Of mice and men: Legislation would regulate pet stores’ accommodations

Politics makes strange bedfellows, especially when it involves legislation pertaining to small furry animals such as guinea pigs and gerbils.

Today, the state Senate is scheduled to consider a bill designed to improve the lives of small creatures dwelling in pet stores.

Animal rescuers, pet stores and Sacramento legislators are now backing the Animal Protection Act, which previously was met with opposition from some large pet stores.

“We’re pleased to see the bill moving along,” said Jennifer Pflugfelder, a spokeswoman for PetSmart, a national chain based in Phoenix. “We look forward to working with them” to come up with the regulations.

If the bill that Assemblyman Mark Ridely-Thomas, D-Leimert Park, has championed becomes law, the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs will work with pet stores to come up with specific rules and regulations.

Pet stores brokered a deal last week to negotiate specifics of the legislation instead of having to follow a series of new rules.

“Inhumane treatment of animals at pet stores is unacceptable,” Ridely-Thomas said. “The Department of Consumer Affairs can ensure that pet store operators will adhere to proper pet care practices.”

The assemblyman, who represents Los Angeles County, said legislation regulating animals deals mainly with dogs and cats, while smaller creatures are forgotten.

San Mateo-based small-animal advocate and rescuer Teresa Murphy said the legislation would be beneficial to guinea pigs because neglect is so rampant in many pet stores.

“It boggles the mind,” Murphy said. “People have no idea. The pet store employees have no idea what they’re doing.”

Many times, guinea pigs have infections that lead to their deaths after they are brought home, Murphy said.

A study by the Animal Protection Institute found that California’s small animals, including rats and mice, are often neglected.

The institute found that 44 percent of the animals suffered from psychological distress, 32 percent lived in unsanitary cages and 39 percent had insufficient water and nutritional food.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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