The District of Columbia has become the latest district to ban the sale of animals from commercial breeders in pet stores, instead only allowing adoption of animals from vetted rescues and shelters.

The bill, the Animal Care and Control Omnibus Amendment Act of 2021, was signed by the District’s mayor in January, with a projected law date of May 11, 2023.

Nationwide, more than 300 cities and counties as well as five states have some kind of law in the books banning the sale of commercially-bred animals — most commonly dogs or cats. 

But the District’s ban encompasses other animals, too — including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and arachnids. Pet stores instead must display only animals available for adoption from rescue groups, shelters, or District animal control. 

Nonprofit World Animal Protection (WAP), which championed the legislation, applauded the unanimous council vote as a historic win. 

“This is a historic blow to big box pet stores like PetSmart and Petco and wonderful news for animals,” WAP said. “Washington D.C.’s new law will help stop animals like turtles, birds, and guinea pigs from suffering in cruel breeding mills.”

WAP cited investigations at reptile breeding facilities that exposed gruesome conditions, including overcrowding that forced reptiles to fight for limited food and water, fatal injuries, animals packed into dirty plastic bins, and animals denied water and vet care.

A Lady Freethinker investigation also uncovered horrific conditions for guinea pigs at cavy breeding facilities.

The District’s bill also allows animal control to use sirens and lights when responding to potentially life-threatening animal-related emergencies, allows courts to consider the best interest of the animal in divorce cases, prohibits the painful declawing of cats except for medical reasons, and also allows the Washington Humane Society to recoup costs of caring for animals during animal cruelty investigations. 

For anyone interested in ushering in a retail pet sale ban, WAP has a new toolkit that you can download for free here with information about how to work with legislators.