A woman walked into a pet shop in Fairfax City. She went there often, sometimes just to pet the animals. But that day she finally saw the puppy she wanted. It was one of the smallest dogs, white with brown spots. She took it home and named it Bailey.
But soon, Bailey started coughing and sneezing. She wouldn't drink water, wouldn't eat. Days after the purchase, Bailey's owner took her to the vet clinic, which informed her that Bailey had pneumonia, parvovirus, and a congenital heart defect. None of this had been disclosed prior to sale.
"Bailey might not make it," they said, "do you want us to try to save her life?"
Today Bailey has fully recovered. She came down to Richmond and sat quietly in her owner's lap in a Senate Committee meeting. Thanks to a loving owner, she survived. And now she is the face of successful legislation I sponsored (SB 228), which will greatly strengthen regulations of pet stores in Virginia:
"Bailey's law" has two parts: one is a disclosure, the other is a guaranty.
In regard to disclosure, pet shops starting on July 1, 2014 will be required to disclose the origin of any companion animal, the USDA breeder's license number, and the name of the breeder. This allows the consumer to know that the dog or cat comes from a registered, licensed breeder, and not from a puppy mill.
The guaranty works like this: if the newly purchased pet becomes sick or diseased within a two week period, the owner has a right to collect a refund. The owner will provide proof of veterinary costs, and the pet shop will give money back up to the cost of the animal.
Currently pet buyers have a right to return the animal for a full refund, but once people have bonded with an animal, they want to nurse it back to health. This is especially true since "give backs" to the pet store will typically result in the returned pet being euthanized. And that’s not what we want.
Like most legislation, "Bailey's Law" is a compromise between all of the parties involved. We worked with the Humane Society, the Virginia Veterinary Association, pet owners, and small business owners to craft a bill that satisfied the concerns of all parties. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and by a large margin in the House.
"Bailey's Law" is an example of a bill that occurs in response to a constituent concern. I'm actually not a pet owner. But I appreciate citizens who do the right thing and seek to protect all creatures, great or small. For that reason, I was happy to sponsor SB 228.