Assemblymember Gloria Takes Lead to Protect Animal Welfare, End Illicit Puppy Mills in California

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Bella’s Act Will End Retail Sale of Dogs, Cats, and Rabbits in California, Crack Down on Puppy Mills Once and For All

SAN DIEGO, CA – With the continued for profit, retail sale of animals from puppy mills and cat factories in California, California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and a coalition of animal welfare organizations are saying no more. Today, Assemblymember Gloria announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 2152 (AB 2152), known as “Bella’s Act,” to officially end the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in California and crack down on the illicit puppy mill industry once and for all.

When we have animals in California who are still being bred and raised in unhealthy and inhumane conditions for profit, we cannot turn a blind eye,” said Assemblymember Gloria. “’Bella’s Act will fulfill our promise to end the inhumane puppy mill industry by officially prohibiting the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in California and encouraging pet retailers to partner with rescue groups and shelters. We will no longer continue to facilitate or tolerate puppy mill cruelty in California.”

AB 2152 is named after a corgi named “Bella” who was illegally and inhumanely bred in a puppy mill. Bella was sent to a pet store in San Diego County where she was advertised as a rescue and sold for thousands of dollars – the “adoption fee.” During this experience, Bella was declawed and developed a severe case of bronchitis that caused her owner, Heather, to have to spend thousands of dollars to eventually get her healthy. Though healthy today, Bella still suffers from separation anxiety from her owner.

Bella’s Act will once-and-for all prohibit the retail sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits, while still allowing retail establishments the flexibility to partner with rescues and shelters for adoption events. The bill also prevents pet stores from receiving any compensation from the adoption transaction, or for the use of the store or store resources in connection with adoption events.

On January 1, 2019, California enacted a prohibition on the sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits in retail stores unless the animals were acquired from a shelter or rescue group that has a cooperative agreement with a shelter, humane society, or society of the prevention of cruelty to animals. Since that time, San Diego has witnessed firsthand the lengths bad actors will go to maintain their lucrative and unethical practices.

According to the San Diego Humane Society, the animal care agency for 12 municipalities in San Diego County, three of the few remaining pet stores in California that still sell puppies are within their jurisdiction. Through nearly a year of investigations and enforcement attempts, it has become clear that these retail store operators – in their zeal to continue profiting from the sale of animals – utilized a loophole in the law to get around the ban. The San Diego Humane Society discovered that puppies delivered by these organizations were consistently advertised as 8-10 week-old designer breeds, often sourced from the Midwest and selling for thousands of dollars each.

We are grateful to Assemblymember Todd Gloria for introducing AB 2152. As San Diego Humane Society’s humane law enforcement officers attempted to enforce the provisions of previous legislation, it became clear that loopholes exist for unscrupulous pet store owners to continue shipping puppy mill puppies in to our state for local pet store sales,” said Bill Ganley, Chief of Humane Law Enforcement for San Diego Humane Society. “It is obvious to us that the only solution is to cleanly ban retail sales and remove the profit incentive for bad actors to continue harmful business practices.” 

Other states and localities, including National City, have passed clean bans to address these loopholes. Legislation similar to AB 2152 is progressing in several other states, including New York to finally end the sale of puppy mill animals. Ultimately, Bella’s Act will strengthen current California law to prevent the exploitation of animals bred in deplorable conditions and imported for sale.

"We applaud Assemblyman Gloria for introducing legislation that will cut off the puppy mill to pet store pipeline for good," said Sabrina Ashjian, California State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. "California’s existing puppy mill law was a big first step, and with the changes proposed by AB 2152, California will again be at the forefront of the anti-puppy mill movement.”

This bill would strengthen the state’s landmark law intended to shut off the puppy mill pipeline into California,” said Susan Riggs, senior director of state legislation for the ASPCA. We’re proud to be part of a coalition working to support Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s efforts to pass this critical animal protection legislation."

As the association representing California’s animal shelters, CalAnimals is supportive of a move to prohibit the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores, while encouraging the mutually beneficial arrangement of allowing shelters and rescues to showcase pets and facilitate adoptions at retail locations,” said Jill Tucker, CEO for the California Animal Welfare Association. “Such legislation will help support our common goal of ensuring that no healthy or treatable pets are euthanized in California shelters.”

We're extremely grateful to Assemblymember Gloria for introducing this important bill to strengthen existing law and close any loopholes that allow disreputable pet stores to avoid complying with California's retail puppy mill sales ban,” said Julie Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society.

"No animal should suffer because bad actors are exploiting a legal loophole,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, a veterinarian and president of the San Francisco SPCA. “We need a strong law that protects both pets and consumers and stops the ongoing sales of puppy mill dogs in California."

Bella’s Act will be heard by an Assembly policy committee in the coming weeks.