Who Would Buy An Animal at a Flea Market Anyway?


Dickinson Introduces Legislation to Ban the Sale of Animals at Swap Meets and Flea Markets 

Sacramento – The sale of animals at swap meets and flea markets would be prohibited under legislation introduced February 13 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Sacramento Democrat.

Dickinson’s legislation, AB 339, seeks to prevent the suffering of animals, protect consumers, and eliminate the public health and safety risks and potential threats of disease outbreaks associated with such sales. 

Dickinson“Animals 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,” said Dickinson. “AB 339 would prohibit the sale of animals at swap meets and flea markets to alleviate the suffering of these animals, ensure that public health and safety is protected, and safeguard consumers,” he added. 

At swap meets and flea markets, animals are frequently kept in unsanitary, crowded pens or cages, without food or water, and/or in extreme heat and direct sunlight and handled by shoppers. It is unclear what their breeding conditions and transport prior to their appearance at the flea markets are. Puppies, kittens, baby rabbits and turtles, exotic birds, reptiles, and poultry are all commonly sold, frequently in close proximity to one another. The mixing of species, especially under unsanitary and inherently stressful situations, increases the risk of illness and disease. 

“I have personally witnessed the cruelty to which animals in flea markets are subjected when Born Free USA investigated these operations,” added Monica Engebretson, Senior Program Associate at Born Free USA. “Assemblymember Dickinson’s bill will prevent this suffering.” 

Animals who are ill or diseased may die shortly after purchase with no recourse for consumers because it can be impossible to track the seller. As a result, consumers can incur significant emotional and financial costs. Sick animals purchased at swap meets are likely to be surrendered to public or private shelters when the purchaser cannot afford or is otherwise not going to provide proper and necessary veterinarian care. Those surrendered animals cost substantial resources to rehabilitate. Furthermore, the sale of animals at venues like swap meets encourages impulse purchases of pets, thereby working to increase the overpopulation of unwanted animals.

 “A ban on the sale of animals at flea markets and swap meets dispenses with the time-consuming process of evaluating the welfare of each individual animal for sale,” explained Erica Hughes, Executive Director at the State Humane Association of California.  “This will provide a welcome tool to humane officers and animal control officers working to protect animals and the public.” 18122012383

Swap meets and flea markets have also historically been prime outlets for the sale of smuggled birds. A recent estimate suggests that anywhere from 3,000 to 9,400 parrots are smuggled from Mexico into the United States annually. In addition to conservation and animal welfare concerns, this trade has the potential to introduce parasites and diseases that may be transmitted to people, wildlife, and domestic livestock. Eradication costs associated with exotic poultry disease outbreaks in the United States typically cost about $1 million per day of the outbreak. 

In addition, exotic reptiles pose a significant threat to public health and safety because reptiles are common carriers of salmonella. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 93,000 salmonella cases caused by exposure to reptiles are reported each year in the U.S. The sale of turtles less than 4 inches long is prohibited by federal law due to the high risk of salmonella transmission to young children. Despite this, turtles less than 4 inches long are frequently sold at flea markets and swap meets in large numbers.

California law currently bans the sale of live animals on any street, highway, public right-of-way, parking lot, carnival, or boardwalk. Eight local governments have responded to the problems associated with flea market and swap meet sales by passing ordinances banning or limiting animal sales at swap meets. 

AB 339 is sponsored by Born Free USA and the State Humane Association of California and is supported by Humane Society of the United States and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The bill has not yet been referred to committee.


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