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Table of State Laws Concerning Minimum Age for Sale of Puppies



Rebecca F. Wisch


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2012
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

Printable Version

“How old must a puppy be prior to being offered for sale?”

The answer to this question, like just about any question in law, depends on where you live. Approximately twenty states have laws or administrative regulations that state how old a puppy must be before it is offered for sale or adopted out to an owner. Of those states with laws, all but three require that a puppy be at least eight weeks old before being offered for sale. Maine, Virginia, and Wisconsin mandate that a puppy be at least seven weeks old. Other states focus on the separation of the puppy or kitten from its mother in addition to specifying a minimum age. Nevada's law provides that a retailer, dealer, or operator shall not separate a dog or cat from its mother until it is 8 weeks of age "or accustomed to taking food or nourishment other than by nursing., whichever is later." [emphasis added]. Likewise, Illinois also phrases such that a puppy or kitten shall not be "separated from its mother" until the puppy or kitten has attained the age of 8 weeks.

One thing crucial to understand with these puppy sale laws is that they may not apply to everyone. In other words, the laws may be limited to a particular class of people, such as dog breeders, kennel operators, or other animal facilities.About twelve of the eighteen states make it unlawful for any person to sell an underage puppy. The remaining states limit the provisions to pet shops, animal dealers, or breeders. Like many of the pet sale laws (generally known as “puppy lemon laws”), the focus of these laws is on curbing the distribution of puppies from unregulated sources like puppy mills rather than preventing sales by those not in the breeding business (i.e., individuals who are simply giving away an unwanted litter).

Since the goal of most of these laws is to curb the business of selling underage dogs, protecting both the dogs and consumers, certain parties are excluded from these laws. As may be expected, many states exclude non-profit animal shelters or humane societies from the law’s reach. This type of exclusion becomes necessary when considering the unwanted puppies often left on the doorstep of such organizations. In addition, a few states have provisions that exclude those dealers regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) who supply dogs for research purposes. The federal AWA regulates only a specific group of people involved in dog commerce; specifically, dog dealers and exhibitors. Dealers are defined as those individuals who buy dogs to sell for research or pets, but that term does not include retail pet stores. Exhibitors are those individuals who purchase animals to exhibit or perform in circuses, zoos, carnivals, and the like. With those limitations in mind, the AWA regulations (the rules by which the dealers and research institutions must abide to maintain their licenses and avoid fines) state that no dog may be delivered to any transportation carrier unless it is at least eight weeks old and weaned. This provision (Sec. 2.130) excludes registered research facilities, however.

Certain parties may be excluded by default because the statute does not reach the activity. For example, many of the state statutes only apply to sales of puppies and not any transfers that do not involve any monetary exchange or other consideration. In fact, the impetus behind nearly all of these statutes is to regulate the commerce in puppies within the state. However, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania include adoption or any transfer of an underage puppy within their laws. 

The penalties for violation of these provisions are typically lenient. About half the states make a violation of the law a criminal misdemeanor. California’s law makes it a misdemeanor to sell a puppy under the age of eight weeks as does Nebraska's. Violation of Connecticut's law can now result in $500 fine and/or even 30 days in jail. Most state penalties, if even specified, range from a fine of $50 to a possible $1,000. Many of the statutes make the action unlawful, but fail to describe what would happen to a person who violates the section.

What happens in those states without such laws? This answer is less than clear. Certainly a retailer who sells a puppy not yet weaned from his or her mother and able to eat on his or her own may not be acting in the best interests of the puppy. Should the puppy then suffer or die because of a retailer's intentional or reckless conduct, the retailer could conceivably face animal cruelty charges. Moreover, in those states that have enacted pet purchaser protection laws, a possible claim against that merchant for violation of an implied warranty could be raised by a purchaser of an underage dog. Even in those states with laws, the best action by a purchaser is to research the breed he or she wishes to purchase or talk to a veterinarian in advance to find the best age to adopt a new puppy.

State Citation and Link Persons Covered by Law Minimum Age Under Which Cannot Sell Puppy Actions to Which Law Applies Penalty Exemptions
Alabama AZ ST § 44-1799.04 “Pet Dealer” - a person who owns a pet store Less than eight weeks old Offer for sale Class 1 misdemeanor No
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California West's Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 597z and Cal. Health & Safety Code § 122045 - 122315

Any person who sells unless approved by Cal. licensed vet.

Section 12155 under the Health & Safety Code is limited to "pet dealer."

Under eight weeks old Sell – defined as when seller “physically transfers the dog or dogs to the purchaser.” An infraction or misdemeanor No
Colorado

CO ST § 35-80-108

also by admin. regulation 8 CCR 1201-12(G)(2)

Any person or entity

(Admin. reg. applies to “dog breeder facility”)

Under eight weeks old Sell, transfer, or adopt "Unlawful" and "violation" of the chapter No
Connecticut CT ST § 22-354 Any person, firm, or corporation

Under the age of eight weeks unless such dog or cat is transported with its dam for import or export

Under the age of eight weeks for sale, offer for sale, adoption, or transfer within the state

  • Import or export for the purposes of sale or offering for sale, adoption, or transfer
  • Sell or offer for adoption or transfer within the state
30 days in jail, or $500 fine, or both No
Delaware
D.C.
Florida FL ST §828.29 Any person

Less than eight weeks old

Transport into the state for sale or offer for sale within the state Misdemeanor of the first degree as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 No
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois IL ST CH 225 § 605/2.2 No dog dealer, kennel operator, or cattery operator for sale Under eight weeks old Separate from its mother Not specified No
Indiana IN ST § 15-17-18-10

A person

Under the age of eight weeks Import to, or export from, Indiana for the purpose of sale UNLESS transported with dam Research facilities licensed under the federal Laboratory Animals Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq., are exempted from this prohibition.
Iowa
Kansas By administrative regulation - KS ADC 9-25-12 A retail breeder licensee Unless the puppy is eight weeks old AND weaned."Weaned" means that an animal has become accustomed to taking solid food and has done so, without nursing, for a period of at least five days. Sell or exchange Not specified No
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine By administrative regulation: 01-001 CMR Ch. 701, §I(N) Any person Until completion of seventh week of life Sell, adopt, or give away "Unlawful" per regulation No
Maryland MD CRIM LAW § 10-613

A person

Less than eight weeks old Sell or distribute in the State or bring into the State for the purpose of sale or distribution

Misdemeanor with a max. fine of $500

For purposes of humane disposal, a court may seize an animal brought into this State in violation of this section.

Does not apply to USDA licensed biomedical facility or if an animal that is accompanied by a signed statement from a licensed veterinarian stating that the animal's dam is incapacitated for humane or medical reasons and cannot care for the animal.

A person may give an unaccompanied dog or cat to:

(i) an animal shelter or pound that is operated or supported by a government; or

(ii) a humane society.

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140 § 138A and 141B

also by Admin. Regulation 330 CMR 12.05

Pet shop, commercial establishment, firm or corp. under statute;

Licensee under regulation

Under eight weeks old including acquire, offer for sale, or display by regulation

Cannot import under eight weeks by statute

Import by statue

Acquire, display, offer for sale, sell or give away by regs.

Penalty by stat. is $50-100 and/or license revocation

Not specified by reg.

Licensed pet shops and licensed institutions
Michigan MI ST 287.335a A person who operates a pet shop Less than 8 weeks old; also Import or cause to be imported into this state, or offer for sale or resale, a dog or cat unless the dog or cat has deciduous (baby) teeth visibly present Import or cause to be imported into this state, or offer for sale or resale Not specified No
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri

Admin. Regulation: 2 Mo. Code of State Regulations 30-9.020 (See subsection 14(E) ("Miscellaneous"))

Any person Under eight weeks old AND has been weaned Delivered by any person to any carrier or intermediate handler for transport, in commerce, or shall be transported in commerce Not specified Except a registered research facility
Montana
Nebraska NE ST § 28-1018 A person, other than an animal control facility or animal shelter Under eight weeks of age without its mother Sell Class V misdemeanor Excludes:
  • Animal Control Facility defined as a facility operated by the state or any political subdivision of the state for the purpose of impounding or harboring seized, stray, homeless, abandoned, or unwanted animals.
  • Animal Shelter defined as a facility used to house or contain dogs or cats and owned, operated, or maintained by an incorporated humane society, animal welfare society, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, or other nonprofit organization devoted to the welfare, protection, and humane treatment of such animals.
Nevada NV ST § 574.500

A retailer, dealer or operator:

"Retailer" means a person who acquires pets for resale (574.320)

"Operator" means a person responsible for the operation of:

1. A cattery, kennel or commercial establishment engaged in the business of selling animals; or

2. An animal shelter.

(574.290)

"Dealer" means a person who, for compensation or profit, buys, sells, breeds, trades or imports cats or dogs for resale (574.260)

Shall not separate a dog or cat from its mother until it is eight weeks of age or accustomed to taking food or nourishment other than by nursing, whichever is later Separate puppy or kitten from its mother prior to weaning A person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor No
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York McKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law § 402 Pet dealer: any person who engages in the sale or offering for sale of more than nine animals per year for profit to the public. Such definition shall include breeders who sell or offer to sell animals; provided that a breeder who sells or offers to sell directly to the consumer fewer than twenty-five animals per year that are born and raised on the breeder's residential premises shall not be considered a pet dealer as a result of selling or offering to sell such animals. Such definition shall further not include duly incorporated humane societies dedicated to the care of unwanted animals which make such animals available for adoption whether or not a fee for such adoption is charged. Younger than eight weeks old Knowingly sell

Per Section 406:

  • denial, revocation, suspension, or refusal of renewal of pet dealer's license
  • also a civil offense, for which a penalty of not less than fifty dollars and not more than one thousand dollars for each violation
No
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio OH ST § 955.50 No person Under the age of eight weeks Sell, offer to sell, or expose for sale, for the purpose of resale or receive for delivery within this state, or ship from any point within this state to any point outside this state, for sale to the general public at retail Penalty per 955.99(C): minor misdemeanor on first offense and a misdemeanor of fourth degree on subsequent offenses This section does not apply to the transportation of dogs in interstate commerce by common carrier, provided that neither the point of shipment nor the point of receiving is within this state.
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania

PA ST 3 P.S. § 459-603 

PA St 3 P.S. 459-214 for importation of dogs into state

Anyone Under eight weeks old Barter, trade, raffle, sell, auction or in any way transfer ownership

"Unlawful" - not otherwise specified

Unless the dog has been orphaned and goes to/from a nonprofit kennel with vet approval.
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia VA ST § 3.2-6510 Any person Under seven weeks old without its dam or queen Sell, raffle, or offer for sale as pets or novelties, or offer or give as a prize, premium, or advertising device Class 3 misdemeanor Dealers may offer dogs or cats under the age of seven weeks for sale as pets or novelties with the requirement that prospective owners take possession of the animals only after dogs and cats are at least seven weeks of age.

Nothing in this section shall prohibit the sale of an unweaned animal (i) as food for other animals or (ii) with the lactating dam or queen or a lactating surrogate dam or queen that has accepted the animal; (iii) due to a concern for the health or safety of the unweaned animal; or (iv) to animal control, an animal shelter, or a veterinarian.

Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin

WI ST 173.41

Any person licensed as a/an:
  • animal shelter
  • animal control facility
  • dog breeder
  • dog breeding facility
  • dog dealer
  • out-of-state dog dealer
Under seven weeks old Transfer a dog to a buyer May be required to forfeit not more than $1,000 for the first offense and may be required to forfeit not less than $200 nor more than $2,000 for the 2nd or any subsequent offense within 5 years.
Wyoming
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