Then-Assemblyman Todd Gloria holds puppy at announcement of bill to restrict pet stores on sale of certain animals. Image via Twitter

A law prohibiting the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in California took effect Friday.

AB 2152, known as Bella’s Act, was sponsored by the San Diego Humane Society and written by Todd Gloria, San Diego’s new mayor, when he was still a state assemblyman.

The legislation aims to end the practice of selling animals bred and raised in unhealthy, inhumane conditions in out-of-state puppy mills that supply pet stores. The act was named for Bella, a corgi bred in a puppy mill who had been advertised as a rescue dog in a San Diego pet store and sold for thousands of dollars billed as her adoption fee.

During that experience, Bella was declawed and developed a severe case of bronchitis, which cost her new owner thousands of dollars in prolonged veterinary care to get her healthy.

Bella’s Act officially closed a loophole in AB 485, which took effect in January 2019 and made important progress, but allowed those seeking to continue to profit from imported mill-bred animals to circumvent the intent of the law.

Pet store owners exploited a provision in AB 485 allowing them to sell dogs, cats and rabbits if they entered into a cooperative agreement with a shelter or rescue organization by partnering with insincere “rescues” or unsuspecting shelters.

San Diego Humane Society’s Humane Law Enforcement officers ended up citing several stores for various violations including improper signage and not having a valid cooperative agreement.

“With Bella’s Act going into effect, we’ll be able to end the inhumane retail sales of dogs, cats and rabbits in California once and for all,” said Bill Ganley, San Diego Humane Society chief of humane law enforcement. “Pet stores will still be allowed to provide space for shelter or rescue animals and adopt them out, as long as they are sterilized and the adoption fee do not exceed $500. It is a win-win.”

The San Diego Humane Society has served San Diego County since 1880. The organization has campuses in El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside, Ramona and San Diego.

For more information visit www.sdhumane.org.

— City News Service