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5 Legal Tips If You're Opening a Pet Store

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

For animal lovers looking to open up a neighborhood pet store, what are some legal tips you should keep in mind?

Unlike a typical retail store that sells clothes or toys, owning a pet store requires that you take care of live animals.

So here are five tips to keep in mind if you're opening a pet store:

  1. Get the proper licenses. Before opening up shop, all business owners need to obtain a business license from their state and perhaps even their local jurisdiction. Some states also require pet stores to obtain a specific pet shop license. The license application may ask you to list the types of animals you'll be selling and provide a detailed floor plan of the shop. Pet shop owners won't be able to operate their business until they get at least a general business license from their state if a pet shop license isn't required.
  2. Know the zoning regulations. Local zoning ordinances will tell you where you can open a pet store. While pet stores that carry small domestic pets like cats and fish will likely be allowed to open up in regular commercial zones, stores that sell larger animals (like those considered to be livestock) may not be allowed unless proper permits are acquired and there's enough space for the animals to roam.
  3. Take care of the animals. Another legal tip for potential pet store owners is to abide by your state's health and animal cruelty codes. While that may seem obvious, each state has specific rules for running a pet store. For example, in California, pet store operators (or at least one of her employees) must be present in the store at least once a day, even on days when the store is closed, to care for the animals.
  4. Make sure the animals are legal. When choosing which animals to sell at your pet store, be sure that it's legal to have those animals either in the state or country. There are some animals that are illegal to keep as pets, like groundhogs. However, these restrictions vary by state. When it comes exotic animals, most jurisdictions require a permit to sell exotic pets and you may even need to get a license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture too, according to the American Bar Association.
  5. Purchase insurance. No matter how experienced you or your employees are with handling pets or how gentle a customer is being, there's always a chance of injuries. So it's a good idea to purchase commercial insurance or pet store business insurance in case someone gets bitten or injured.

These are just a few legal tips to think about when opening a pet store. For more specific guidance on starting your pet store business, you may want to call an experienced business lawyer who's familiar with the laws in your area.

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