Animal Welfare Act: Regulating Animals Caught in the Pet Trade

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture regulations establish licensing requirements and provide rules for identification of animals, inspections, record keeping, and staffing. 9 C.F.R. 1.1-3.19. There are certain standards that are described in the regulations for the care of animals at the breeder’s facility and during transport.

For example, breeders are required to provide adequate veterinary care and even observe the animals daily. 9 C.F.R. 2.40. The regulations state housing must be sanitary and in good repair with surfaces that can be cleaned and are impervious to moisture. 9 C.F. R. 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.11. The area where the animal is housed is required to be kept dry and cleaned of waste once each day. 9 C.F.R. 3.11 But the regulations permit animals to live in cages with pans or areas underneath to catch waste. These pans or areas must be cleaned "as often as necessary to prevent accumulation of feces and food waste and to reduce disease hazards, pests, insects and odors." 9 C.F.R. 3.11 There are also requirements for adequate ventilation, lighting and protection from extremes of temperature. 9 C.F.R. 3.2, 3.3, 3.4.

It is required that breeders "[p]rovide sufficient space to allow each dog and cat to turn about freely, to stand, sit, and lie in a comfortable, normal position, and to walk in a normal manner". 9 C.F.R. 3.6 Each dog must be provided with space calculated by dividing the mathematical square of the length of the dog plus 6 inches by 144. 9 C.F.R. 3.6(c(1). There must also be 6 inches of space above the dog’s head. Simply put, a dog that is 40 inches long must be given 14.69 square feet of space.

The regulations require each dog must be provided with regular exercise. 9 C.F.R. 3.8 Curiously, exercise may be provided, however, by putting a dog in group housing even in a cage as long as it provides at least 100 percent of the required space for each dog. That means if a dog that is 40 inches long is put with other dogs in a cage with 215.92 square feet of space, according to the USDA it has been provided with exercise. Alternatively, the exercise requirement may be met by housing the dog alone in a cage with about 29 square feet of space.

There are requirements for providing clean, wholesome, nutritious food in sufficient quantities to animals at least once a day. 9 C.F. R. 3.9 Potable water in clean bowls must be provided not less than twice each day for an hour on each occasion. 9 C.F. R. 3.10 For a copy of the regulations for dog and cat breeders, click here. Animal Welfare Act regulations issued by USDA

The USDA regulations are enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The standards required, however, are minimal; the regulations require no more care than necessary to keep animals breeding. To some extent difficult to enforce because they are vague. The APHIS Animal Care inspectors are very understaffed and overworked.

There are less than 100 inspectors for the thousands of breeders and dealers along with the other facilities APHIS monitors, i.e., exhibitions, circuses, and research facilities. APHIS’ approach has been to encourage compliance and not penalize or shut down mill operations.

Moreover, the USDA has interpreted the AWA to exclude breeders who sell puppies or kittens from their residences 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).

These breeders who sell directly to the public are also not regulated in most states.

2 thoughts on “Animal Welfare Act: Regulating Animals Caught in the Pet Trade”

  1. Non profit cat rescue
    Lots of comments about dog breeders but the show cat breeders are even worst. Since it take place in homes, it rarely is reported. Kittens born sub-standard are routinely killed. I have personally seen and reported a breeder of Persians where 65 cats and kittens were stored 6 feet high in small cages, located in a boiler room. There was no running water, fresh food and conditions were filthy. Cages were full of feces and no air conditioning in July, it must have been over 90 degrees. The smell was unbelievable. The police wre called after the husband had his wife committed to a mental hospital. I took photos and sent them to the president of the CFA who had this breeder suspended. She admitted there were no regulations for sanitary conditions and the person would probably get back in. The local SPCA said they could not do anything as pets are personal property in PA and there are no regulations or inspections for cat breeders. This woman is back in business.

  2. Its horrible to breed little animals they didnt to anything to hurt you. So all iam trying to say is Leave them alone!

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