On a frigid morning at the Capitol grounds hundreds of animal activists gathered in the snow and prepared for their 2014 lobby day. As a boom box blasted the Norwegian electronic dance hit “What Does the Fox Say?” the activists did the electric slide, clapped, and chanted.
Their top agenda item for 2014: Senator Chap Petersen’s bill to prevent the unfortunate practice of lemon-puppy commerce (SB 228), also known as “Bailey’s Law” named for a small dog purchased in Fairfax City that nearly died from internal complications shortly after purchase. Bailey’s owner brought the canine to the committee hearing, to the delight of all in attendance.
Senator Petersen’s bill, an artfully crafted compromise between pet stores, pet dealers, animal activists, and legal experts, will require pet dealers to fully disclose the breeder information for each animal and guarantee that the pets they sell are healthy. If the pet is found to be sick or diseased, the pet dealer will return the price of the animal– or refund veterinary fees (up to the cost of purchase) for a sick animal if the owner decides to keep the pet.
In a dramatic moment, the Chairman of the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, Senator Emmett Hanger, asked for a raise of hands for those in support of the bill. Over 100 activists responded to his call, some raising both of their hands in an expression of enthusiasm. Shortly thereafter, the Committee passed the bill on a 13-1 vote.
Only one representative from the dog breeder community spoke in opposition to the bill, stating “we cannot pass legislation to save people from themselves.” An audible murmur echoed through the committee room, and a sea of heads shook expressing an inaudible ‘no.’
“I’m pleased that we were able to get together all the parties, and craft a good bill that protects puppies and consumers.” Senator Petersen said in the lobby after the bill’s passage.
Petersen’s bill was notable in the unusually large and prominent level of support it attracted. Groups endorsing the bill included the Humane Society of Virginia, the Virginia SPCA, the Virginia Veterinary Association, and animal activist, author, and actress Pamela Anderson:
“Its time to realize Virginia has a puppy-trafficking problem. Pet stores and dishonest dealers still bring puppies from other states and sell them to people who don’t know they’re buying a puppy mill animal.”
“That’s why I support SB 228, ‘Bailey’s Law,’ which will be an effective deterrent to prevent pet stores and dealers from selling animals that are bred in inhumane and unacceptable puppy mills.” Signed, Pamela Anderson.
The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.