Pet Selling Laws by Ed Boks

Federal Income Tax: Income from animal sales is the same as other ordinary income and must be reported for federal income tax purposes. The IRS encourages the reporting of any persons who evade income tax liability by offering a reward of up to 15% of the taxes received.

Always get a receipt for the price paid for an animal and try to avoid paying cash. Write a check instead. A seller’s insistence on cash can be based on a desire to avoid paying income taxes or even a desire to keep you from having recourse if there are problems with the animal. Never buy an animal offered in a public place, swap meet, parking lot, etc.

California Income Tax: The above is also true for purposes of California resident income taxes. California sales tax must be reported and paid by sellers of more than two animals during any year.   If you’re buying a family pet (except from someone re-homing a single family pet), ask for the seller’s sales permit number.

California Puppy and Kitten Lemon Laws:
Summary of Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act: This law requires pet dealers (i.e. retail sellers of more than 50 dogs or cats in the previous year; not including animal shelters and humane societies) to have a permit, maintain certain health and safety standards for their animals, sell only healthy animals, provide written spay-neuter, health, animal history and other information and disclosures to pet buyers and also makes them liable for your damages up to specified limits if:

1. The dealer has not maintained specified health, safety and comfort standards for all animals in his/her care (please read the law at the link below so you will know what to look for)
2. A veterinarian states in writing that the animal became ill within 15 days of purchase, or
3. A veterinarian states in writing that within a year of purchase the animal has a hereditary or congenital disease that requires hospitalization and from which the animal is unlikely to recover

If the dealer refuses to pay, the most effective way to recover your damages is usually through a small claims court action. Please check with your local small claims court as they can provide information to guide you through the process.

This law also requires pet dealers to only have dogs that are at least 8 weeks old and to provide dogs with decent food, water, sanitary living conditions, socialization, exercise and prompt veterinary care. They must also have each dog checked and treated as necessary by a vterinarian before s/he is sold. Dealers must also maintain records of each animal sold for a period of one year. Non-compliance with this law is punishable by a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation, with possible additional penalties for certain offenses as high as $10,000 and a ban from selling pets for up to one year. Violations should be reported to your local animal control agency and, if necessary, your local district attorney’s or city attorney’s office.

You should be prepared to carefully document any complaints with provable facts as government agencies may not have the time or resources to do so.

If a breeder is breaking the rules, it’s important that you bring this to the attention of the proper authorities. The animals can’t, and its they who suffer and die at the hands of breeders operating in violation of animal protection laws. Please speak up for those who have no voice.

Summary of Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act: This law offers protection similar to that of the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act, except that it applies only to dog breeders who sold or gave away either three litters or 20 dogs in the previous year. Cats are not covered. Breeders subject to this law are not covered by the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act.

California Cruelty to Animals Laws: California prohibits cruelty to animals and defines it very broadly. A violation of these laws is a felony punishable by a lengthy prison term. There are also rules for pet shops to insure that animals are treated decently. For a summary of these laws,

Cruelty to animals should be reported to your local police or sheriff’s department. In the City of Los Angeles report cruelty to the LA Animal Cruelty Task Force at 213.847.1417.

Local Laws: Every city and county in California has the right to pass laws that can affect animal breeders and sellers. These include:

1. Zoning laws (for example, use of a residence zoned only for residential use to conduct a pet breeding/sale business).
2. Laws on the maximum number of animals that can be at a given address.
3. Business license requirements, including licenses specific to animal sellers.
4. Health and safety rules for animals.
5. Noise control ordinances.
6. Mandatory spay/neuter laws.
7. Laws punishing cruelty to animals.
8. Other restrictions on animal breeders and sellers.
9. Anti-animal fighting laws.

You can learn about these laws and file complaints against violators at the local government agency with responsibility for the subject matter.

Federal Law – The 1970 Animal Welfare Act: This law requires, among other things, licensing of breeders who have four or more breeding dogs or cats and who sell their puppies or kittens, or other breeders who sell puppies or kittens raised by other breeders. These breeders are required to maintain minimum health, safety and welfare standards for animals in their care. The text of the law can be found at

While complaints about unlicensed breeders and conditions at licensed breeders can be made to the USDA, their resources to deal with violations are limited and legal action against violators is rare. Complaints made under state and local laws are more likely to result in effective action.

A Big Thank You to attorney Sandy Ettinger for helping me put this important information together for all of us.