Each year millions of pets across the United States end up in animal shelters, where many of them will remain for the rest of their lives. A new law in California aims to reverse this trend by becoming the first state to restrict pet stores to selling only rescue animals.

The move is one of a number of recent law changes in California – a state already known for its progressive legislation – that aim to tackle issues including climate change, energy storage and transportation.

Under the new law, pet retailers can no longer source dogs, cats and rabbits from breeders, but must instead obtain their stock from animal shelters. Businesses are subject to random inspections from authorities and must record where each animal came from. Failure to comply with the new statewide legislation, known as AB 485, could result in a fine of $500.

Household penetration rates for pet-ownership in the US

 Household penetration rates for pet-ownership in US

The number of US households with pets has been growing steadily, increasing more than 10% over the last two decades. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 6.5 million pets fill the country’s shelters. And although 710,000 shelter animals are returned to their owners each year, about 1.5 million others are put down.

The new law aims to increase the number of rescue animals going to new homes, thereby reducing the burden on California’s taxpayers. It also aims to choke off pet “factories” which breed puppies and kittens in huge numbers, often in inhumane conditions.

While pet stores have expressed fears their business might suffer, the legislation has been well received by California’s animal welfare groups.

But California’s recent legislation drive goes far beyond impounded cats and dogs, here are just a few examples of new rules that aim to enact positive change in the state.

Solar for new homes

California is set to become the first state to require new houses to be fitted with solar power systems. A recent vote by the California Energy Commission changed regulations for buildings under three storeys to increase their reliance on renewable energy. The building code amendment, due to come into force in 2020, will help cement California’s position as a solar energy leader in the US.

The decision followed a legislative commitment by California governor Jerry Brown to generate 100% of the state’s energy needs from renewable resources by 2045.

Switching to solar is expected to bring environmental and economic benefits. Although solar panels could increase the cost of new homes by an average of $9,500, experts argue they will add to the value of a building through lower energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint.

Energy storage

Legislators are pushing ahead with other renewable energy policies including extending subsidies for energy storage systems, which also help to support the solar market.

A new law, SB 700, allows for a five-year extension of the Self Generation Incentive Program (SCIP) with funding for energy storage systems such as battery installations in homes and schools.

Electric buses

There are also legislative changes to the Golden State’s transport sector. A California Clean Air Resources Board decree prohibits cities buying non-electric buses in a bid to switch to a 100% electric bus network.

Privately owned vehicles and school buses are exempt but petrol and diesel public buses will be banned by 2029. Beginning in 2023 agencies will be required to buy electric buses 25% of the time, increasing to 50% the following year.

If California were an independent country it would have the fifth-largest economy in the world. Alongside its economic success, the state is also leading the charge on green issues with environmental legislation that demonstrates a commitment to building a more sustainable future.