Pet Stores & Animal Vendors


At the beginning phase of this community-wide program, the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona sent out certified letters regarding the legal obligations of any business or organization in the care and control of a mammal, reptile, amphibian or bird. Pet stores, animal breeding facilities, grooming establishments, kennels, animal shelters and rescue groups all received this notice of their obligations under the law.

In Fall 2004, ACT enforcement officers began making random and unannounced visits to these businesses and organizations in Tucson and Pima County. These inspections are designed to assure compliance with all state and local laws governing the proper, humane care of animals. ACT officers will also be working to confirm that the public trust is being upheld through the truthful representation of animals for sale, as outlined by ARS 44-1799 (“The Puppy Lemon Law“). Humane societies, animal control facilities. commercial livestock operations and commercial livestock auction markets are legally exempt from ARS 44-1799.

Although ACT has not found widespread violations, there are several areas where these types of businesses and organizations consistently fail to meet the legal standard. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with these common errors in order to ensure that your establishment is in compliance.


• The establishment does not have a veterinarian of record; or the veterinarian of record does not regularly inspect the animals in the facility to ensure their good health and proper care. (A violation under ARS 44-1799, Class One Misdemeanor.)

• The establishment is unable to provide proper breeding history or medical records upon request for the animals in their care. (A violation under ARS 44-1799, Class One Misdemeanor.)

• The establishment is knowingly and purposefully misrepresenting an animal’s breed, pedigree or current health conditions in order to make a sale. (A violation under ARS 44-1799, Class One Misdemeanor.)

• The establishment has not posted the required public notice on the Puppy Lemon Law. (This requirement applies only to businesses that sell cats and dogs. It does not apply to businesses that allow outside non-profit organizations, such as humane societies or rescue groups, to use their facility for the purpose of placing homeless cats and dogs.) (A violation under ARS 44-1799, Class One Misdemeanor.)

NOTE: ARS 44-1799 states that a pet store that trades in dogs and cats shall post the following notice within close proximity of the cages or enclosures in which cats or dogs are offered for sale: “Pursuant to title 44, chapter 11, article 17, Arizona Revised Statutes, information on the source of the cat or dog and any veterinary treatment received by the cat or dog is available for review. You are entitled to a copy of the law describing your rights as a consumer.” ACT now has posters available at a cost of $5.00 each that comply with this statute. To receive your copy, please send a check or money order to: Animal Cruelty Taskforce, Attention: Pet Store Monitoring Program, 3450 N. Kelvin Boulevard, Tucson, Arizona 85716.

The establishment has neglected the needs of the animal where serious bodily injury or death has occurred. Neglect can include failure to provide the animal with medical care, proper diet or drinkable water, appropriate housing, proper hygiene conditions, appropriate grooming or other factors that threaten the animal’s health or well-being. (These could be violations under all applicable Arizona State, Pima County and City of Tucson ordinances. Such violations could be charged as a Class One Misdemeanor or a Class Six Felony. See our “Laws” page for additional information on these statutes.)

The establishment is not properly euthanizing animals when required; or is using methods of inflicting death that are inherently cruel or illegal under law. [For related information, see the protocol on cervical dislocation below.]

NOTE: The legal form of euthanasia for animals in this jurisdiction is lethal injection administered by a licensed veterinarian. Any other form of inflicting death — including drowning, suffocation, strangulation, poisoning, blunt force trauma, etc. — are illegal and will be prosecuted. If your establishment provides “feeder animals,” the legal method for immobilizing such animals is spinal dislocation. “Thumping” feeder animals against a hard service, freezing them or breaking their necks are all illegal.


If your business is visited by enforcement officers from ACT, please be prepared to provide them with the proper medical or breeding records and with access to any areas of your establishment where animals are kept or cared for. Inspecting officers will provide you with proper identification upon entering your business. Inspectors can include officers from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Pima Animal Care Center or Tucson Police Department. In most cases, routine inspections should last approximately half an hour.

Please remember that most of these inspections will be random. Being inspected does not necessarily mean that your business has received public complaints or is the subject of a criminal investigation. In many cases, if violations are found, the business will be so informed in writing and given a reasonable period of time in which to correct the problem. Your help and compliance with the inspection process will ensure that animals are safe and prosecution unnecessary.


Recommended protocol for pet stores from the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona.

The Use of Feeder Animals
Many pet stores sells rodents and other small mammals for the purposes of feeding snakes and other various reptiles and predators. Often it is necessary to immobilize the feeder animal so the predator can feed without incurring injury. Unfortunately, too many pet stores use techniques to immobilize feeder animals that are inherently cruel and thereby illegal under city, county and state statutes. These techniques may include “thumping” the animal against a hard surface, freezing the animal alive, drowning, suffocation or breaking the animal’s neck by twisting the head. These and other related techniques are illegal and will be prosecuted.

The Use of Cervical Dislocation
The American Veterinary Medical Association, Stanford University and the Southern Arizona Veterinary Medical Association all recommend the use of cervical dislocation as the most effective and humane way to immobilize a feeder animal. Research indicates that cervical dislocation provides for the LEAST AMOUNT of pain and suffering for the feeder animal.

Before using the technique of cervical dislocation, it should be practiced on anaesthetized mice until the operator is competent.

  1. Restrain the rodent in a normal standing position on a firm, flat surface and grasp the tail with one hand.
  2. Place a stick-type pen, a rod-shaped piece of wood or metal, or the thumb and first finger of the other hand against the back of the neck at the base of the skull.
  3. To produce the dislocation, quickly push forward and down with the hand or object restraining the head while pulling backward with the hand holding the tail.

Performing the procedure on a surface that the animal can grip may make it easier to gain access to the base of the skull because rodents often stretch themselves forward when held by the tail. The effectiveness of dislocation can be verified by separation of cervical tissues. When the spinal cord is severed, a 2-4 mm space will be palpable between the occipital condyles and the first cervical vertebra. Occasionally, however, the dislocation occurs between thoracic vertebrae. Check closely to confirm respiratory arrest, and when possible verify, by palpation, that there is no heart beat.

The Responsibility of Pet Stores That Sell Feeder Animals

It is the legal responsibility of the pet store owner and manager to ensure that any staff member working with feeder animals is competent in performing cervical dislocation. The Animal Cruelty Taskforce recommends that every pet store that sells feeder animals consult with their contract veterinarian for additional information or training on this technique.