California Bans Public Animal Sales
by Geneva Coats, R.N.
Secretary, California Federation of Dog Clubs
July 27, 2011 - HSUS-backed SB 917 makes public sale
of any animal a criminal offense in CA and it will be
fast-tracked in other states.
917 was signed into law yesterday by Governor Jerry “Moonbeam”
Brown. The criminal animal cruelty statute now will include
public sales of animals, making sales a misdemeanor offense
right up there in the same league with beating, torturing and
cruelly killing an animal. The law will go into effect in 2012.
The notorious CA SB 917 has been promoted by supporters as a ban
on "roadside sales" of animals. In actuality, this bill
prohibits any public animal sales activities unless specifically
exempted….roadside or not. No animal sales may transpire in
any public place. Offenders would face a fine on a first
offense, and misdemeanor criminal charges thereafter. SB 917
adds to the current criminal animal cruelty statue and doubles
the maximum allowed penalties for these offenses. Current law
describes animal cruelty offenses (such as torturing,
tormenting, cruelly beating, mutilating, or cruelly killing an
animal) and specifies that such activities can be charged as
either misdemeanors or felonies, with possible jail time.
Equating heinous, abusive actions with animal sales sets the bar
for animal cruelty at a very low threshold. Under the language
of this bill, selling puppies will become as unfavorably
regarded by the public as selling such contraband items as
illegal drugs or stolen merchandise. SB 917 also establishes a
worrisome precedent by criminalizing the very act of sales
itself. Where will this lead in the future? It is frightening to
Dog club meeting at a coffee shop? Transferring ownership in the
parking lot is now a criminal offense. Meeting a buyer midway to
sell a puppy in any public place could now earn you a rap
sheet. Giving kittens away at the local supermarket could be
considered a misdemeanor offense under the provisions of this
bill, as that could be construed by overzealous officers as
“giving away as part of a commercial transaction”. Hey, the kid
has change in his pocket? He must have been selling those
In a practical sense, what does this mean for animals? Sadly, it
means that many people will be afraid to place animals at all,
and instead of animals finding good homes, more dogs and
cats will become homeless, to starve or be hit by a car; or,
they might end up in the local shelter where they will add to
the death toll. The Good Samaritan who attempts to find homes
for the litter of kittens under his porch would end up with a
SB 917 was crafted with some specific exemptions.
Shelters, nonprofit rescues, SPCAs, and pet stores are exempt,
as are events held by 4-H Clubs, and Junior or Future Farmers
Clubs. Agricultural/county fairs are exempt. Stockyards, public
livestock sales, and live animal markets are exempt. Dog shows,
cat shows and bird shows are exempt.
The fact that certain groups can be exempt from the “crime” of
selling, or that the “crime” is OK in some locations but not
others, demonstrates that the act of selling itself is not
inherently undesirable or criminal.
The exemption for "dog shows" means the dog sale
must occur on the confines of the showground. As we
all are aware, AKC has a strict policy of no
dog sales at dog shows.
Further, in order for the sale to occur legally, the show must
ensure that all exhibitors comply with all applicable federal,
state, and local animal laws. This requirement would be a
practical impossibility. Exhibitors travel from different
cities, counties and even different states to the show grounds.
Different areas have different animal control regulations. In
addition, the exhibitors must carry proof of their paid entry
fee. This last requirement seems to indicate that animal control
personnel intend to police show grounds.
And there is good reason to believe that animal control
personnel intend to police this new law, determining
administration of violations and penalties. The bill states: "A
notice describing the charge and the penalty for a violation of
this section may be issued by any peace officer, animal control
officer......or humane officer". Many animal control
officers have an adversarial attitude toward dog breeders, and
will now have the power to serve them with criminal charges and
penalties simply for conducting an honest and honorable business
transaction. Criminal records adversely affects an individual's
employment eligibility and credibility in general and should not
be imposed lightly by an animal control officer with an ax to
grind and little education in constitutional law.
If the dog show exemption is completely meaningless for dog
hobbyists (and it is), what venue for sales is left to
California dog breeders? Sales in public is prohibited, and AKC
dog shows do not permit on site sales. The only alternative is
to conduct dog sales from private residences. The dangers of an
individual selling anything from his home are well-known. Home
invasion robberies, assaults and even murders have occurred
during private party sales gone awry. There have been documented
incidents where puppies were stolen at gunpoint from individuals
conducting sales at their residences.
Putting aside the danger involved, dog breeding and selling is
already laden with multiple onerous regulations and is rapidly
becoming cost prohibitive in California. Many localities
including Los Angeles City and County limit breeders to one
litter per year, and an expensive breeding permit is required.
In the city of Los Angeles, it costs $335 per year to license
ONE intact dog; and this only IF you meet the requirements to
qualify for the intact exemption! The very survival of dog
breeding in California is tenuous at best.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the sponsor of
SB 917. That fact alone should tell you that the bill is part of
a larger agenda to stifle animal ownership. This same
legislation was brought forward in previous sessions in 2009 and
2010, and did not pass. In 2009, then-governor Schwarzenegger
returned the bill, AB 1122, writing:
"I am returning Assembly Bill 1122 without my signature. I am
concerned with the scope and unintended consequences of this
bill and that it does not assure the humane and ethical
treatment and welfare of animals. This bill has unknown costs
associated with the enforcement and implementation of
prohibiting the sale of live animals in specified venues and
could drive the selling of animals underground or to private
sites. For this reason I am unable to sign this bill."
A similar measure banning roadside sales was
recently nixed by Texas Governor Perry, who wrote in his
"House Bill 1768 would encroach upon the rights of private
enterprise and property owners while fundamentally altering and
expanding the role of county government....... As a state, we
should not raise barriers of entry into the marketplace, stifle
competition or hinder the entrepreneurial spirit."
Those involved in breeding and raising animals heartily
The HSUS, the sponsor of SB 917, has an admitted agenda
to make animal breeding incrementally more expensive and
inconvenient. This bill is another weapon in
the anti-dog breeder arsenal. Couple the ban on public
sales with other bills presented this session that
require sellers to report buyers information to animal
control (AB 1121), that require microchipping of any dog
that is impounded (SB 702), and that prohibit anyone
convicted of an animal offense from residing with
animals for a period of 5 to 10 years (AB 1117), and we
can see the pieces of the puzzle fitting together. With
HSUS sponsoring the bill, the intent is clear.
Criminalize dog owners by any means possible, and then
prohibit them from future animal ownership for a good
The Animal Council and California Federation of Dog
Clubs opposed SB 917 early on, and other groups in the
state soon joined in the effort as well.
But sadly, the AKC chose to remain silent on this bill,
citing lack of an official policy on public sales.
Dwindling numbers of AKC registrations and declining
sales by private parties does not seem to be sufficient
motivation to spur AKC into active opposition of all
anti-dog ownership proposals.
The Farm Bureau also naively did not oppose SB 917,
pointing to exemptions in the bill for public sales of
livestock. Don’t farmers use herding, hunting and guard
dogs? Do farmers realize that under SB 917, they could
now be arrested for selling a puppy at a fair or
livestock show? Creeping incrementalism in these animal
rights-sponsored bills will hasten the day that working
dogs cannot be obtained at any price.
PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) actively
supported SB 917. It seems that PIJAC was delighted at
the thought of eliminating any competition for pet
stores and heavily-regulated commercial breeders.
Unfortunately, the animal rights groups in California
are also lobbying intensely to ban sales of purpose-bred
pets in pet stores and replace them with unregulated
“rescues”. Combine a pet store sales ban with a ban on
public sales, and consumers in California will have
limited options for obtaining the pet of their dreams.
On August 2, 1776, at the signing of the Declaration of
Independence, Benjamin Franklin said
"We must all hang
together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately” –
meaning that if they did not band together in the fight
against the British, they would all be hanged
separately. These words still ring true today, 235 years
later. We need all the animal interest groups to work
together to oppose anti-dog ownership legislation.
So be warned, Californians. Soon you can be a criminal
just for selling a dog.
New crimes created by CA SB 917
SEC. 2. Section 597.4 is added to the Penal Code, to
597.4. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to
willfully do either of the following:
(1) Sell or give away as part of a commercial
transaction, a live animal on any street, highway,
public right-of-way, parking lot, carnival, or
2) Display or offer for sale, or display or offer to
give away as part of a commercial transaction, a live
animal, if the act of selling or giving away the live
animal is to occur on any street, highway, public
right-of-way, parking lot, carnival, or boardwalk.
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