“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-seven states, as well as D.C., 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 (D.C., Virginia, and Wisconsin) require that a puppy be at least eight weeks old before being offered for sale. 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 fifteen of the twenty-eight 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 laws' 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.
In many states, only the movement of underage dogs or cats in commerce results in a violation of laws. For example, the law might only concern the importation or transportation of puppies or kittens for sale within the state as is the case in Florida, Indiana, and Illinois. 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. Less than half of 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. For many states, the laws only apply to pet dealers, retail pet store, or pet breeders, so penalties involve revocation of state licenses or other administrative penalties.
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 is to talk to a veterinarian in advance to find the best age to adopt a new puppy.
Citation and Link
Persons Covered by Law
Minimum Age Under Which Cannot Sell
Actions to Which Law Applies
|Arizona||A.R.S. § 44-1799.04||“Pet Dealer” - means a person who owns a pet store under § 44-1799.||Less than eight weeks old||Offer for sale||Class 1 misdemeanor||No|
West's Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 597z
Under Section 597z, any person who sells unless approved by Cal. licensed veterinarian.
Section 12155 under the Health & Safety Code is limited to "pet dealer."
Under Section § 122125, "pet dealer" means a person engaging in the business of selling dogs or cats, or both, at retail, and by virtue of the sales of dogs and cats is required to possess a permit pursuant to Section 6066 of the Revenue and Taxation Code.
|Under eight weeks old|
Under Section 597z: unlawful to sell, defined as when seller “physically transfers the dog or dogs to the purchaser.”
Under Section § 122125, a pet dealer shall not be in possession of a dog that is less than eight weeks old.
Under Section 597z, violation is an infraction or misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $250.
Under Section § 122150, any person violating any provision of this article other than Section 122205 shall be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation.
Any person or entity
|Under eight weeks old||Sell, transfer, or adopt|
"Unlawful" and "violation" of the chapter
Civil penalty: under § 35-80-113, any person who violates any provision of this article or any rule adopted pursuant to this article is subject to a civil penalty, as determined by the commissioner. The maximum penalty shall not exceed one thousand dollars per violation.
|Connecticut||C.G.S.A. § 22-354||Any person, firm, or corporation||Under eight weeks old|
Import or export for the purposes of sale, adoption or transfer or offering for sale, adoption or transfer any dog or cat under the age of eight weeks unless such dog or cat is transported with its dam.
Sell or offer for adoption or transfer within the state any dog or cat under the age of eight weeks.
|With the import or export for the purposes of sale, adoption or transfer or offering for sale, adoption or transfer, a dog or cat younger than eight weeks of age may be transported with its dam.|
|D.C.||DC CODE § 8-1808||A person||At least 6 weeks of age|
Separate a puppy or a kitten from its mother
Give, sell, or offer for sale a puppy or kitten under 6 weeks of age, unless the puppy's or kitten's mother is given or sold to the same person as the puppy or kitten.
The Mayor shall issue rules to set specific fine amounts for violations of each provision of this subchapter; provided, that the fines shall not exceed the following amounts:
(1) $500 for each offense, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection.
(2) $1000 for each offense for violations of § 8-1808(n), (o) or (p)(1).
|Shall not apply in cases where a mother poses a danger to its offspring.|
|Florida||F.S.A. §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||Ga Comp. R. & Regs. 40-13-13-.04(2)||Pet Dealers: 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., § 4-11-1||Puppies must be a minimum age of eight weeks prior to sale||Sold, offered for sale, exchanged, or offered for adoption|
Shall be guilty of a misdemeanor
License may be denied, suspended, or revoked
|Any person who sells only animals they have produced shall not be considered a pet dealer (unless meets other conditions listed) Ga Comp. R. & Regs. 40-13-13-.07|
|Illinois||225 I.L.C.S. § 605/2.2|
Dog dealer, dog breeder, or cat breeder
Defined under Sec. 605/2:
|Until such puppy or kitten has attained the age of 8 weeks.||Separate from its mother for the purpose of sale||Not specified||No|
|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.|
|Kansas||By administrative regulation: KS ADC 9-25-12||A retail breeder licensee|
Puppy must be 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|
A retail pet store
“Retail pet store” means a retail establishment where dogs or cats are sold, exchanged, bartered, or offered for sale as pet animals to the general public at retail. Such definition shall not include an animal care facility or animal rescue organization.
|Dogs or cats younger than eight weeks old||Offer 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 law||No|
|Maine||By administrative regulation: 01-001 CMR Ch. 701, § I(N)||Any person||Until completion of seventh week of life||Unlawful to sell, adopt, or give away||Per subsection (P): "The Animal Welfare Program will, upon written complaint by any person alleging violation of these Rules, or upon its own motion if it has reason to believe such a violation exists, cause an investigation to be made. If a violation is found to exist, the Animal Welfare Program or the Attorney General may seek enforcement remedies including but not limited to revocation or suspension of the license."||No|
|Maryland||MD Code, Criminal Law § 10-613|
|Less than eight weeks old UNLESS accompanied by its dam.||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:
(1) a biomedical facility that is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture; or
A person may give an unaccompanied dog or cat to:
By statute M.G.L.A. 129 § 39G
Also by admin. regulation 330 CMR 12.05
Pet shop, commercial establishment, firm or corp. under M.G.L.A. 129 § 39G
"Licensee" (pet shop) under 330 CMR 12.05
Cannot import under eight weeks M.G.L.A. 129 § 39G
Younger than eight weeks old (330 CMR 12.05)
Import into the commonwealth, for sale or resale in the commonwealth (M.G.L.A. 129 § 39G)
Acquire, display, offer for sale, sell or give away (330 CMR 12.05)
By statute (M.G.L.A. 129 § 43):
Penalty not specified for violation of regulation.
A person who operates a pet shop (a place where animals are sold or offered for sale, exchange, or transfer).
A person who operates:
A large-scale dog breeding kennel (a facility where more than 15 female intact dogs over the age of 4 months are housed or kept for the primary purpose of breeding. As used in this subdivision, “housed or kept for the primary purpose of breeding” means that the female dog has previously been bred and whelped. A female dog that has not previously produced offspring shall not be considered to have been housed or kept for the primary purpose of breeding).
Less than 8 weeks old
(with exceptions for animal shelters/protection agencies and large-scale dog breeding kennels that import underage dogs and cats with their dams)
Import or cause to be imported into this state a dog or cat that is less than 8 weeks old (exception for animal shelters/protection agencies and large-scale dog breeding kennels that import underage dogs and cats with their dams)
Sell, exchange, transfer, or offer for sale, exchange, or transfer a dog or cat that is less than 8 weeks old for pet shops and large-scale dog breeding kennels.
After notice and an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing under Michigan's APA:
Also can obtain a declaratory order or injunction.
|Exception for animal shelters/protection agencies and large-scale dog breeding kennels that import underage dogs and cats with their dams|
|Minnesota||M. S. A. § 347.59||Commercial breeder: 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. (Section 347.57)||Dogs or cats before the age of eight weeks||Sold, traded, or given away|
The 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|
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|
|Nebraska||Neb. Rev. St. § 28-1018||A person (other than other than an animal control facility, animal rescue, or animal shelter)||Under eight weeks of age without its mother||Sell||Class V misdemeanor||Excludes:|
|Nevada||N.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.
"Dealer" means a person who, for compensation or profit, buys, sells, breeds, trades or imports cats or dogs for resale (574.260)
|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||Misdemeanor||No|
|New Hampshire||N.H. Rev. Stat. § 437:8||No person, firm, corporation, or other entity||Less than 8 weeks of age|
Ship or bring into the state to offer for transfer in the state, any cat, dog, or ferret less than 8 weeks of age.
No person, firm, corporation, or other entity shall offer for transfer any cat, dog, or ferret less than 8 weeks of age.
|Any pet vendor who violates any of the provisions of this subdivision or rule adopted under it may be subject to an administrative fine levied by the commissioner, not to exceed $1,000 for each violation (437:10).||Animal shelter facilities, as defined in RSA 437:1, I, are exempt from the requirements of this section relative to transferring dogs, cats, and ferrets|
|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 it shall not include the following:
(a) Any 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;
(b) Any municipal pound or shelter dedicated to the care of unwanted animals which makes such animals available for adoption whether or not a fee for such adoption is charged, established and maintained pursuant to subdivision one of section one hundred fourteen of this https://www.animallaw.info/statute/ny-dogs-consolidated-dog-laws#s400chapter; and
(c) Any duly incorporated society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, duly incorporated humane society, duly incorporated animal protective association or other duly incorporated animal adoption or animal rescue organization dedicated to the care of unwanted animals which makes such animals available for adoption whether or not a fee for such adoption is charged that is exempt from taxes pursuant to paragraph (3) of subsection (c) of section 501 of the federal Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 501, or any subsequent corresponding sections of the federal Internal Revenue Code, as from time to time amended, that is registered with the department pursuant to section four hundred eight of this article.
|Younger than eight weeks old||Knowingly sell any cat or dog younger than eight weeks of age|
Per Section 406:
|Ohio||RC § 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.|
Note that OK revoked its regulation in the commercial breeder regulations on selling or transferring cats and dogs under 8 weeks in 2014
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 under 3 P.S. § 459-603
Transport any dog into this Commonwealth 3 P.S. 459-214
"Unlawful" - not otherwise specified
|Unless the dog has been orphaned and goes to/from a nonprofit kennel with veterinarian approval (3 P.S. § 459-603).|
|South Carolina||Code 1976 § 47-1-200||A person||A dog or cat under eight weeks of age||Must not be imported or exported without being accompanied by its dam.||Misdemeanor with fine not less than $200 nor more than $500 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days, or both||Allowed if dog or act under eight weeks is accompanied by its dam|
|Texas||By administrative regulation: 16 TAC § 91.113||Licensed breeders: 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 away
Also, Section 802.201 states that rules adopting minimum standards must prohibit a dog or cat breeder from selling, trading, or giving away an animal before the animal is eight weeks of age.
|If a person violates this chapter or a rule adopted under this chapter, the person is subject to any action or penalty under Subchapter F or G, Chapter 51.||No|
|Utah||By administrative regulation: UT ADC R58-1-13(3)||Under enabling statute, it is unlawful for any person, or the officer or employee of any person, to willfully violate, disobey, or disregard this title or any notice or order issued under this title. U.C.A. 1953 § 4-2-303||No puppies or kittens less than 8 weeks of age||Imported into the state|
Under enabling statute, any person, or the officer or employee of any person, who violates this title or any lawful notice or order issued pursuant to this title shall be assessed a penalty not to exceed $5,000 per violation in a civil proceeding, and is guilty of a class B misdemeanor in a criminal proceeding.
A subsequent criminal violation within two years is a class A misdemeanor.
|Unless accompanied by the mother|
|Virginia||Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6510||A person||Under seven weeks old without its dam or queen||Sell, raffle, give away, 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, a public or private animal shelter, or a veterinarian.
|Wisconsin||Any person licensed as a/an:||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.||No|