“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding,” Justice Louis Brandeisopined during his dissent of Olmstead v. United States, offering his opposition to government overreach and its impact on modern society.
The California State Legislature, seemingly with a well-meaning, but uninformed prejudice against legally operating business owners, are stomping on the Justice’s grave as they march toward passing a bill which would ban pet stores from selling puppies bred by inspected and licensed breeders and forcing them to sell dogs with unknown backgrounds, temperament and health histories.
California State Senators will soon consider AB 485, which supporters would have you believe is “a life-saving bill to mandate adoptions of rescue and shelter dogs, cats, and rabbits offered in pet shops.” However, swapping a regulated source of dogs for unregulated dogs to improve “dog welfare” makes no sense. Unregulated rescue and shelter dogs are routinely procured and trafficked from dangerous, inhumane and unregulated places, including foreign countries where veterinary care is nonexistent and zoonotic diseases are epidemic. Many of these imported rescue dogs carry contagious diseases like Korean flu, rabies, and TB as well as a host of dreaded parasites – which have already sickened California dogs, and are destined to harm their owners.
The bill, which coercively pushes rescue animals on customers who never asked for them, 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 offer no consumer protections. In a move showing that lawmakers recognize they are degrading the quality, health and temperament of dogs offered in pet stores, AB 485 backers have offered an amendment to remove the consumer protections formerly supplied to California pet store purchasers.
America has been down this road before with Prohibition, which drove consumers underground to unregulated markets and provided an unsafe, and sometimes lethal, product. At first well-meaning, the law created more issues than it cured.
I am sure that California Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell, the sponsor of the legislation, is trying to protect often neglected and unwanted animals from ending up in local shelters, something we can all agree should happen. I also agree that we should make every effort to eradicate subpar breeders. Unfortunately, AB 485 does not achieve either of these goals. Prohibiting a regulated source of dogs to assure the success of an unregulated one will set back animal welfare in California by at least 50 years and displace animals and businesses alike.
If California lawmakers pass AB 485, they’ll create a government-controlled monopoly over the pet retail industry, flooding the market with animals from the least regulated and poorest source, without doing anything to raise animal welfare standards.
AB 485 does not solve problems; it increases them by degrading the pet marketplace and putting families, children, and other animals at risk. California legislators need to stop punishing law-abiding business owners and preventing families from being able to select the dog they want. California lawmakers need to move past the rhetoric and the grandstanding to enact meaningful legislation that protects humans and animals. As AB 485 moves forward, California voters should pay close attention to how their representatives vote. If their lawmakers don’t have the common sense needed to distinguish obvious propaganda from easily verifiable reality, perhaps they should question whether these lawmakers have the judgment necessary to continue representing them.
As Justice Brandeis also commented during the landmark case, “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers.” In laymen’s terms, good intentions don’t always produce good legislation.
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