Full Title Name:  Table of State Laws Concerning Minimum Age for Sale of Puppies

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Rebecca F. Wisch Publish Year:  2017 Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center
Summary:

This table summarizes state laws and administrative regulations concerning the minimum age to sell a puppy. Approximately 25 states have a law or regulation that addresses the sale of puppies under a certain age (usually 7 or 8 weeks).

“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-five 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 twenty-five 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, states like 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 vary. 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 results in a fine of $1,000, and Virginia has an enhanced penalty for subsequent convictions. States may also revoke pet dealer or breeder licenses for violating the laws. Some 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      
Alaska      
Arizona A.R.S. § 44-1799.04 “Pet Dealer” - a person who owns a pet storeLess than eight weeks oldOffer for sale  Class 1 misdemeanor No
Arkansas      
CaliforniaWest'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 oldSell – defined as when seller “physically transfers the dog or dogs to the purchaser.”An infraction or misdemeanorNo
Colorado

C.R.S.A. § 35-80-108

 

Any person or entity

 

Under eight weeks oldSell, transfer, or adopt"Unlawful" and "violation" of the chapterNo
ConnecticutC.G.S.A. § 22-354Any 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

 

$1,000 fine

No
Delaware      
D.C.      
FloridaF.S.A. §828.29Any person

Less than eight weeks old

Transport into the state for sale or offer for sale within the stateMisdemeanor of the first degree as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083No
GeorgiaGa Comp. R. & Regs. 40-13-13-.04(2)Pet Dealers, which are defined as means any person who sells, offers to sell, exchanges, or offers for adoption dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles, or other animals customarily obtained as pets in this state. Ga. Code Ann., § 4-11-1Puppies must be a minimum age of eight weeks prior to saleSold, offered for sale, exchanged, or offered for adoption

Shall be guilty of a misdemeanor

License may be denied, suspended, or revoked 


Ga Comp. R. & Regs. 40-13-13-.09

Any person who sells only animals they have produced shall not be considered a pet dealer Ga Comp. R. & Regs. 40-13-13-.07
Hawaii      
Idaho      
Illinois225 I.L.C.S. § 605/2.2No dog dealer, kennel operator, or cattery operator for saleUnder eight weeks oldSeparate from its motherNot specifiedNo
IndianaI.C.§ 15-17-18-10

A person

Under the age of eight weeksImport 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      
KansasBy administrative regulation - KS ADC 9-25-12A retail breeder licenseeUnless 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 exchangeNot specifiedNo
Kentucky      
Louisiana LSA-R.S. 3:2511 A retail pet store

Dogs or cats younger than eight weeks oldOffer for sale (defined as sell, offer for sale or adoption, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of a dog or cat) Not listed in the new law (2016) None listed
MaineBy administrative regulation: 01-001 CMR Ch. 701, § I(N)Any personUntil completion of seventh week of lifeSell, adopt, or give away"Unlawful" per regulationNo
MarylandMD Code, Criminal Law § 10-613

A person

Less than eight weeks oldSell 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

M.G.L.A. 129 § 39G

 

also by Admin. Regulation 330 CMR 12.05

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

"Licensee" under regulation

Cannot import under eight weeks by statute

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

Import by statue

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

By statute (M.G.L.A. 129 § 43):

  • First offence by a fine of not more than $100
  • For any subsequent offence by a fine of not more than $500, or by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or both.

Not specified by reg.

 
MichiganM.C.L. 287.335a

A person who operates a pet shop

A person who operates an animal control shelter or an animal protection shelter

A large-scale dog breeding kennel

(terms defined in M.C.L. 287.331)

A pet shop shall not import or cause to be imported into this state a dog or cat that is less than 8 weeks old.

An animal control shelter or an animal protection shelter shall not import or cause to be imported into this state a dog or cat that is less than 8 weeks old unless the dog or cat is imported with its dam.

A large-scale dog breeding kennel shall not import or cause to be imported into this state a dog that is less than 8 weeks old unless the dog is imported with its dam.

Import or cause to be imported into this state

After notice and an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing under Michigan's APA:

  • suspend or revoke a license or registration issued to the person under this act.
  • impose an administrative fine of not more than $1,000.00 for each violation.

Also can obtain a declaratory order or injunction.

M.C.L. 287.339b

No
MinnesotaM. S. A. § 347.59 A commercial breeder defined as "a person who possesses or has an ownership interest in animals and is engaged in the business of breeding animals for sale or for exchange in return for consideration, and who possesses ten or more adult intact animals and whose animals produce more than five total litters of puppies or kittens per year."Dogs or cats before the age of eight weeks Sold, traded, or given awayThe board must investigate upon receiving a formal complaint for violations of 347.59. The Board may then issue a "correction order" under 347.61 and other civil enforcement actions.Unless a veterinarian determines it would be in the best interests of the health or well-being of the animal
Mississippi      
Missouri

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

Any personUnder eight weeks old AND has been weanedDelivered by any person to any carrier or intermediate handler for transport, in commerce, or shall be transported in commerceNot specifiedExcept a registered research facility
Montana      
NebraskaNeb. Rev. St. § 28-1018A person, other than an animal control facility or animal shelterUnder eight weeks of age without its motherSellClass V misdemeanorExcludes:
  • 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.
NevadaN.R.S. § 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 laterSeparate puppy or kitten from its mother prior to weaningA person who violates the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanorNo
New Hampshire      
New Jersey      
New Mexico      
New YorkMcKinney's Agriculture and Markets Law § 402Pet 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 oldKnowingly 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 one hundred dollars and not more than one thousand dollars for each violation may be imposed.
No
North Carolina      
North Dakota      
OhioRC § 955.50No personUnder the age of eight weeksSell, 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 retailPenalty per 955.99(C): minor misdemeanor on first offense and a misdemeanor of fourth degree on subsequent offensesThis 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

Note that OK revoked its regulation in the commercial breeder regulations on selling or transferring cats and dogs under 8 weeks in 2014

Okla. Admin. Code 35:55-5-2 

    

 

 

Oregon      
Pennsylvania

3 P.S. § 459-603 

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

AnyoneUnder eight weeks oldBarter, 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 16 TAC § 91.113Licensed breeders, which is defined a dog or cat breeder who holds a license issued under chapter 802. V. T. C. A., Occupations Code § 802.001(13)A dog or cat at least eight weeks of age. Sell, trade, or give awayMay not exceed $5,000 per day for each violation

License may be denied, revoked, suspended, or refused to renew V. T. C. A., Occupations Code § 802.251

 
UtahUT ADC R58-1-13(3) Any person, or the officers or employees of any person (see U.C.A. 1953 § 4-2-12U.C.A. 1953 § 4-2-14)No puppies or kittens less than 8 weeks of age Imported into the stateA penalty not to exceed $5,000 per violation in a civil proceeding, and in a criminal proceeding is guilty of a class B misdemeanor (see U.C.A. 1953 § 4-2-15)Unless accompanied by the mother.
Vermont      
VirginiaVa. Code Ann. § 3.2-6510Any personUnder seven weeks old without its dam or queenSell, raffle, give away, or offer for sale as pets or novelties, or offer or give as a prize, premium, or advertising deviceClass 3 misdemeanorDealers 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, a public or private animal shelter, or a veterinarian.

Washington      
West Virginia      
Wisconsin

W.S.A. 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 oldTransfer a dog to a buyerMay 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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