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Kern County cracking down on unlicensed pet breeders

“It's mostly social media"
Kern County Animal Services (FILE)
Kern County Animal Services (FILE)
Kern County Animal Services (FILE)
Kern County Animal Services (FILE)
Posted at 7:57 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-19 02:17:43-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif — Kern County is cracking down on persons or businesses taking part in the unlicensed selling and breeding of dogs and cats without a permit. 23ABC spoke to one local animal rescue that says unlicensed selling and breeding negatively impact her organization's effect on the community.

Director of Pet Matchmaker Rescue Morgan Sokolow says during the pandemic, more people in Kern County started breeding their own animals.

“The issue in Kern County has been a lot of illegal breeding for a long time. It definitely increases the numbers significantly with the populations that we are dealing with,” explained Sokolow. “There are two different types of breeders. There are the backyard breeders who are looking to make money and then there are legal breeders who follow the rules. They don’t breed their dog more than twice.”

Kern County Animal Services (FILE)
File image of Kern County Animal Services building in Bakersfield, Calif.

According to Kern County Animal Services, to buy, sell, breed, or board dogs and cats, you need to obtain a commercial animal facility permit, among other requirements. This does not apply to animal shelters.

Commercial Animal Facility Permit

No person shall own, operate, conduct or maintain a commercial animal facility without first having obtained a permit as prescribed by the director. The payment of an annual permit fee for the operation of the commercial animal facility shall be in accordance with the fee schedule as established by the board of supervisors. The permit holder shall be entitled to maintain any number of animals provided the permit holder complies with the provisions of this title and any and all laws relating to commercial, animal facilities, the cat and/or dog numerical limitations established as a condition of the permit, and the treatment of animals.

“Commercial facility animal permit - you do not have to be what you believe is commercial. Just you breeding your dog and selling it once means you need a permit to do that,” said Nick Cullen, the director of Kern County Animal Services.

Definition of a Commercial Animal Facility

Commercial animal facility" means any premises wherein any person engages in the business, as it relates to dogs or cats, of buying or selling, of boarding, of breeding more than one (1) litter per year, of letting for hire, or training for a fee to do work, except an animal shelter as defined in Section 7.08.015 (D)

Cullen says the ordinance has always been enforced, but more advertisements and complaints from the community have forced officials to increase permit enforcement.

“It's mostly social media, people on Facebook selling puppies. We’ve looked into a lot of them.”

Sokolow says some do it maliciously.

“They will use a picture of a crate to hide the fact that they selling bred dogs.”

Social Media Posts Advertising Dogs for Sale
Two social media images show dogs for sale.

Cullen says when investigating tips and complaints from the community, they find most people don’t know they have to have a permit.

“One individual or organization that was actively selling and breeding dogs were not shy about it. They built their own website and they were advertising it out there and they just didn’t know.”

Cullen says the goal is to educate the community and achieve compliance. If not, then the next step is penalties.

“If a citation is issued, the court system issues the fine. We don’t. Its generally a misdemeanor, maximum punishment misdemeanor.”

Kern County Animal Services (FILE)
File image of a dog in a shelter cage at the Kern County Animal Services Adoption Center in Bakersfield, Calif.

Sokolow says she is relieved the county is doing more to control unlicensed breeders and sellers but says more can be done to fix this issue.

“I think a mandatory spay and neuter law for the next five years would be ideal. Where you couldn’t breed your animal without a very specific license.”

Kern County Animal Services says the cost of a permit ranges depending on the number of animals are sold and bred and can cost between $150 to $450 a year.

If you are interested in selling and breeding animals and are wondering how to get a permit or report people operating without one, you can email cafp@kerncounty.com for more information.