Can APHIS Improve Enough to Stop Puppy Mills?



Update Oct 1, 2011: Since the scathing 2010 OIG audit of APHIS’ lax and ineffective regulation of dog breeding facilities, the agency has issued APHIS’ Enhanced Animal Welfare Act Enforcement Plan.

The agency says it has stepped up the number of enforcement actions and increased monetary sanctions.

According to the Plan, there have been an increase in training, clarification of inspection standards, improved inspections and more support  and oversight for inspections; clarification of confiscation procedures for animals that are suffering, and improved processes for reporting animal cruelty and neglect to local agencies for prosecution. 

The agency plans to issue proposed rules that will extend regulation to the thousands of dog breeders now exempt from federal oversight, those that sell directly to the public through the internet, newspapers or otherwise.   

The PUPS Act, introduced initially in the last session of Congress in response to the audit, was re-introduced this session. That bill would require USDA to extend regulations to the now exempt dog breeders. The  PUPS Act would also increase some standards of care for the dogs. For more ….

For more on the 2010 audit, a look at current federal regulations for dog breeders and the 2010 PUPS Act, read Animal Law Coalition’s earlier report below

WASHINGTON, D.C.–May 25, 2010.  In response to a scathing report by the USDA Inspector General (IG), critical of the government’s handling of puppy mill investigations, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) today called for immediate changes at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) and promised to work with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on administrative and legislative reforms.

"This report raises serious concerns about APHIS’ ability to enforce the law, ensure the welfare of animals, and crack down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders," Durbin said. "While USDA has already begun to make administrative changes at APHIS, more needs to be done. I will work closely with Secretary Vilsack to ensure these changes address the complaints detailed in the Inspector General’s report. I’ll start today by introducing a bill that will close the loophole that allows large breeders to sell puppies online, escaping inspection and oversight."

"I am alarmed by the findings of today’s IG report and believe we cannot delay in making changes at APHIS that would stop the inhumane treatment of dogs, especially abusive and harmful breeding practices," said Vitter. "The bill we introduced today would help provide guidelines to breeders and ensure that puppies are bred in safe and sanitary facilities.  It is a first step in correcting the current problems in the Animal Welfare Act and making certain dogs are treated humanely."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General conducted an audit of APHIS’ Animal Care Unit and found four major flaws with their handling of puppy mill investigations:

APHIS’ "enforcement process was ineffective against problematic dealers." The IG report shows that more than half of the dog breeding facilities found to be in violation of the Animal Welfare Act repeatedly violated the law — some as many as a dozen times.

APHIS "inspectors did not document violations properly."  According to the report, 30% of inspectors failed to correctly report violations, resulting in some known violators receiving less frequent inspections and escaping strong enforcement. The report also says the reporting failure resulted in nearly 50% of all administrative hearings with problem dealers being compromised due to lack of evidence.

"APHIS misused guidelines to lower penalties for violators." In over 30% of cases, APHIS misused their own enforcement guidelines by inconsistently counting violations, applying penalty reductions without merit, and arbitrarily changing the gravity of some violations.

Large puppy mills "circumvented the law by selling animals over the internet." Because of a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, large puppy mills that sell dogs online are exempt from APHIS inspection and licensing requirement….

Durbin’s bill, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, would require all breeders that sell more than 50 dogs a year to be licensed and to undergo inspections to ensure dogs are receiving proper care. USDA played a role in developing the legislation and has endorsed the approach. Senator Vitter is the bill’s lead cosponsor.

Durbin said he was concerned about the numerous problems exposed by the Inspector General’s report. … Durbin plans to work closely with Secretary Vilsack in the coming weeks to address the APHIS’ problems. …A copy of the IG report can be found here…


For years, news reports have revealed glimpses of an unregulated and often hidden industry of puppy breeding that relies on housing dozens of puppies and dogs – sometimes hundreds — in cramped, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions.  The dogs raised in these facilities often suffer serious health problems.

Most commercial breeders are responsible dog owners who lovingly tend to the animals in their care.  But the substandard facilities, sometimes referred to as "puppy mills," not only harm puppies and the people who buy them, they also threaten the reputation of the broader dog breeding industry.

Current Federal Law

Under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), wholesale animal breeders – those who sell to pet stores, for instance — are regulated, licensed and subject to inspections by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at USDA.

Because retail pet stores are thought to be supplied by licensed, regulated breeders, retail stores are not regulated.  Now that on-line puppy sales happen every day, it is clear that law has not kept pace with recent developments.  Internet sales bypass the retail pet store.

A recent report released by USDA’s Inspector General suggests that the Department should tighten this loophole to prevent its exploitation by large, negligent breeders.

The PUPS Act would bring direct-to-buyer dog breeders into the regulatory framework that will require them to meet the basic standards for shelter, care and exercise. 

Find out more about the Animal Welfare Act Regulations.

Visit for more on Ohio’s puppy mills including information about licensed breeders and USDA and local inspection reports. Visit for more on Pennsylvania’s puppy mills including USDA and state licensed breeders and inspection reports. 



4 thoughts on “Can APHIS Improve Enough to Stop Puppy Mills?”

  1. I certainly appreciate and commend Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin and Senator David Vitter for initiating legislation to amend the Animal Welfare Act and improve the treatment of these victims of the nation’s commercial breeding industry. I thank these gentlemen for caring and for being willing to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. I think the time has come, however, to outlaw all commercial breeding of companion animals anywhere in the US. When 4-5 million pets are euthanized (mostly at taxpaers’ expense) each year for lack of homes, there is NO EXCUSE to breed dogs by the hundreds or thousands, NONE! Responsible animal lovers who mate their own pets for love of the breed would not produce more than 50 animals per year and should be allowed to continue, if they so desire. EVERYONE ELSE, EVERONE ELSE should be prohibited from doing so. Most of these poor animals spend their entire lives in a cage to make someone else a dollar. When we know that dogs are such sentient beings capable of so much emotion, who typically live with such a joy for life, this kind of existence is the cruelest form of unwarranted punishment I can imagine. With all the service these loving creatures have provided to mankind in war, police work, search and rescue, assisting those with disabilities, it is SHAMEFUL that anyone turns a blind eye to this abomination. Let’s do right by those who so faithfully serve and stand by us and end commercial breeding in this country for good!

  2. There should be no puppy mills period. Dogs should be raised only by Breeders that are interested in improving the breed and are very informed about the breed they are raising. If you raise a puppy correctly, you won’t be able to do it and make money. The mother should have special vet care before birthing her pups and the puppys should have vet care after being born. The puppies need to be cared for by the mother for 8 weeks before being seperated from her. They should be played with by humans and held and loved.
    I am saying any and all puppies should be raised in the family home as part of the family. If all puppies were raised like this there would be less unwanted dogs in the world and the dogs would be valued more by humans. The dogs and cats should never be used as a money making business!!

  3. It’s what it is called: An INDUSTRY!

    It’s not a necessity to have a breeding industry!

    There are hundreds of thousands of animals in shelters and killing shelters!

    Frankly – MOST of the breeders breed for money. They don’t provide a caring environment for the animals. It’s a means to gain reputation and money. Most breeds are weird in themselves…..
    A reality check: persian cats without nose, naked cats, naked dogs, stretched dogs like beagles. Many breeders are responsible for unmeasured suffering because of strange “fashionable” features they invent. Many breeders even try to compensate their own failure by inventing even weirder features!
    If breeding is allowed it should be limited, strongly controlled and ethics must be enforced!

  4. I agree, let’s do right by those who so faithfully serve and stand by us and end commercial breeding in this country for good. Like this one ( ) read what has to say about this breeding farm. Google pattys puppy love farm. Places like these need to be shut down. May God help all the puppies that are born in these puppy mills.

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