If childhood memories invoke thoughts of a favorite pet, a golden, a lab or a playful bulldog and you’re looking forward to the day when you can share that special breed with your family, it’s time to pay attention. At least one California lawmaker has a different plan for your future: His bill, AB 485, seeks to replace pet store puppies with totally unregulated shelter and rescue dogs, some from as far away as Asia.

The author of this bill, California Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell, should be applauded for trying to eliminate bad dog breeders, save animal lives, and protect consumers, but AB 485 achieves none of those goals. Instead of helping consumers or solving animal welfare problems, it creates a government-mandated monopoly making stray and unwanted dogs, and unregulated rescues and shelters the only retail source for dogs and puts legally operating pet shops with dogs from regulated breeders out of business. 

With AB 485, California would outsource the supply of dogs available to consumers to the least regulated and poorest selection of dogs available. Rather than pet stores selling dogs bred by inspected and licensed breeders, AB 485 requires pet stores to sell unwanted strays, not only from Mexico, but some from more distant countries like Egypt and Korea, where dreaded diseases and parasites are commonplace. Before going down this path, California lawmakers should visit LA City Animal Services where dogs are quarantined now due to highly-infectious sick dogs imported from Asia.

Californians deserve continued access to healthy, well-socialized dogs, ones that come from humane sources, with guarantees. In a perfect world, breed enthusiasts who dedicate their lives to producing healthy dogs and preserving breed characteristics could fill the demand. Prospective dog owners would be able to visit a breeder’s home to select their puppy and meet the adult dogs before making their purchase.

But breed enthusiasts are few and produce only a fraction of the puppies that consumers want. AB 485 would remove the only remaining source of warrantied puppies from licensed breeders and replace them with unaccountable suppliers that do not have the type of dogs – puppies from specific breeds – that consumers want.

While the Assemblyman touts that this is, “a life-saving bill to mandate adoptions of rescue and shelter dogs, cats, and rabbits offered in pet shops,” it will only drive consumers looking for specific breeds toward underground and unregulated markets and Craigslist-type websites — places that are notorious for selling unhealthy dogs from unknown sources and offering no consumer protections.

AB 485 is Un-American. It picks winners and losers and unreasonably restricts consumer choice, all the while relying on outdated stereotypes and misinformation fed to them by activists with extreme views. It removes warranties leaving consumers the choice to surrender their defective dog to another shelter, defeating the alleged purpose of the bill – to decrease the number of dogs in shelters.

If the legislature really wants to protect dogs and consumers, they need to focus on the bigger problem and impose humane standards and acceptable business practices on the many irresponsible rescues and shelters that operate in California. For starters, California lawmakers should introduce laws to prevent rescues and shelters from importing foreign dogs with God-knows-what-diseases and temperament problems. The legislature will harm dog welfare by forcing pet stores to accept dogs from the least accountable, most inhumane source operating in the California pet marketplace.

Patti Strand is the President of the National Animal Interest Alliance.