Model Laws

Pet Shop/Pet Dealer Model Law


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Purpose

To improve the conditions of pets sold to consumers, in order to promote and protect the health of the animals and to assure that purchasers receive animals in a safe and healthy condition.


Sec 2. Definitions

Any person owning, harboring, or controlling a male or female dog whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, licensed or unlicensed, sterilized or unsterilized, shall always keep such animal from running at large by either:

  • "Pet animal" means dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, mice, snakes, iguanas, turtles, fish, or any other species of wild or domestic or hybrid animal sold, transferred or retained for the purpose of being kept as a pet.
  • "Pet dealer" means any individual or establishment maintaining, owning, or operating an animal facility or engaging in the sale of animals to the public in a store or through the internet, including a breeder, dealer, or pet shops.
  • "Breeder" means any person who in the regular course of business for compensation or profit propagates animals for sale, transfer, exchange, or barter.
  • "Humane" means any action taken in consideration of and with the intent of providing for the animal's health and well-being.
  • "Pet shop" means any establishment where animals are bought, sold, exchanged, or offered for sale to the general public.
  • "Primary enclosure" means any structure used to immediately restrict an animal to a limited amount of space, such as a room, pen, cage or compartment.
  • "Sanitary" means free from excreta and other waste material, dirt, and trash.
  • "Unweaned animal" means any animal that has not become accustomed to taking solid food and has not taken solid food, without nursing, the aid of another animal, or a human, for a period of at least five days; not fully self-sufficient.
  • "Weaned animal" means any animal that has become accustomed to taking solid food and has done so, without nursing, the aid of another animal, or a human, for a period of at least five days; fully self-sufficient.


Sec 3. Regulation

A. Pet dealer:


(a) All pet dealers must possess a license; licenses must be renewed annually; licenses will not be issued, and may be revoked, if cages and facilities do not meet proper standards of sanitation and/or will result in inhumane treatment of animals.


(b) A pet dealer shall not be in possession of a dog or cat that is less than eight weeks old.


(c) A pet dealer shall not sell or offer for sale any animal that is unweaned.


(d) A pet dealer shall not sell or offer for sale any animal that is younger that the minimal age listed.

Minimum ages of animals to be sold:

  • 8 weeks for dogs and cats
  • 10 weeks for rabbits
  • 4 weeks for guinea pigs and hamsters
  • 3 weeks for mice

B. Gift:

A pet shop shall not sell or offer for sale any animal that is intended to be a gift without the presence of the intended recipient, except for parents of children who will assume responsibility for the animal's care.


C. Education:

(a) A pet shop must make available to any buyer the opportunity to watch a short video on the care and treatment of the animal at the time of sale.


(b) Any pet dealer must provide a package of information regarding information about the pet's species, its natural habitat, its natural activities, its full growth capabilities as an adult, feeding, parasite control, health, housing, responsible pet ownership and information regarding the registration and licensing of pets to all buyers before purchase.


D. Sterilization:

All cats/dogs/rabbits must be spayed/neutered before they leave the premises of a pet dealer and the dealer must provide the veterinary certificate. An exception may be made for dogs that are "pedigree" and registered with the American Kennel Club as a show dog, or if a veterinarian recommends that it is against the medical interests of the animal.


E. Sanitation:.

(a) Housing facilities, including buildings, grounds, and primary enclosures and cages, shall be kept in a clean condition in order to maintain a healthy environment for the animal. This shall include removing and destroying any agents injurious to the health of the animal during routine and regular cleanings.


(b) The primary enclosure or cage shall be constructed so as to eliminate excess water, excretions, and waste material. No animal shall remain inside the primary enclosure or cage while the cage is being cleaned with sterilizing agents or agents toxic to animals or cleaned in a manner likely to threaten the health and safety of the animal.


(c) Primary enclosures or cages shall be cleaned and disinfected daily or more often if necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.


(d) Excreta shall be removed from each enclosure at least once daily or as often as necessary. If a hosing or flushing method of cleaning is used, all animals must be removed from the primary enclosure and adequate measures must be taken to protect the animals in other primary enclosures from being contaminated with water or other waste.


(e) Bowls, dishes, and other containers used for feeding and watering of animals must be cleaned with the use of antibacterial soaps and other animal safe cleaners daily, or more often if necessary, to maintain them free from contamination and excrement.


(f) Trash and waste products on the premises shall be properly contained and disposed of so as to minimize the risks of disease, contamination, and vermin.


F. Housing:

(a) Animals shall be housed in primary enclosures or cages which shall provide sufficient space to allow each animal adequate freedom of movement to make normal postural adjustments, including the ability to stand up, turn around, and lie down with its limbs outstretched and relaxed in a natural position; and birds sufficient space to fly, hop, or otherwise move about, and individually spread their wings freely from obstruction perch in a normal position. The flooring shall be constructed so as not to allow the passage of the animal's feet through any opening in the floor of the enclosure.


(b) Housing facilities shall be adequately ventilated at all times to provide for the health and well-being of the animal and to minimize odor and moisture. Ventilation shall be provided by natural or mechanical means, such as windows, vents, fans or air conditioners. Ventilation shall be established to minimize drafts, odors, and moisture condensation.


(c) The temperature surrounding the animal shall be compatible with the health and well-being of the animal. Temperature shall be regulated by heating and cooling to sufficiently protect each animal from extremes of temperature and shall not be permitted to fall below or rise above ranges which would pose a health hazard to the animal. This shall include providing shade from sunlight by natural or artificial means. Any pet dealer that sells a pet that requires a regulated body temperature or habitat shall provide detailed information to the prospective buyer before making a sale, and where appropriate offer accessories to maintain the well being of the animal.


(d) The indoor facilities housing the animals shall be provided with adequate lighting sufficient to permit routine inspection and cleaning and be arranged so that each animal is protected from excessive illumination posing a health hazard to the animal.


(e) All indoor and outdoor facilities housing the animals, including the primary enclosure or cage, shall be designed to allow for the efficient elimination of animal waste and water in order to keep the animal dry and prevent the animal from coming into contact with these substances. If drains are used, they shall be constructed in a manner to minimize foul odors and backup of sewage. If a drainage system is used, it shall comply with federal, state and local laws relating to pollution control.


(f) Animals shall be provided with adequate space to exercise regularly, as required by species.


G. Feeding and watering:

(a) Animals shall be provided with wholesome and palatable food, free from contamination and of nutritional value sufficient to maintain each animal in good health.


(b) Animals shall be adequately fed at intervals not to exceed twelve hours or at least twice in any twenty-four hour period in quantities appropriate for the animal species and age, unless determined otherwise by and under the direction of a duly licensed veterinarian.


(c) Food receptacles shall be provided in sufficient number, of adequate size, and so located as to enable each animal in the primary enclosure or cage to be supplied with an adequate amount of food.


(d) Animals shall have access to clean, fresh water at all times, supplied in a sanitary manner sufficient for its needs, except when there are instructions from a duly licensed veterinarian to withhold water for medical reasons.


H. Handling:

Each animal shall be handled in a humane manner so as not to cause the animal physical injury or harm.


I. Veterinary care:

(a) All animals shall be inoculated as required by state or local law. Veterinary care appropriate to the species shall be provided without undue delay when necessary. Each animal shall be observed each day by the pet dealer or by a person working under the pet dealer's supervision.


(b) Sick or diseased animals shall be isolated from healthy animals and given adequate treatment.


(c) Within five business days of receipt, but prior to sale of any animal, the pet dealer shall have a duly licensed veterinarian conduct an examination and tests appropriate to the age and breed to determine if the animal has any medical conditions apparent at the time of the examination that adversely affect the health of the animal. For animals eighteen months of age or older, such examination shall include a diagnosis of any congenital conditions that adversely affect the health of the animal. Any animal found to be afflicted with a contagious disease shall be treated and caged separately from healthy animals.


(d) If an animal suffers from a congenital or hereditary condition, disease, or illness, which, in the professional opinion of the pet dealer's veterinarian, requires euthanasia, the veterinarian shall humanely euthanize such animal without undue delay.


(e) In the event an animal is returned to a pet dealer due to a congenital or hereditary condition, illness, or disease requiring veterinary care, the pet dealer shall, without undue delay, provide the animal with proper veterinary care. Pet dealers shall post notification in a prominent place, regarding the policy for returned animals, including any policy to euthanize animals.


J. Information required at the time of sale.

The following information must be provided by any pet shop operator, humane society or publicly operated animal shelter or pound that makes an animal available for sale or adoption:

  • Age, sex, weight
  • Breed of animal
  • A record of vaccinations and veterinary care and treatment the animal has received, including, if available the manufacturer's name and the serial number of the vaccination used
  • A record of surgical sterilization of the animal, as required
  • Any known congenital condition that could impact the health or wellbeing of the animal.


Sec. 4. Consumer Protection

A. Disclosure:

The purchaser of an animal by any pet dealer shall receive in writing:

  • The name, address and USDA license number of the breeder and any broker who has had possession of the animal; the date of the animal's birth; the date the pet dealer received the animal; the breed, sex, color and identifying marks of the animal; a record of inoculations, worming treatments, and medication received by the animal while in the possession of the pet dealer.
  • A statement signed by the pet dealer that the animal has no known health problem, or a statement signed by the pet dealer disclosing any known health problem and a statement signed by a veterinarian recommending necessary treatment.

B. Health:

A broker or pet dealer may not offer an animal for sale to a purchaser until a veterinarian has examined the animal. If the pet dealer is not the breeder of the animal, each animal shall be examined within five days after receipt of the animal by a pet dealer. The pet dealer shall pay the cost of the examination. The pet dealer must provide a warrantee of good health or the option of free insurance coverage (minimum of 30 days) to ensure the health of any animal sold.


C. Purchase of an unhealthy animal:

(a) If the animal has a health problem or dies due to a health problem which existed at the time of purchase, the purchaser must provide the pet dealer with a written statement from a veterinarian indicating that the animal suffered from or died from a health problem which existed at the time of purchase. The purchaser must notify the pet dealer within seven business days of the diagnosis by the veterinarian.


(b) The purchaser may report the problem with the animal to the local authority where the animal was purchased.


(c) In the event the animal is diagnosed with a health problem, which existed at the time of purchase, the pet dealer shall provide the purchaser with one of the following remedies selected by the purchaser: return the animal to the pet dealer for a refund of the full purchase price; exchange the animal for an animal of the purchaser's choice of equivalent value, providing a replacement is available; or retain the animal, and receive reimbursement for reasonable veterinary fees.


(d) In the event the animal dies from a health problem, which existed at the time of purchase, the pet dealer shall provide the purchaser with one of the following remedies selected by the purchaser: receive an animal of equal value, if available, or receive a refund of the full purchase price. In addition, the purchaser may recover the payment of any reasonable veterinary fees incurred in the treatment of the animal, including the cost of euthanasia.


(e) The price of veterinary service shall be deemed reasonable if the service is appropriate for the diagnosis and treatment of the health problem and the price of the service is comparable to that of similar service rendered by other veterinarians.


D. Rights of pet dealer:

No refund, replacement, or reimbursement of veterinary fees shall be required if one of the following conditions exist:


(a) The health problem or death resulted from maltreatment, neglect, or a disease contracted while in the possession of the purchaser, or from an injury sustained subsequent to receipt of the animal by the purchaser.


(b) A veterinarian's statement was provided to the purchaser, according to Sec. 4(A)(b), which disclosed the health problem for which the purchaser seeks to return the animal.


(c) The purchaser failed to carry out recommended treatment prescribed by the examining veterinarian according to Sec. 4(A)(b).


E. Posted notice:

Every pet dealer shall post in a prominent location of the facility, a notice, in 48-point bold face type, containing the following language: "Information on the care and requirements of all animals is available. You are entitled to a statement of consumer rights. Make sure you receive this statement at the time of purchase."


Sec. 5. Penalties

(a) If the pet shop/pet dealer does not comply with the regulations set forth their license can be revoked at any time, and a mandatory closing and removal of the animals shall take place.


(b) Pet shop/pet dealer's license can be revoked at any time if the facility is not being maintained in a humane and sanitary manner.


(c) An action for relief may be brought against the pet shop/pet dealer through a civil action for injunctive relief, as well as civil and criminal charges can be brought against a pet dealer for animal abuse or cruelty.


Sec. 6. Licensing

(a) Any person who owns, operates, or maintains a pet shop or animal facility which sells or houses animals for sale, or sells animals through the internet, must have a valid license issued by the state for each store, or place of business. Every individual store operating as a chain of stores must have its own individual and separate license in order to operate. An annual fee of _____ shall by paid by each licensee.


(b) The license must be on display at all times and easily visible for all customers and inspectors to view.


(c) Any person seeking a license shall apply for a license with the state. The state shall only issue the license if the establishment has met all of the annual inspection requirements and all other requirements pertaining to the health and safety of the animals being housed in the facility.


(d) A license can only be renewed after passing a thorough and annual health and safety inspection by the state. If the facility fails to meet these requirements, the renewal shall be denied and the facility shall have two weeks to reapply and pass the inspection before being mandated to shut down the premises for failure to comply with the health and safety inspection.


(e) No person or business shall engage in the sale of animals without a current up to date license. It is the duty of the business to reapply for a valid license before the old license expires to ensure that a current license is always on display.


(f) Any person or facility with a license to sell or house animals is subject to a random inspection by the state and will be required at all, and any given time, to pass the inspection test by the state. Failure to pass will result in a suspension or a revocation of the license.


(g) A license may be revoked at any time for various reasons including:

  1. Failure to comply with any of the rules set forth in this act.
  2. Failure to comply with any laws or rules of the state and federal government pertaining to the health and safety of the animals or pertaining to a business or facility that engages in the sale and housing of animals.
  3. Failure to pass the annual inspection test.
  4. Failure to pass a random inspection test.
  5. A license shall be revoked permanently and the person or business shall be prohibited for applying for another license if the person, business, or facility fails three or more health and safety inspections by the state.


(h) Before a license is revoked permanently the pet shop is entitled to a hearing. The hearing shall be held after notice of revocation is issued. The hearing shall be held in accordance of the state or federal rules of procedure regarding administrative hearings.


Sec. 7. Inspections

(a) Every Pet Store or premises where pets are sold must be thoroughly inspected by the state before the license to own, operate, or maintain a pet shop is granted. In order for the license to be granted the pet shop must meet all of the conditions of the inspection.


(b) Each pet shop is required to have an inspection two times a year and is subject to any random inspection by the state.


(c) If a customer complaint is filed against the pet shop for failure to meet the health and safety standards a mandatory inspection is required.


(d) It is the duty of the pet shop to ensure that the inspector has free and unimpeded access to all parts of the premises where animals are housed, handled, treated or sold and to all places where supplies, food, and medical supplies is kept or stored.


(e) The inspector has the right to do any of the following while on the premises for an inspection:

  1. Enter the shop
  2. Bring a state approved veterinarian to ensure that the safety and health of the animal is up to standards set forth in this act
  3. Examine records, computer data, and licenses required to be kept under this Act
  4. Make copies of the records and data, take photographs of the facility, property, and the animals needed in order to document any violations of any of the laws set forth in this act or any state or federal laws.
  5. Question the owner, managers, or employees of the facility to acquire knowledge on the condition and practices of the pet shop in regards to the handling, care, treatment, health and safety of the animals.
  6. Remove any animals that are in an unsafe, unhealthy, or unsanitary environment from the premises.

(f) Pet shop owners, managers, or employees shall refrain from interfering with the inspection and shall refrain from harassing or agitating the inspector, falsifying records, or making the inspection difficult in any way.


(g) Pet shop owners are not entitled to refuse an inspection. A refusal of an inspection will result in an immediate and automatic suspension of the license until a hearing has taken place.


(h) A record of all failed inspections must be kept for at least ten years. I. Three failed inspections will result in an immediate and permanent revocation of the license until a hearing has been held. If there are three additional failures after the hearings, the person, or business, shall not be eligible to reapply for a license for at least ten years.


(j) Inspectors may issue a correction notice and mandate that the issues are corrected according to the standards set forth in this act, or in accordance with state or federal laws.

  1. Correction notices may be issued although the facility passed the inspection. Pet shops are obligated to take care of the issues in the notice as mandated by the inspector.
  2. The inspector may issue a time frame for the issues to be corrected and the pet shop must comply within that time. Failure to do so will result in a suspension of the license.


Additional Commentary

A state law directed solely toward pet shops/dealers is necessary to address the particular problems of neglect, abuse and inhumane treatment that may occur to animals in pet shops, as well as to protect consumers against the unknowing purchase of unhealthy animals. Thousands of consumers purchase animals from a pet shop that die soon after purchase because of a disease or sickness that was unknown to the buyer. Limited laws on animal welfare allow pet shops to operate their businesses within the meaning of the law, yet still get away with allowing animals to live under heinous conditions as part of their regular business practices.


Although not all pet stores treat their animals unkindly, there are many pet shops that are interested only in the business aspect of the store and seriously lack any decree of care for their animals. Due to an absence of specificity in the laws regarding animal welfare, many animals are subject to insufferable conditions such as a lack of food, water, or room in their cages and often die of suffocation, disease, and stress.


Unfortunately, right now, only 27 states and the District of Columbia have laws that pertain to the animals in pet shops. Many of these laws are still not sufficient to ensure an animal's well-being. In addition to the insufficiency of actual laws, there are different layers of local governments which enforce laws. However the coverage and scope of laws may not overlap to guarantee the greatest protection. For example, a Minnesota law only requires that an animal have a veterinary exam before it is purchased, leaving potentially sick and injured animals that are not offered for sale without veterinary care. Many state's housing requirements are so minimal that they only require enough room for an animal to turn around in its cage, but not to walk or spread its wings or stretch its legs. Deficiencies in the laws include a lack of specificity regarding the food and water requirements for specific animals, the housing requirements, and handling requirements. While many states have adopted only minimal standards of care, if any at all, they are a start. It is necessary to expand on these laws to ensure a good quality of life for the animals in pet stores.


Along with more stringent laws regarding animal welfare, stricter laws regarding licensing of pet shops will generate revenue from licensing fees and, in turn, cover the costs of inspection. Licensing laws that require thorough inspections in order to continue operation will ensure that these shops abide by the standards of animal welfare and properly care for all of their animals. Losing a license to operate, along with other penalties, will provide incentive to pet shops to maintain at least the minimal requirements for animal welfare.


Some pet shops have unhealthy animals that are routinely neglected. Puppies sold in pet shops usually come from "puppy mills", breeding kennels where mother dogs and "studs" spend their lives confined and lonely producing litter after litter. Other animals come from suppliers that ship hundreds of animals in utterly unacceptable conditions. Unhealthy conditions, lack of veterinary care, and careless breeding leads to serious health problems. The unhealthy animals are then sold to pet shops and unsuspecting buyers.


Once in the pet shop, animals often do not receive necessary and adequate veterinary care. These health problems may eventually become worse causing the animals to suffer and purchasers to pay additional money in veterinary bills. Other common problems in the pet shop industry include selling sick and injured animals to the public, unsanitary conditions, and inhumane methods of killing sick and unwanted animals.


Some pet shops sell sick puppies on a routine basis. While some puppies may seem healthy at the store, disease symptoms sometimes do not appear for several weeks, when a puppy is already in a new home. A number of genetic defects do not emerge for months or even years. These puppies frequently have worms, upper respiratory infections, ear and eye infections, mange, coccidian or giardia. Pet shop puppies often suffer from parvovirus and distemper, which are highly contagious and frequently fatal. Some of these diseases can be transmitted to humans. Sick puppies often share cages with healthy puppies and very sick or deformed puppies are regularly placed out of the public view, which in many cases is the back room. Along with puppies, other animals that are "unsightly" "non-profitable", or worse, sick are also stored in the back room. Pet shops often do not address these problems or seek appropriate veterinary care for the animals. Improper ventilation can cause the germs in the backroom to spread throughout the store and animals are left to die or require euthanasia.


Another problem with some pet shops is that they often cater to impulsive buyers and consumers seeking convenient transactions. These stores ask no questions of prospective buyers to ensure responsible, lifelong homes for the pets they sell. Laws requiring stores to provide detailed information on the care of the animal being purchased can help educate the purchaser on the realities of being a pet owner and lower the amount of animals returned or worse, neglected. This is especially urgent where exotic species are concerned as many purchasers have limited or no knowledge of the special care needed for the care of exotics, and may not have fully considered the long-term care and dangers of housing non-native species.


Larger pet shops often have employees that have limited knowledge about animals and are untrained in the care of animals, especially if they are unweaned or sick. Unweaned animals are animals that are prematurely separated from their mothers and unable to eat or drink on their own, thus they are fully dependent on people to survive. If employees of pet shops do not properly feed these animals, they will starve. Animals that are sick may need veterinary care that an employee is not able to provide. Requiring employees to be trained in animal care when first hired to work in a pet store will ensure that animals in pet shops are properly cared for and safely handled. Also, laws requiring sick animals to be seen by a vet will guarantee that the animals needs are taken care of, and if necessary, their suffering end by administering humane euthanasia.


Overall, if specific and stringent laws that cover the area of animal welfare are passed, the quality of life of animals in pet stores can be greatly improved. Pet stores subject to licensing requirements and frequent inspection will be more inclined to care for the animals in order to keep their business running. Other laws, such as those dealing with veterinary care, or food and water requirements, will ensure that the animals in pet stores receive the proper care and live in good conditions.


Consumer protection laws, and those that require disclosure about sick or defective animals, will ensure that purchasers have notice and give consent when purchasing an animal, as well as the remedy if an animal becomes ill shortly after purchase or dies. A warrantee of health by the seller or an option offering a limited-term pet insurance policy (30-minimum) would ensure more accountability of pet stores for the sale of sick or unfit animals. The pet insurance option--which would involve an arrangement between the pet shop and a pet insurance broker--would help ensure better animal care because the insurer would not continue to provide cost-effective coverage if claims are made on numerous animals from the same source.


All of these laws, together, will greatly improve the standards of practice in pet shops and guarantee that animals left in the care of a pet store will live a better quality of life while awaiting a permanent home.




MASS. REGS. CODE tit. 330 § 12.04


MASS. REGS. CODE tit. 330 § 12.03


NEV. REV. STAT. § 574.430


COLO. REV. STAT. 35-80-102


D.C. MUN. REGS. tit. 22, § 7


Ariz. Rev. Stat. 44-1799.04


Montana ST 7-23-4201


N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 437:3


New Jersey Statute 56:8-96


Minnesota Statute 325F.791


New York Statute, Agriculture & Markets Sec. 400 & 401


Animal Protection Institute


Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS)


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