New animal-friendly laws go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, and among them is a California law that bans pet shops from selling sell dogs, cats, and rabbits unless the animals are sourced from local shelters and rescues—not breeders.   

California is the first state in the nation to implement these strict new rules on pet stores. Under the new law, called the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, animals must come from a public animal control agency or shelter, humane society group, or a rescue group that has a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter.  

The law takes aim at breeders who produce animals in mass-breeding facilities—also known as puppy and kitten mills—which are notorious for cruel practices and conditions. In addition to protecting California’s animals by discouraging “puppy mill” practices, the new law will help raise public awareness that shelters have loving animals who need permanent homes. Pet shops will be an additional venue to bring animals and prospective owners together. 

“There is no reason to buy an animal from a breeder,” says Alley Cat Allies President and Founder Becky Robinson. “The public is becoming more aware of the wonderful animals at shelters who need loving homes. Now more animals’ lives will be saved.” 

The California law also requires pet store owners to keep detailed records of the source of each animal it sells and display on the cage or enclosure the name of the shelter or rescue group from which they obtained the cat, dog, or rabbit. This way, buyers know where the animals have come from.  

The Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS), a nonprofit that investigated California pet shops that sell puppies, kittens, and in some cases rabbits, said it laid the groundwork to transform pet shops into humane adoption centers through municipal ordinances in the state and now through this state law. CAPS President Deborah Howard said her investigation uncovered a pattern of deceptive and illegal practices. For example, she said pet shops were routinely misleading customers about where the puppies and kittens they sold came from. Some shops were outright refusing to disclose the sources, which is a violation of California law. 

Another new California law that takes effect on New Year’s Day gives pets “rights” in divorce proceedings. Judges will now consider what is best for an animal when deciding which spouse will be awarded custody. 

Elsewhere, animals in Illinois have new protections as 2019 begins. Under the Humane Care for Animals Act, law enforcement officers are permitted to take temporary custody of, and seek emergency veterinary care for, dogs and cats believed to be exposed to life-threatening conditions such as extreme heat or cold.  

Illinois’ police dogs are receiving new protections with the Police-Service Dog Protection Act, which requires a vehicle transporting a police dog to be equipped with a heat sensor and a safety mechanism to lower the vehicle’s temperature if it is too hot for the dog. 

Finally, Illinois is strengthening its microchip law. It states that if a dog or cat has been microchipped and the primary contact listed on the chip cannot be located or refuses to take the animal, “secondary contacts listed by the chip manufacturer” will be contacted to help get the animal into a home.  

Pennsylvania is also heading into 2019 with a newly enacted law that empowers authorities to save animals without liability. The law will allow law enforcement, animal control officers, humane society police officers, and emergency responders to break into a vehicle without legal repercussions if an animal is inside and believed to be in danger. 

Thanks to these new laws, we are ringing in the new year as a nation that values animals’ lives by strengthening protections for cats, dogs, rabbits, and other animals. Alley Cat Allies will continue our fight to support more of these lifesaving laws so 2019, and every year beyond, is a better, safer one for all animals.