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Virginia Lawmakers Demand Improvement to Bill That Risks Future of Pet Stores and Breeders in the State


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On Jan. 11, Virginia state lawmakers rejected a harmful, anti-pet and anti-business bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee. Committee leadership suggested the Senate Bill 217’s sponsor amend the measure so that it doesn’t risk putting ethically run, locally owned small businesses out of business.

As it is currently written, S217 risks the future of pet stores and ethical breeders by giving localities explicit permission to ban the sales of live animals. Breeders, retailers, transporters, shelters and rescues are all regulated at the state level, which provides continuity for everyone who cares about pets in Virginia. 

S217 is expected back in the committee in less than a week. We know that animal rights activists will flood lawmakers with falsehoods about pet stores—the Humane Society of the United States told the Committee on Jan. 11 that its ultimate goal is to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs from breeders. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is urging everyone in the industry to ask lawmakers to only support Senate Bill 217 if it provides continuity with existing state law.

Contrary to claims by activists, pet stores are not able to get dogs and cats from just anywhere—nor can they put profits before pets. Federal law mandates that commercial breeders that are not licensed and inspected may not sell cats or dogs. This means pet stores are only able to legally source from licensed and commercial breeders, as well as hobby breeders too small to be licensed. A 2017 Virginia law supported by pet stores goes above and beyond this standard to ensure that stores with commercial partners are only sourcing cats and dogs from commercial breeders with clean track records of care and transparency.

But animal activists are still targeting pet stores, most of which are small and locally owned businesses. They continue to falsely claim that unethical and illegal breeders sell to pet stores. And they continue to risk the ability of pet lovers to find the pet that best fits their needs and lifestyles. 

This is not just a dog and cat issue. As we have seen across the country, activists will push to ban the sale of as many types of pets as possible. In some places, they stop at rabbits; elsewhere, potbellied pigs; and sometimes—as happened in Cambridge, Mass.—it’s any animal but fish. 

In other words: S217 affects the entirety of the pet trade, and needs to be recognized for the serious threat that it is.

S217 does nothing to improve animal well-being, as that would still be regulated at the state level—it simply complicates things for Virginians seeking their ideal companion animals and risks jobs. Click here to contact the members of the Senate Agriculture Committee and urge them to preserve Virginians’ current protections.


Robert Likins is the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) vice president of government affairs. Since 1970, PIJAC has protected pets, pet owners and the pet industry—promoting responsible pet ownership and animal welfare, fostering environmental stewardship, and ensuring the availability of pets. PIJAC members include retailers, companion animal suppliers, manufacturers, wholesale distributors, manufacturers’ representatives, pet hobbyists, and other trade organizations.

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