New USDA/APHIS Rules for Breeders Now in Effect

Puppy50_4x6Update September 18, 2013: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has now adopted as a final rule some regulation of breeders that sell directly to the public through ads. For more on this, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below. A copy of the new rules can be found here.

Original report: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’ Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is now accepting comments through August 15, 2012, a thirty day extention, on proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Act. Specifically, the USDA/APHIS proposes to increase from 3 to 4 the number of breeding animals a person could maintain without being subject to regulation under the Animal Welfare Act.

USDA/APHIS also proposes to narrow its interpretation of “retail pet stores” which are exempt from regulation under the AWA. USDA/APHIS has interpreted the AWA to include as “retail pet stores” and exclude from regulation those breeders that sell animals directly to the public. These breeders sell the animals over the internet or through newspaper ads. In a lawsuit to challenge the USDA’s interpretation, the D.C. Circuit sided with the USDA. See Doris Day Animal League v. Veneman, 315 F.3d 297 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Under the proposed change in the regulations, the AWA would now apply to breeders that don’t maintain a physical place, a residence or other place, where buyers can come in to observe the animals for sale prior to purchase. This change would apply to breeders that may sell animals sight unseen through internet, newspaper or other ads so that the purchaser has no opportunity to observe the health of the animal prior to the sale.

But it would be fairly easy for most breeders to circumvent this by setting up a place where buyers can observe the animals prior to sale. Many do that already. In effect, the regulations of AWA would still not apply to most breeders that sell animals directly to the public. Currently, the regulations only apply to breeders that sell animals through brokers or dealers.

Only about 1500 dog breeders would be affected by this change along with a few breeders of other animals. 1500 or so more breeders that are subject to federal regulation is good. But it’s not enough.

Go here for information about a scathing audit by the Office of Inspector General of APHIS lax and ineffective regulation of dog breeding facilities and the agency’s plan to remedy its failures; and for information about the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, the PUPS Act, pending federal legislation that would mandate APHIS regulate all dog breeders that sell directly to the public whether through the internet, newspaper ads or otherwise, and not only those that sell through brokers or dealers or that maintain show rooms where buyers can observe dogs for sale.