives, and protect consumers, but AB 485 achieves none of those goals. Instead of helping consumers or solving animal welfare problems, it creates a government-mandated monopoly making stray and unwanted dogs, and unregulated rescues and shelters the only retail source for dogs and puts legally operating pet shops with dogs from regulated breeders out of business.

With AB 485, California would outsource the supply of dogs available to consumers to the least regulated and poorest selection of dogs available. Rather than pet stores selling dogs bred by inspected and licensed breeders, AB 485 requires pet stores to sell unwanted strays, not only from Mexico, but some from more distant countries like Egypt and Korea, where dreaded diseases and parasites are commonplace. Before going down this path, California lawmakers should visit LA City Animal Services where dogs are quarantined now due to highly-infectious sick dogs imported from Asia.

Californians deserve continued access to healthy, well-socialized dogs, ones that come from humane sources, with guarantees. In a perfect world, breed enthusiasts who dedicate their lives to producing healthy dogs and preserving breed characteristics could fill the demand. Prospective dog owners would be able to visit a breeder’s home to select their puppy and meet the adult dogs before making their purchase.

But breed enthusiasts are few and produce only a fraction of the puppies that consumers want. AB 485 would remove the only remaining source of warrantied puppies from licensed breeders and replace them with unaccountable suppliers that do not have the type of dogs – puppies from specific breeds – that consumers want.

While the Assemblyman touts that this is, “a life-saving bill to mandate adoptions of rescue and shelter dogs, cats, and rabbits offered in pet shops,” it will only drive consumers looking for specific breeds toward underground and unregulated markets and Craigslist-type websites — places that are notorious for selling unhealthy dogs from unknown sources and offering no consumer protections. 


 Street dogs are being shipped into the United States from literally halfway around the world, from places where diseases like rabies are endemic.
AB 485 is Un-American. It picks winners and losers and unreasonably restricts consumer choice, all the while relying on outdated stereotypes and misinformation fed to them by activists with extreme views. It removes warranties leaving consumers the choice to surrender their defective dog to another shelter, defeating the alleged purpose of the bill – to decrease the number of dogs in shelters.

If the legislature really wants to protect dogs and consumers, they need to focus on the bigger problem and impose humane standards and acceptable business practices on the many irresponsible rescues and shelters that operate in California. For starters, California lawmakers should introduce laws to prevent rescues and shelters from importing foreign dogs with God-knows-what-diseases and temperament problems. The legislature will harm dog welfare by forcing pet stores to accept dogs from the least accountable, most inhumane source operating in the California pet marketplace.

The number one risk of moving animals internationally is that they may bring in infectious agents into a new area, where they were not present in the past. If the population in the destination country is not immune to this new pathogen, it could cause significant consequences to the human or animal population, or even agriculture.

There are several ways that dogs and cats can cross borders, which include: 1) families moving with their pets, 2) people rescuing animals from overseas, and 3) importation for commercial purposes (especially puppies).

Personal pets of people moving internationally are more likely to have seen a veterinarian beforehand. Therefore, they tend to be up to date on their vaccines, anti-parasitic treatments and are generally healthy. Because of this, the risk that they introduce diseases is fairly low. On the other hand, animals that are rescued from other countries are often stray cats or dogs, and thus with higher chances of being exposed to infectious diseases.

In 2004, a stray dog was rescued and brought into the US from Thailand and was later found to be rabid. No veterinary checks were done on the animal before the plane ride back and it took several veterinary visits in the US to finally come up with a suspect diagnosis of dog rabies (canine rabies has been eradicated from the US, although bat rabies remain). This incident prompted an international investigation to identify anyone who had been in contact with the sick animal in order to assess their need for lifesaving rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Another similar incident occurred in 1987 when a rabid cat was rescued from Mexico and brought into the US. In another example, a dog was rescued from Turkey and brought to Los Angeles, where it was was diagnosed with leishmaniasis (see previous post: Working in Morocco – Recurring leishmaniasis in a canine patient). This is a disease that is not established in Los Angeles and dogs need to be on lifelong treatment to prevent spread. Fortunately, these diseases have not been established in the local population. However, every time a pet travels internationally without proper prior veterinary care and treatment, it is another chance for diseases that can impact both human and animal health to establish themselves in a new area.

Physical examination of a Yorkie puppy at Los Angeles International Airport (Photo source)
This doesn’t mean that stray animals abroad should not get a chance to be adopted and have a better life, but it needs to be done in a proper way. There are some important steps to take when one wants to rescue or bring an animal to another country. In order to protect human and animal health alike, the following recommendations should be taken when trying to adopt/rescue/import an animal from abroad:

Have the animal evaluated by a veterinarian in the country of origin. Proper anti- parasitic medications and vaccines (especially rabies) should be given before leaving the country. Once vaccines are given, the pet should wait one month before it can travel.
If a veterinarian visit is not possible before the trip, it is of utmost importance to isolate the pet once it enters the destination country. This means the pet should not be adopted out to people until it gets all proper treatments and vaccinations. There should be no contact between the pet and other animals or people before the animal has been cleared by a veterinarian. Until they are out of quarantine, these animals can potentially expose both people and other pets with serious diseases. Veterinarians should consider foreign animal diseases if presented with a sick animal from abroad.
Another important aspect of international pet movements is the importation of dogs for commercial purposes. The sale of puppies is a big market in countries like the US, and that has driven some people to establish intensive puppy breeding operations (puppy mills) to quickly supply the increasing demand in specific dog breeds. Doing this in countries with limited regulation regarding small animals allows this industry to escape some of the oversight that exists in the US in regards to pet health and welfare. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulates importations of dogs and cats and these animals should not be imported from rabies-endemic countries until one month after they receive their rabies vaccination (given at 3 months of age). This puts the animals at a minimum of 4 months of age until they can be shipped to the US. Unfortunately, puppies younger than 3 months can be sold at a much higher price (sometimes thousands of dollars per dog) and some importers have falsified the dogs’ documents to state that they are 4 month old in order to comply with import requirements, when in fact they are much younger.

Physical examination of a French bulldog imported at Los Angeles International Airport (Photo source)
Investigations by public health authorities have inspected puppy shipments into Los Angeles International Airport and found that many  dogs were underage with falsified documents. The paperwork accompanying the animals stated that they were 4 months old when public health veterinarians actually aged them to be between 6-8 weeks. The implications of this are that 1) these dogs were not vaccinated against rabies as they should and could risk introducing the disease locally, and 2) travelling long distances in cargo can put more of a toll on underage puppies, compared to dogs that are older. It has been found that some importers sell these puppies online and advertise them as local, where that the person buying the animal online has no idea that the dog was imported from another country, sometimes the day before they are made available for pick up by new owners. If someone is planning to buy dogs (especially pure-bred puppies) from the internet, they should:

Consider adopting animals from their local animal shelter. Most shelters in places like Los Angeles are overcrowded and getting a pet from these shelters can help fight local pet overpopulation rather than bring in more dogs from overseas.
If buying from an online source, make sure to visit the animal beforehand to check that the animal is truly local.
Buy a puppy from sources licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
If a puppy was recently bought online, make sure to bring it to the veterinarian for a health check, vaccine, and to ensure that the puppy’s age based on its teeth matches the document provided by the breeder.
If there is a chance that the puppy came from abroad and it is sick, veterinarians should consider the possibility that the animal is infected with a disease not present locally.
Puppies imported for retail purposes (photo source)
Fortunately, laws have recently been put in place to address the issue of puppy importations. A CDC regulation is in place to refuse shipments of puppies from rabies-endemic countries if they are underage, or with falsified rabies certificates. Likewise, the USDA is increasing its oversight on online puppy retail stores to improve the animals’ conditions.

Itis easy to think how international travel can spread pathogens globally, especially when it comes to human movements (the current devastating Ebola outbreak reminds us that disease can spread rapidly). However, it is important to remember that animals move across border as well, whether it is from commercial puppy importations, pet rescue efforts, wildlife migration or even through agricultural trade (livestock or food products). In a globalized society, we need to look at population migrations from a One Health perspective (encompassing humans, animals and the environment) in order to effectively anticipate and prevent disease spread.

This article originally appeared in Fox & Hounds daily:

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