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What About The Law?

Many people mistakenly believe that all animals sold in pet shops are protected by laws. But while the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) mandates that certain animal facilities comply with licensing, inspection, and care requirements, retail pet stores (with the exception of those that sell "wild and exotic" animals) are not regulated under the Act. Furthermore, reptiles and parrots — the most commonly sold wild and exotic animals — are not currently covered under the provisions of the Act, leaving the majority of pet shops free from federal oversight.

In the absence of federal laws governing care conditions for most animals at pet stores, 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that establish some form of humane care standards for animals kept and sold in a retail environment. The quality and the scope of these laws vary from state to state as does enforcement of these laws.

Incidents involving substandard care of animals in pet shops are routinely reported to animal welfare organizations. Often the conditions, while seemingly cruel and inappropriate, do not actually violate any laws in the state where the store is located. And even when violations are reported to law enforcement agencies, few are actually investigated or result in charges being filed. That's why animal advocates must get involved.

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