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Strengthening Pet Shop Laws

While the current laws show obvious progress, much more needs to be done nationwide to protect animals in the retail environment. For example, in 7 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Deleware (dogs only), Florida, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina) the protections apply only to dogs and cats — leaving parrots and other birds, rats, mice, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, “exotic” animals, and cold-blooded animals out in the cold.

Eighteen states establish standards in an attempt to provide safe and adequate caging or housing to animals in retail stores. But the flip side is that 32 states do not. As a result, animals in retail stores can be crowded into cages, which may not be safely constructed. When consumers enter the stores, they may perceive that the housing used in the pet store to display that species of animal is appropriate permanent housing for the animal. And so the lack of legislation in these 32 states can have a dangerous effect on the animals by implication — consumers may walk away with the impression that unacceptable temporary housing is in fact an acceptable standard of care for that animal for the remainder of its life.

Furthermore, there is a fallacy that animals always move rapidly in and out of pet stores and so the housing that is provided in the retail environment can be makeshift because the animals are housed there only temporarily. However, some animals — particularly larger and more expensive animals such as parrots — can languish in pet stores for months or even years. Inappropriate, crowded or unsafe housing can result in physiological and psychological stress for the animals. As a result, Born Free USA is calling on those 32 states to require adequate, uncrowded, safe and appropriate housing for animals sold in retail stores.

A program of routine veterinary care for disease prevention and prompt, consistent veterinary care to ill or injured animals should be mandated in all states. This premise is true — and currently is lacking — particularly for smaller animals with lesser retail “value.”

The laws should be enforced through licensing, inspection and record-keeping requirements. And certified humane agents as well as animal control agents should be required to enforce the laws and inspect premises in addition to the state agricultural agency. Enforcement efforts will be most effective when multiple agencies are well-versed with the pet shop laws and able to respond when they receive complaints from consumers. Distributing the enforcement load across several entities will translate into better cooperation among those entities when taxing situations arise, and a more reasonable day-to-day coverage of the enforcement duties.

YOU can play a vital role in improving the care of animals housed and sold in retail stores. Check our chart to see if your state already has a law already in place. If your state has a law, click on your state in our map to see how your state measures up. Are there obvious gaps in its coverage? It may be time for you to take action and make a difference. Contact us to find out how to strengthen the law in your state. After conducting extensive research and developing expertise in this area, we have drafted model pet shop legislation. We are happy to work with legislators, legislative staff and advocates on this important issue.

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