Virginia is for . . . puppies? The Commonwealth is about to find out. “Bailey’s Law,” Sen. Chap Petersen’s puppy mill protection act passed the Senate and House and now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s desk for his approval.
“I’m very proud to have brought this bill to passage. This bill will protect both puppies and consumers. Working with Laura Donahue of the Humane Society and Susan Sewerd of the Virginia Vets was one of the great pleasures of my career as a legislator. This bill will change the way pets will be bought and sold for the better in the Commonwealth.” Petersen said after the bill’s passage.
“The passage of Bailey’s Law is a great victory for Virginia consumers. Every pet store in the state is now required to post the true origin of the puppies they sell. This will prevent many people from unknowingly purchasing a sick puppy mill dog from a pet store and suffering the heartbreak of having to bear the financial cost of acquiring a sick pet. We applaud Senator Petersen for his leadership in closing a key loophole on puppy mills.” Laura Donahue, Virginia State Director of the Humane Society of the United States said.
“SB 228 is good for consumers and pets. Now, a prospective buyer will not only know how much the doggie in the window costs, but it’s source as well. Pet buyers will benefit from the full disclosure and additional consumer protections found in this important legislation. We appreciate the General Assembly’s support and the hard work of Senator Petersen and the stakeholders in this effort.” Susan Sewerd, Virginia Veterinary Medicine Association said.
The bill’s House passage marks a milestone in a process that began with complaints of sick and dying puppies being sold at a Fairfax pet store. Bailey’s owner, Felicia Okomarez, purchased the beagle and almost immediately noticed the animal was sick.
“Within hours of getting her it was very clear that she was terribly sick, and we went to a vet, and they told me that she might die.” Okomarez said.
The veterinarian treating Bailey informed Okomarez that the puppy had severe parasites, a respiratory infection, and a hole in her heart. Bailey could not eat or drink water, and was immediately placed on an IV in intensive veterinary care. Okomarez would go on to spend thousands of dollars caring for Bailey; the dog, now one year old, is currently back to health.
“Unfortunately under the statute as it is right now, you can either give the animal back and never see it again, or you can keep it, and have no remedy.” Senator Petersen said in a Senate committee hearing.
“What we’re trying to do is here strike a stronger balance that is both pro-pet and pro-consumer.” Petersen said.
Petersen’s bill, a carefully 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 to the consumer – or pay an equivalent amount in veterinary fees (up to the cost of purchase) for a sick animal if the owner decides to keep the pet.
This latter provision specifically rewards pet owners who try to save the sick animal, rather than just returning it to be euthanized.
“Bailey is a happy, heathy dog today, and her owner can rest assured that the ordeal she went though will be prevented for the thousands of Virginians who love animals.” Petersen said upon the bill’s passage.