In last month’s blog I wrote about the general animal caretaking requirements set forth in Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.010. Those requirements apply to both pet owners as well as operators of commercial animal facilities such as grooming salons, boarding kennels, wild animal facilities, and pet shops. However, there are additional requirements set forth in Section 10.40.200 that apply directly to commercial pet breeding facilities.
These requirements are necessary to ensure the proper care of animals in these facilities. Substandard facilities, known as “puppy mills,” have rightly earned very bad reputations for the animal neglect, poor genetics, and general inhumane conditions of animals at the facilities. I personally witnessed many of these conditions when I lived in Kansas, where the animal shelter I worked at assisted the Kansas Attorney General and the state animal welfare inspectors in rescuing animals from many such places.
Los Angeles County does have commercial dog breeders, mostly located in the rural areas of the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.200 sets forth strong measures to ensure the animals in these facilities receive proper care. These include:
- Requirements for adequate staffing: Breeding facilities with fewer than 50 sexually intact dogs must have adequate staffing on the premises of the facility at least eight hours in every 24-hour period, and the dogs must not be left unattended for longer than 12 continuous hours. Breeding facilities with 51 or more dogs must have adequate staffing at the facility 18 hours a day. Whenever the dogs are left unattended, the telephone number of the Department of Animal Care and Control, or the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible person, must be posted in a conspicuous place at the front of the property so we can be alerted if there is an emergency.
- Breeding facilities with 51 or more intact dogs are re-inspected more than the customary annual inspection, based on the number of animals, up to five additional annual re-inspections. That means our officers visit the larger facilities every other month to check on the animals and ensure they are being properly maintained.
- The animal facility must provide a written medical program, approved by a California licensed veterinarian, to prevent and control illness and parasitism. The program must include a regular de-worming schedule and a regular vaccination schedule against commonly transmitted canine diseases and be updated annually.
- The animal facility maintains records on site, demonstrating that an annual veterinary examination has been performed on each sexually intact dog over one year of age. The record of each exam must reflect that a physical exam consisting of auscultation and palpation, and a visual evaluation of the dog including eyes, ears, mouth and general body condition was performed. The record of each exam must also include the weight, temperature, heart rate, respiration, any significant medical findings relating to the dog’s condition, and any recommendations for treatment.
- The animal facility obtains approval from the Director of an emergency response plan, which is updated annually.
- Health of Breeding Dogs: A female unaltered dog must be at least 12 months old before being bred to prevent the breeding of underage female dogs. Records of litters birthed are required to be maintained. Offspring may not be removed from the premises earlier than eight weeks of age except for medical reasons ordered by a California licensed veterinarian to prevent the selling of underage puppies. The order must be in writing, state the medical reason for early separation, and be provided to the Department, if requested, up to two years after its issuance.
- Housing Requirements: Each pregnant dog must be housed separately at least three days before giving birth and be monitored at reasonable intervals. A dog who has just given birth must be provided with a contained nesting area and housed with her litter in their own run or enclosure until the newborns are weaned. This prevents the practice in puppy mills where pregnant and nursing female dogs must share enclosures with other adult dogs, placing them and their puppies in danger.
- Dog Identification and Recordkeeping: Current records must be maintained and produced upon request to determine licensing compliance or for any other purpose relating to the public health, safety, or welfare. These records must be provided to a purchaser of any dog sold or transferred to another person by the facility. All dogs must be microchipped or tattooed upon reaching the age of four months or prior to sale or transfer, whichever is earlier. Microchip and tattoo records must be kept for all dogs. In addition to the records required by California Health and Safety Code sections 122050 and 122055 relating to dogs, breeding facilities must keep the following records for all dogs: the date and from whom the dog was acquired; the date of each litter birthed by each female animal; veterinary records; and the cause of death and the method of disposal. Knowingly providing false information or records relating to any animal is a misdemeanor.
- Reasonable Restrictions on the Breeding of Animals Other Than Dogs: Breeders of animals, other than dogs, that are normally kept as pets for sale or exchange in return for consideration, must comply with all applicable requirements of Section 10.40.010. In addition, the Director may impose reasonable conditions on a breeding license, including a limitation on the number of animals permitted at a facility, and may impose recordkeeping requirements, in the interest of the health and safety of the public and of the animals.
The penalties for violations of any provision of Section 10.40.200 are as follows: A first violation is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250. If the owner or custodian fails to correct the underlying cause of the violation within 30 days after being notified of the violation, it is a second violation. A violation within a year of a first violation is a second violation. A second violation is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the County jail for up to six months or by a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Each subsequent violation within one year of the first violation is an additional misdemeanor.
Any act or failure to act in violation of this Section may be the subject of a civil action to ensure compliance. The filing and prosecution of an action does not limit the authority or ability of the County to enforce the requirements of Section 10.40.200 or to impose penalties or take any other action permitted by law.
The full text of this ordinance can be found here: https://library.municode.com/ca/los_angeles_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT10AN_DIV1ANCO_CH10.40GERE_10.40.200BRLIRERE
Unfortunately there isn’t a way to codify the genetic soundness of puppies produced in these facilities. For that reason, people purchasing puppies that originated in commercial breeding facilities and usually sold through pet stores or online should always be mindful of the potential of purchasing a puppy with genetic deficiencies. Some of these can be life-ending or require expensive and time consuming management for the lifetime of the dog. Of course, I always recommend you find your next puppy or dog at your local animal shelter. There are many wonderful animals at the shelters just waiting to be your best friend for life!
Commercial breeding facilities aren’t the only animal facilities where Los Angeles County inspects and monitors the care of animals. In the next blog I will tell you how we ensure the proper care of animals in grooming facilities, where our beloved furry friends go to look their best. Our requirements ensure that your pets are properly cared for behind the scenes, and lets you know what you can expect from your grooming facility.