Full Title Name:  Detailed Discussion of Swap Meet Laws

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Zoe Friedland Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2016 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center 1 Country of Origin:  United States
Summary: This article provides a detailed definition of swap meets and explores both existing laws that could be used to regulate swap meets and swap-meet specific legislation. It analyzes swap meet regulations at the local and state level. It concludes with some thoughts about how to make swap meet laws more effective, and how political barriers stand in the way of doing so.

I. Introduction

In recent years, swap meets have captured the attention of animal welfare advocates. Concerned about the treatment of animals sold and traded in these open air, flea market-style exchanges, some local and state governments have sought to regulate the sale of animals at swap meets. These new provisions supplement existing laws and regulations surrounding the sale and treatment of animals. As the author of California’s swap meet legislation stated while advocating for the bill, “[a]nimals are currently being sold at flea markets and swap meets in often abysmal conditions where there is no legal oversight of the seller and no consumer accountability.”1 This article provides a detailed definition of swap meets and explores both existing laws that could be used to regulate swap meets and swap-meet specific legislation. It concludes with some thoughts about how to make swap meet laws more effective, and how political barriers stand in the way of doing so.

II. Defining Animal Swap Meets

A. What Are They?

Animal swap meets are places where people buy, sell or trade animals with little government oversight. As one Nevada law defines it, “‘Swap meet’ means a flea market, open-air market or other organized event at which two or more persons offer merchandise for sale or exchange.” NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.550(2)(c)(2). Swap meets are typically held outside with an open air atmosphere, and mimic the setup of a flea market. Some swap meets only sell animals, while others combine the sale of animals with traditional flea market items. Additionally, buyers, sellers and traders must usually pay a fee to participate in the swap meet. Many swap meets operate on a regular basis (typically monthly or bi-monthly), and come with their own restrictions about which animals can and cannot be sold and traded. They are more common in rural areas. And a survey of prominently advertised swap meets found that they are most prevalent in the Midwest.

B. Two Main Issues: Disease and Animal Treatment

Due to the lack of government oversight, many animals sold at swap meets “experience poor living conditions and receive inadequate care.”2 Animals are often kept outside without water in hot temperatures, confined in small cages, and stored like warehouse items. Unregulated breeding and unsanitary practices in the transport, display, and sale of these animals result in high, unmet needs for veterinary care. As a result, swap meets can be rife with disease, with customers buying and trading sick animals and spreading zoonotic diseases. The California Department of Food and Agriculture released a “Disease Prevention Guide for Swap Meets” that states “…the possibilities of spreading disease…are very high.” The fact sheet encourages swap meet buyers and sellers to keep birds separate with sanitary cages in order to minimize the risk of disease. Occasionally, state governments have stepped in to stop the spread of specific diseases, like when the Iowa Department of Agriculture banned all live bird exhibitions (including swap meets) because of the avian influenza outbreak, which impacted millions of birds across the state.

Additionally, animal welfare groups oppose swap meets because of their reported inhumane treatment of animals. Common complaints include animals being kept in cramped spaces, sometimes piled on top of each other, a lack of water and food even in hot climates, and animals that are too young to be weaned being sold apart from their mothers. Many dogs and cats are not vaccinated, and suffering from fleas, mange, worms, and other diseases. One animal activist, Monica Engebretson with Born Free USA, documented these abuses at swap meets across the country, stating “I have personally witnessed the cruelty to which animals…are subjected” at swap meets and flea markets.3

On the other hand, many rural communities use swap meets to trade animals and buy pets and livestock for their farms. They are a way for people who cannot afford an official commercial shop to exchange and buy animals. Swap meets are an important part of many local communities where people come together on a regular basis. This is evident from the way in which swap meets are advertised among other local events, like charity spaghetti dinners and historical society monthly meetings.

C. Which Animals Are Bought, Sold, and Traded at Swap Meets?

Swap meets sell a wide range of animal species, from birds, to farm animals, to cats and dogs. The most commonly sold animals are chickens and other birds, rabbits, pigs, reptiles, and dogs. Swap meets sometimes advertise less common animals, like an alpaca or peacock. People sell and purchase animals at swap meets for a wide range of purposes. More common reasons include housing them as pets, slaughtering them for food, and raising them as farm animals. However, some people purchase animals at these events for less obvious reasons, like hunters who buy deer in order to harvest their urine. (Jenny Agnew, Spontaneous Order: A Visit to the Animal Swap Meet in Waterloo, Ill., St. Louis Magazine (Oct. 1, 2012).)

Swap meets can be outlets for puppy mills that want to skirt commercial regulations by selling dogs in informal settings. These dogs often suffer from dangerous genetic conditions and have spent their lives inadequately cared for. The mistreatment continues when puppies are housed in tiny cages, often piled on top of each other, at swap meets.4 Additionally, because they are rarely regulated, people can use swap meets to sell dogs and other animals that have been illegally imported from other states and countries. Alternatively, some swap meets invite animal rescue groups to set up adoption tables for cats and dogs.

Swap meets are also prime locations for selling smuggled birds and other exotic animals (some swap meets even explicitly advertise their sale of exotic birds). These birds are often smuggled illegally into the country, where they are sold at swap meets and open air markets as a way to avoid registration and confiscation. For instance, thousands of parrots are smuggled illegally from Mexico into the United States every year. (The Illegal Parrot Trade Remains a Problem In Latin America, Bird Life International (2008).) Swap meets are ideal venues for selling these illegally smuggled parrots since there are typically no licensing requirements for vendors.

While some swap meets specifically prohibit the sale of livestock, most allow the sale of “small livestock,” which typically includes chickens, pigs, and goats. Many swap meets explicitly prohibit the sale of horses and cattle, focusing instead on smaller animals like ducks, chickens, and rabbits. Especially for rural farming communities, swap meets can be a way to purchase needed livestock and sell extra animals.

D. Individual Swap Meet Restrictions

Despite a lack of government regulation, many swap meets impose their own restrictions on buyers and sellers. Sometimes this includes providing food, water, and sufficient space for the animals. Other times, however, swap meets are advertised informally on message boards with no restrictions. Some state laws bolster a swap meet operator’s authority by prohibiting the sale of anything at a swap meet that is prohibited by the swap meet operator, but rarely do these laws provide any guidance as to what should be prohibited. See e.g. CAL. BUS. & PROF. CODE § 21666 (West) (No vendor shall offer or display at a swap meet any new or used personal property or merchandise of a kind which the swap meet operator has expressly prohibited.). Without state or local regulations, swap meet restrictions are at the swap meet operator’s discretion.

III. General Laws Applicable to Animal Swap Meets

Several recent state laws have sought to regulate swap meets. Before delving into these laws, however, it is worth exploring how previously enacted laws could be used to regulate swap meets, and how their shortcomings led states to address swap meets directly.

A. Animal Cruelty Laws

Animal cruelty laws would obviously apply to swap meet vendors who are mistreating animals. Even though animal cruelty laws vary from state to state, egregious cases of animal cruelty are felonies in all fifty states. Some states make animal neglect a felony as well. Swap meet prosecutions would probably rely on animal neglect laws, since a lack of adequate space, food, and water would most likely fall into that category. Some states punish specific forms of animal neglect that would be particularly applicable to swap meets. For instance, California penal codes prohibit impounding a domestic animal without necessary food and water for a prolonged period of time and keeping animals confined without proper exercise. CAL. PENAL CODE §§ 597e, t (West) (Providing for a misdemeanor offense). California also explicitly prohibits the sale of dogs under eight weeks old except under certain circumstances. CAL. PENAL CODE §§ 597e, 597t, 597z (West). Additionally, states like Illinois, Maine, Oregon and Michigan have the most stringent animal cruelty laws that specifically define standards of basic care that could be used to prosecute animal swap meet vendors and operators who are responsible for animal mistreatment.

Predictably, however, lack of enforcement is the main barrier to using animal cruelty laws to regulate the treatment of animals bought and sold at swap meets. Animal cruelty prosecutions are rare as it is, and persuading law enforcement to prosecute animal neglect cases may be challenging. This is especially true when law enforcement decisions are made locally and there is an accepted culture of swap meets and the unregulated sale of animals. It is ultimately up to local law enforcement to enforce animal neglect laws, and because these cases are exceedingly rare, they are not a very effective vehicle through which to regulate swap meets.

B. Pet Store and Live Market Regulations

Around twenty-seven states regulate pet stores. Twenty-one of these states require pet store owners to obtain licenses before selling animals. Other regulations vary significantly, and cover issues from sanitation, to food and water requirements, to prohibitions on the sale of unweaned animals. These laws and regulations typically do not apply to animal swaps. For instance, California law defines “pet store” as a retail establishment open to the public that does not include the sale of animals to agricultural operations or vendors who sell/transfer animals that they themselves have bred or raised. CAL. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE § 122350 (West). This definition would clearly exclude swap meets, which mostly sell animals for agricultural reasons and certainly sell animals bred and raised by the vendors. Other states, however, have more expansive definitions of the term “pet store” that could presumably include swap meets. For instance, Massachusetts defines a pet store as “any place or premise where birds, mammals, or reptiles are kept for the purpose of either wholesale or retail sale, import, export, barter, exchange or gift.” (330 CMR Department of Food and Agriculture: Licensing and Operation of Pet Shops (CMR 12.00)). This definition could arguably apply pet store regulations to swap meets. However, this interpretation may be rejected because swap meets simply do not look like pet stores, and some would argue that the legislature did not intend to regulate swap meets when they decided to regulate pet stores.

Some states also regulate live animal markets, which are retail food markets where consumers purchase live animals in order to eat them. See CAL. PENAL CODE § 597.3(b)(2) (West). These laws tend to regulate how animals are held before slaughter and how they are slaughtered. Although animal swaps do sell some animals for consumption, they are not generally retail food markets. Therefore, anti-cruelty measures codified in these laws do not protect animals sold at swap meets.

C. Locational Restrictions for Selling Animals

Finally, some states prohibit the sale of animals in certain places, like on streets, highways, and boardwalks. See e.g. CAL. PENAL CODE § 597.4 (West). In other words, they prohibit the sale of animals in public spaces. These laws probably do not apply to swap meets, which organizers typically hold on private property. In fact, one common feature of a swap meet is that vendors and buyers must pay a fee in order to use the space.

Although many laws regulate the treatment of animals and various establishments that handle animals, there is a legal vacuum for animal swap meets. The scarcity of animal neglect prosecutions and political barriers to enforcing animal neglect laws make criminal sanctions a mostly unhelpful tool for regulating swap meets. Additionally, pet store and live market regulations do not technically apply to swap meets. This leaves swap meets in a legal grey area where vendors and buyers are free to sell, trade, and buy animals with few restrictions.

IV. Local Ordinances

Some localities have adopted ordinances to regulate swap meets in their jurisdictions. In the 1980s, several California ordinances distinguished swap meets from covered malls, with some of them banning swap meets altogether. Prima County, Arizona and Memphis, Tennessee also have ordinances that prohibit the sale of animals at swap meets. The penalties for violating these ordinances are minimal (e.g. a $50 penalty in Tennessee). Other cities technically ban swap meets, but include major exceptions to the bans. For instance, Houston, Texas prohibits the sale of animals at swap meets “or similar events,” but excludes from this prohibition any event “primarily for the sale of agricultural livestock…” These local ordinances rarely include standards for animal care and the prevention of disease. Instead, they form a patchwork of outright bans (often with major exceptions) around the country.

V. State Laws Regulating Animal Swap Meets

At least five states (California, Nevada, Virginia, Illinois, and Nebraska) have state laws that at least reference animal swap meets and regulate them in some way. Some of these laws enact comprehensive restrictions while others are limited to specific animals or impose only procedural requirements. This section provides a brief survey of these laws and compares and contrasts their provisions. This section does not include statutes that define swap meets for tax and revenue purposes only. See, e.g., IDAHO CODE ANN. § 18-2417.

A. Illinois

Illinois was the first state to regulate swap meets when it amended the Illinois Diseased Animal Act in 2004. Illinois only requires swap meet organizers to provide the state information about the swap meet 30 days before it occurs. The law also requires organizers to maintain records that include information about the kinds of animals present and any transfers that took place during the swap meet. 510 ILL. COMP. STAT. 50/24.1.

B. California

California has the nation’s arguably most comprehensive animal swap law. California Health and Safety Code sections 122370 to 122374 were passed in 2013 and took effect in January of 2016. The law allows animals to be sold at swap meets only if the local jurisdiction has adopted standards for the care and treatment of the animals at the swap meet, including the transport of animals to and from the swap meet. CAL. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE § 122370. Local ordinances must meet certain minimum requirements detailed in the statute, including sanitation, proper ventilation, adequate nutrition, disease prevention, adequate space, proper documentation, recommendations for the new owner, and a business license. CAL. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE § 122371. The penalties for vendors who sell animals at swap meets in local jurisdictions that have not adopted an acceptable ordinance is a $100 fine for the first infraction and a maximum $500 fine for the second infraction. Any peace officer, animal control officer, or humane officer is authorized to issue this fine. Notable exceptions to the law include state fairs and stockyards, and the sale of cattle, sheep, swine, goats and equines in public markets. The laws also exempts dog, cat and bird shows that meet certain requirements. CAL. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE § 122372.

C. Nevada

In 2013, Nevada added a section to its comprehensive animal cruelty statute that addresses animal swap meets. The Nevada law follows a similar structure to the California law, and requires animal swap meet vendors to operate in jurisdictions that have adopted local ordinances that meet certain minimum requirements. NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 574.010 to 574.550. A vendor who sells or attempts to sell an animal at a swap meet in violation of the law is guilty of a misdemeanor. NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.550(1).

The minimum requirements for the local ordinances are not listed in the statute itself. Instead, the statute requires local ordinances to contain provisions that are “substantially similar” to other Nevada statutes (“NRS 574.360 to 574.510, inclusive”). NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.550(2)(c)(1). These sections include a wide range of regulations. Sections 574.360 through 574.420 regulate enclosures for dogs and cats, including specific rules about exactly how large enclosures must be and how much water and food they must receive. See, e.g., NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.400 (“a minimum amount of floor space which is calculated by finding the mathematical square of the sum of 6 inches plus the length of the dog or cat measured from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, and dividing that amount by 144, to arrive at the minimum amount of square footage required for the floor space”) and NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.420 (requiring that dogs and cats be provided water twice daily and food once daily). Sections 574.430 through 574.440 mandate certain sanitation requirements for dogs and cats, including the regulation of “pests.” Section 574.500 imposes a misdemeanor for the sale of a dog or cat under eight weeks old apart from its mother. Sections 574.460 through 574.485 regulate the sale of dogs and cats and impose monetary penalties for violating these sections. Finally, only section 574.490 applies to animals other than dogs and cats. It requires a retailer or dealer to reimburse a purchaser and pay for certain expenses if the purchased pet has a terminal disease or condition that requires immediate hospitalization. The legislative history for this law indicates that senators and assembly members believed that the bill “allows [localities] to choose which statutes are applicable to our specific local needs” and that localities do not have to adopt all of the provisions listed in the statute in order to comply with the law.5

The local ordinances also cannot “authorize a person to commit an act of cruelty to an animal in violation of NRS 574.050 to 574.200, inclusive.” NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.550(2)(c)(2). Some of these anti-cruelty laws regulate cock and dog fighting, which is irrelevant, while others are general cruelty statutes, including prohibitions on depriving animals of food and drink and transporting them “in a cruel or inhumane manner.” NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. §§ 574.100, 574.120 and 574.190. The incorporated cruelty laws also prohibit the sale of a diseased animal. NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.130. It is unclear whether this means the ordinances cannot explicitly authorize cruelty or whether they must actively prohibit it. The legislative history acknowledges that these provisions ask ordinances to incorporate state laws that they are already obligated to follow, but the Nevada legislature ultimately decided that requiring counties to issue ordinances that comply with state law “is not necessarily bad.”6

There are several exceptions to the Nevada law. It does not apply to the sale or transfer of livestock or any event with a primary purpose of selling livestock or agricultural implements. NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.550(3)(a) & (b). It also does not apply to outdoor adoption events for dogs and cats, or to people who do not charge fees for the adoption or transfer of animals that are properly vaccinated. NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. 574.550(3)(c) & (d).

D. Virginia

In 2015, Virginia adopted a law that prohibited the sale of dogs and cats “in any roadside, public right-of-way, parkway, median, park, or recreation area; flea market or other outdoor market; or commercial parking lot…” VA. CODE ANN. § 3.2-6508.1. This law essentially prohibits the sale of dogs and cats at swap meets anywhere in the state, but does not prohibit swap meets altogether or regulate the sale of any other kind of animal at swap meets. The law also exempts state and county fair exhibitions, and the sale of dogs primarily used in “commonly-accepted hunting or livestock farming activities.” VA. CODE ANN. § 3.2-6508.1(B)(2) & (3).

E. Nebraska

Nebraska regulates swap meets through the “Exotic Animal Auction or Exchange Venue Act,” which it revised in 2014. Exotic animal auctions or exchange venues are defined as any event or location in which an “exotic animal is consigned, purchased, sold, traded, bartered, given away, or otherwise transferred…” NEB. REV. STAT. ANN. § 54-7,105.01(10). Exotic animals include animals not commonly sold as livestock, like small mammals (except dogs and cats) and birds. NEB. REV. STAT. ANN. § 54-7,105.01(9). The law requires venue organizers to obtain permits thirty days in advance, maintain detailed records, and ensure veterinary inspections are conducted. NEB. REV. STAT. ANN. § 54-7,105.06-08. Although the law does not explicitly reference swap meets, they fall under the definition of “exotic animal auction or exchange venue.” Additionally, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Tom Hansen, said the bill would regulate swap meets.7

F. Important Features Analysis

Of these laws, only Nevada and California address swap meets comprehensively. Although they both regulate swap meets by requiring local ordinances to meet certain minimum criteria, those criteria are very different. The California law, which was enacted independently instead of tacked on to an existing law, details the criteria in the law itself and applies to all animals at swap meets. The Nevada law, on the other hand, requires local ordinances to adopt most laws pertaining to the treatment of dogs and cats, which include very strict standards for confinement and nourishment. Limiting the minimum requirements to laws that impact dogs and cats does not force localities to regulate the treatment of most animals sold at swap meets.

The Nevada law also states that local ordinances cannot “authorize” someone to violate any of Nevada’s anti-cruelty statutes. NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.550(2)(c)(2). This is a bizarre way to limit ordinances since localities are bound by state anti-cruelty statutes anyway. It is unclear whether this part of the Nevada law actually makes any difference for animals if it only means the local ordinance cannot “authorize” an act of cruelty. Conversely, if the ordinance has to explicitly prohibit acts of cruelty, it would at least provide an additional avenue for enforcement. The laws also impose significantly different penalties. The California law has a very limited penalty of a few hundred dollars, even for repeat offenders. The Nevada law, on the other hand, makes violations a criminal offense. NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 574.550(1). In short, the Nevada law is somewhat more limited and less clear than the California law, but it has more teeth.

In sharp contrast to the Nevada, California, and Virginia laws, Illinois and Nebraska impose mainly procedural requirements on swap meets and their organizers. These laws seem less motivated by animal welfare and more motivated by keeping swap meets safe and disease-free. Record-keeping is a key element of both laws, which seek to regulate swap meets by keeping the state apprised of key information rather than by policing animal welfare.

Perhaps most notable are the laws’ broad exceptions. All of the substantive provisions exclude most livestock, including cattle and horses. The Virginia law even excludes dogs used for farming purposes. The Nevada and Virginia laws’ strong emphasis on dogs and cats illustrate a cultural preference for more strictly regulating the treatment of common household pets. Animals used in agriculture, on the other hand, have historically been granted fewer protections, a trend that holds true for animal swap meet laws.

V. California Law Case Study

The California swap meet law is the most comprehensive one of its kind in the country. It is a standalone law that requires local ordinances to adopt specific minimum requirements before animals can be legally sold and traded at swap meets. Yet it also has a very low penalty for noncompliance and significant exceptions. Delving into the legislative history of the law provides valuable insight into what prompted its passage and how it developed.

The bill was sponsored and written by Senator Roger Dickinson. He became interested in the issue when one of his staffers brought the conditions of animal swap meets to his attention. He was particularly disturbed by how dogs, cats, and rabbits were being sold at swap meets without proper care. Senator Dickinson also expressed concern about how swap meets were being used as places to sell illegally smuggled animals.8

According to the written legislative history, the bill had three main purposes: alleviate the suffering of animals, ensure that public health is protected, and “safeguard consumers.”9 Additionally, the legislative history explains how the “bargain-sales atmosphere” of swap meets “encourages impulse buying and leads to increased costs to local government for sheltering discarded animals,” and how the sale of cats and dogs that are not spayed and neutered contributes to pet overpopulation. These issues inspired Senator Dickinson to propose new legislation that would ban the sale of animals at swap meets altogether.

However, it soon became clear that banning the sale of animals at swap meets would be politically difficult. The California Swap Meet Owners Association protested the bill, arguing that they should be regulated as ordinary vendors rather than prohibited from selling certain items (animals) altogether. They claimed that banning the sale of animals would put them out of business as small business owners, an argument that Senator Dickinson was personally surprised had gained so much traction. They also argued that some counties in California had already set standards for the sale of animals at swap meets, like requiring a permit through the Veterinary Services Department in order to sell certain animals. The Association made clear that they were willing to abide by regulations, but opposed banning the sale of animals.10 On the other side, the bill was supported by a long list of animal welfare groups.11

Opposition to the originally proposed bill that banned the sale of animals at swap meets led to two major compromises. The first was that the bill deferred to local ordinances to mostly handle the issue as long as they met certain minimum requirements. If a local jurisdiction did not adopt an ordinance, however, the sale of animals at swap meets was banned. According to Senator Dickinson, many swap meets were happy with this compromise because many places where they operated already had adequate ordinances. For instance, San Jose had strict requirements already, and so the law did not impact swap meets in that jurisdiction. The second major compromise was a decrease in the penalty for violating the law. The original version imposed a $1000 violation for second time offenders. That amount was cut in half and the law passed with only a $500 penalty for multiple offenses.12

These compromises illustrate how even in a state as progressive as California, and even with a Senator willing to draft and sponsor a specific animal swap meet bill, the swap meet lobby had considerable power. Their influence resulted in a watered down version of the bill that delegates most regulations to localities and imposes a fairly small penalty for non-compliance, with no criminal sanctions even for repeat offenders.

VI. Conclusions

Animal swaps can be regulated in three ways: by the swap meet organizer, by the locality, or by the state. A few states have adopted laws that directly regulate swap meets, and serve as a baseline for local ordinances. In order to raise the minimum standards, states adopting future swap meet laws should 1) include specific requirements about confinement, nutrition, and transport directly in the statutory text like the California law; 2) protect all animals sold at swap meets instead of limiting the protections to dogs and cats like the Virginia law and, to some extent, the Nevada law; and 3) impose a meaningful penalty, perhaps even a misdemeanor, for multiple offenses.

It is too soon to tell if more recent state laws are effectively preventing animal mistreatment at swap meets. At least one news article indicates that poor conditions persist, even in California, which had adopted the most stringent animal swap meet law.13 The article analyzed conditions at a Tulare County swap meet in Visalia about five months after the state law took effect. Even though Tulare County requires vendors at swap meets to ensure that animals have proper ventilation, nutrition, and care, a recent visit to the swap meet found that “the conditions were hardly met.” The County is in the process of sending animal control officers to inspect the vendors and hold them accountable, but most county officials believe animal swap meet vendors must first be educated about the new standards. As with animal cruelty laws, animal swap meet laws will only be meaningful if they are properly enforced.

As for states that have not yet regulated swap meets, the legislative history from current laws illustrates why this issue can be so politically challenging for lawmakers. Swap meets are local events that serve communities. They are places where people can come together in an informal setting to sell, trade, and barter. For many small businesses, swap meets are a primary source of income. And for farmers and others who raise livestock, swap meets are a way to get the animals they need and sell the animals they no longer need. In other words, selling animals at swap meets is an accepted practice in many rural communities across America.

For these reasons, it has proved politically untenable to ban animal swap meets altogether. Even in states where an outright ban was the lawmaker’s original goal, swap meet laws have been scaled back to regulate the sale of animals rather than ban it altogether. Even more striking, states with the most comprehensive swap meet regulations have delegated authority to localities to craft their own ordinances. This trend speaks to the very local nature of swap meets, and state governments’ reluctance to interfere with local governments’ regulation of local issues. It may also speak to the role of lobbyists in watering down unfavorable legislation. The legislative history reveals that swap meet organizers have their own lobbying association that effectively pressured the California legislature to allow swap meet vendors to keep selling animals. The group eventually withdrew its opposition to the bill when it was amended to regulate, rather than ban, the sale of animals at swap meets.

Other interests have likely excluded livestock from the protection of animal swap meet regulations and laws. For instance, the Virginia law only applies protections to cats and dogs sold at swap meets. In keeping with a general tendency to prioritize the wellness of common household pets over the wellness of livestock, current animal swap meet laws are particularly tailored to the protection of cats and dogs.

Detailing specific requirements within the statute itself is crucial because asking localities to adopt provisions that are “similar” to existing laws, like Nevada has done, may not provide local government with enough clarity to draft comprehensive ordinances. Requiring localities to include specific standards in their ordinances, on the other hand, will help law enforcement determine who is violating and complying with the law. New laws that merge standard of care requirements with local control may appease both animal advocates and local communities that wish to maintain their local traditions.




1 2013 California Assembly Bill No. 339, California 2013-2014 Regular Session.

2 Robert Binning, Chapter 231: Putting Swap Meet Animal Vendors in the Dog House: Regulating the Sale of Animals at Swap Meets, 45 McGeorge L. Rev. 540, 557 (2014).

3 Elana Pisani, California Tackles Flea Market Pet Sales, GLOBAL ANIMAL (Sept. 12, 2013), http://www.globalanimal.org/2013/09/12/california-tackles-flea-market-pet-sales/.

4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOTD69bhLNM

5 http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/77th2013/Minutes/Senate/NR/Final/1190.pdf.

6 http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/77th2013/Minutes/Senate/NR/Final/1190.pdf.

7 http://update.legislature.ne.gov/?p=14929.

8 Interview with Roger Dickinson, former California senator and bill sponsor, over the phone (June 17, 2016).

9 2013 California Assembly Bill No. 339, California 2013-2014 Regular Session Legislative History.

10 2013 California Assembly Bill No. 339, California 2013-2014 Regular Session Legislative History (7-Arguments in Opposition).

11 Born Free USA (Co-Sponsor), State Humane Association of California (Co-Sponsor), Action for Animals, AFL-CIO American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Place, Best Friends Animal Society, Central California SPCA, Central Coast Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, House Rabbit Society, United States Humane Society of Ventura County, Humane Society Silicon Valley, Inland Valley Humane Society & S.P.C.A., Lake Tahoe Humane Society and S.P.C.A., Marin Humane Society, Orange County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Palo Alto Humane Society, Paw PAC Public Interest Coalition, RedRover Sacramento, San Francisco SPCA, Santa Cruz SPCA, Santa Maria Valley Humane Society, SPCA for Monterey County, Yolo County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

12 2013 California Assembly Bill No. 339, California 2013-2014 Regular Session Legislative History.

13 http://www.abc10.com/news/local/california/seeking-to-stop-swap-meet-pet-sales/194856372

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