Say No to Outsourcing AWA Inspections

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) plans to outsource to private parties the inspections required for operations regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, including puppy mills, animal exhibitions, and animal research labs. These private parties are likely to have close ties to these industries. That means these places will be largely left to self-policing. This plan will enrich private contractors and leave the animals in worse jeopardy. APHIS already provided very few inspectors for the thousands of animals trapped in mills, exhibits and research labs.

What You Can Do

Go here to submit comments by no later than March 21. Let APHIS know that (1) Third party inspection and certification programs mean industry self-policing and reduced accountability and transparency, (2) Third party oversight in the past has failed, leaving the public and animals vulnerable to industry abuses, (3) Third party inspections jeopardize the safety and welfare of animals required to be protected by APHIS under the Animal Welfare Act.

Protest APHIS Hiring of AKC Breeder

Puppy Mill RescueThe Animal Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS, the agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for enforcing Animal Welfare Act regulations against dog breeders has named Julian Prager as “Citizen Program Advisor”. Prager is an English bulldog breeder who was formerly “legislative coordinator and legal analyst” as well as Board member for the National Animal Interest Alliance or NAIA, an advocacy group for the interests of breeders and animal production industries; Legislative Chair and Second Vide President for the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs, and an AKC Delegate. Prager explained his new job in a September 8, 2014 email to AKC Delegate Group and AKC Legislative Liaisons:

“I wanted to be sure that Delegates who were not at the meeting today and all club legislative liaisons received word of the announcement I made at today’s meeting. Small hobby and show breeders have all been concerned about the implications of the revision to the “Retail Pet Store Rule” by APHIS and the implication for that group. APHIS has heard your concerns. At last year’s NAIA conference the APHIS Deputy Administrator met with about 20 of us after the session to discuss our concerns and issues. He committed to work with us to work to resolve these issues. Two weeks ago, I was hired by Animal Care within APHIS as part of it central policy staff. My position, Canine Program Advisor, was advertised to bring in someone who would facilitate communication among APHIS, the breeder community, rescue groups and related animal interest groups. I will be providing APHIS staff with technical guidance on dog issues, assist in training their field staff, participate in developing program information material, conduct outreach and education and, most significantly, work on developing related policies and rules.”

The focus of Prager’s email was advising AKC breeders on obtaining exemptions from licensing and other Animal Welfare Act regulations under the Secretary’s authority to grant certain exemptions depending on the effect on interstate commerce and the animals’ welfare.

Just a year ago, new USDA/APHIS rules went into effect that promised more protection for dogs held by breeders.APHIS appears to have abandoned the training of its field staff, outreach and education, and policy making to the breeders.

Bill Smith, Mainline Animal Rescue, was quick to express the outrage felt by many. He wrote to David Sacks, APHIS spokesperson: “em>Julian Prager hired by APHIS to train their field staff? He’s going to represent the rescue community? A member of the AKC? … The AKC has a long history of fighting legislation designed to improve conditions for dogs in commercial breeding facilities. I believe Julian Prager personally opposed many of the changes we fought for in Pennsylvania. At best, on a good day. your efforts to help these dogs can be described as wretched. It is unbelievable that you would hire a representative of the AKC (an organization that continues to collect registration fees from some of the worst puppy mills in the country) to set policy within your Animal Care Division.”

Carole Raphaelle Davis, West Coast Director, Companion Animal Protection Society, wrote David Sacks: “We oppose any past or present representative of the AKC in APHIS as it is a clear conflict of interest and an egregious betrayal to animals. We have investigated the AKC’s nefarious role in the factory-farming of dogs and this memo by Mr. Prager demonstrates the complicity of APHIS in the routine mistreatment of dogs for the lucrative dog dealing business.

“It is not APHIS’ job to protect interstate commerce–that is the job of an entirely different government agency. We are deeply disappointed to see this memo and will take action. Please advise Mr. Prager of what his responsibilities ARE and send the information up the chain of command. The USDA needs to do a much better job of protecting dogs in commercial breeding facilities and everyone knows it.”

Animal Law Coalition has also written David Sacks to protest the hiring of Julian Prager for this position in APHIS: “Julian Prager’s appointment is another example of this administration’s willingness to abandon government protection and oversight to the very industry it is supposed to regulate. Was anyone from the animal welfare advocacy community named a “Canine Program Advisor”? Or just the AKC representative, Julian Prager? Mr. Prager actually still self identifies as part of the AKC as you can see from his September 8, 2014 email to the AKC. According to Mr. Prager’s email, he now appears to be running APHIS when it comes to dog breeder “regulation”. This AKC representative who opposed most if not all animal welfare regulation in the past, will inform and train your field staff? Your staff is already well versed in ignoring the well being of dogs kept 24/7 in cages and forced to breed over and over until they are dead. APHIS has always erred on the side of the dog breeder, preferring to support the industry with lip service to very minimal standards if that is even a word that can be used to describe the “guidelines” as AKC has called your regulations. Now Mr. Prager appears to plan to create more exemptions or at least train your staff to consider more breeders exempt? I don’t see anywhere in here a warning to AKC about improving the welfare of dogs. His entire focus is on helping AKC obtain exemptions from licensing and other regulation under the Secretary’s authority to grant certain exemptions depending on the effect on interstate commerce and the animals’ welfare.

“And Mr. Prager is handling outreach, education and policy making for APHIS as well? Will he offer information to the public to make them aware of the cruelty of the puppy mill industry and that, for example, 25% or more of animals produced by this miserable system end up in kill shelters? Will he promote adoption over buying dogs from puppy mills? Not likely. Mr. Prager’s appointment will mean use of government resources, the very resources that are supposed to be used to protect dogs, to market, promote and support puppy mills and their retail outlets, pet stores.

“With this appointment of Mr. Prager, you have undermined any good for the dogs that may have come from the retail pet store rules. APHIS’ record of enforcement has long been abysmal. Now as APHIS and AKC virtually become one on the matter of dog breeders, enforcement will be non-existent. This from an administration elected on the promise of ending puppy mills. Outrage is the only word to describe it.”


Call David Sacks at (301) 734-5271 or email him at and urge Mr. Sacks to protest the hiring of Julian Prager or any dog breeder for the Citizen Program Advisor position and at least add as a Citizen Program Advisor an advocate for the dogs.

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.

Hearing to be held on Weak Proposed OH Puppy Mill Regulations

bigstockphoto_Puppies_62577Update September 18, 2013:A public hearing will be held on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus in Hearing Room 121 on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations for “high volume commercial dog breeders and retailers. Plan to attend! For more on these proposed rules and how you can help improve the rules for Ohio’s dog breeders, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Update June 27, 2013: The Ohio Department of Agriculture has asked for public input on proposed regulations for “high volume commercial dog breeders and retailers. The regulations are proposed pursuant to O.R.C. Sec. 956.03 which was enacted last year. Animal Law Coalition opposed that law, known then as S.B. 130, on the basis it was unlikely to protect dogs trapped in Ohio’s prolific dog breeding industry. And with good reason, as it turns out.

A dog rescuer based near Columbus, Ohio and who asked to remain anonymous, decried the proposed regulations as “terrible”. She said until now she could at least complain that keeping dogs crammed into small cages 24/7 violated the state’s cruelty laws. “Now,” she said, “that IS the law.” It’s true.

Under the proposed regulations an unlimited number of dogs can be kept in a cage 24/7. The longest dog in the cage, for example, a 20 inch long dog, would have only 5.63 ft by 1 ft with each additional 20 inch long dog provided only 2.89 ft by 1 ft. The cage need only be 6 inches above the head of the tallest dog when standing. This is how dogs held by “high volume” breeders and retailers could be caged 24/7 in Ohio if these regulations are approved.

High volume breeders and retailers operating now with existing enclosures will not even be required to comply with these weak regulations until January 1, 2019.

Dogs are not required to have indoor shelter. If temperatures fall below 50 degrees, “[d]ry bedding or other methods of conserving body heat must be provided and dogs must be protected from “direct sunlight”, but otherwise provisions for temperatures, heating, cooling, humidity are vague and depend on the “health and welfare” of the dogs.

Wire flooring is permissible as long as there is a protective coating and some solid flooring that would provide a resting place for all the dogs at once.

A veterinarian is not required to visit more than one time a year though must conduct a physical exam of each dog then. There is to be a “written annual program” for exercise, but there is no requirement that the dogs actually be provided with exercise or time and space to get exercise except dogs over 12 weeks old which “do not have normal mobility or muscle tone development” or if they have even less space to live in than required.

Dogs are to be “monitored regularly” for disease, injury, dental problems, matting, excessive toe nail length, parasites and “abnormal behavior”. It is not clear what “monitored regularly” means, though. At least, “[c]orrective measures, under veterinary guidance, shall be taken when evidence is found of any of these conditions”.

There is mention of “human contact”, “socialization” “effective enrichment”, even a plan for “[b]ehavior and social needs”, but it is simply unclear as to what, if anything is required beyond the dog seeing someone drop off food or walk by the cage. Actual human physical contact is only required for dogs 16 weeks old or younger. Again, it is not clear that this means more than having someone briefly touch the dog from time to time.

A nutritional plan is supposed to be developed for each dog, but there is no requirement about following the plan or the amount or quality of the food that must be provided. Water can be limited to one hour twice daily.

Euthanasia is to be done under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian but any means is allowed if American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines are followed. AVMA allows gassing and heartsick, for example, as a means of killing.

There are no regulations for conducting inspections. The only penalty is a $100 fine for not having a license and $500 for each subsequent offense.

There are provisions for cleaning, disease prevention, ventilation, safety, whelping, minimal lighting, infestation control, transportation, record keeping, licensing and the like, all very similar to the standards under the minimal federal Animal Welfare Act. In fact, breeders already subject to the AWA will not be required to comply with Ohio’s law at all until 2016.

It is estimated Ohio has 3,000 kennels subject to the new law. Currently there are 5 inspectors, a veterinarian in charge of the new inspection program and an administrator.

The Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board has met once, on May 22, 2013, for organizational purposes.


Call and write (letters or faxes are best) the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) Committee Chair, Ohio state Rep. Ross McGregor, by September 23 and ask for more space, limits on breeding and sale, and specific requirements for exercise, nutrition, socialization, and inspections; and penalties for violations of all regulations. Phone: (614) 466-4086; Fax: (614) 466-4068; email:

Original report: Last December 11, 2012 Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law Sub. S.B. 130, to regulate the state’s “high volume” breeders and dog retailers, those that keep unspayed dogs that produce 9 litters of puppies each year and “for a fee or other consideration, sell” 60 or more adult dogs or puppies annually. For more on that law…..

Now the state veterinarian, Tony Forshey, has issued draft regulations that his office drafted along with various “stakeholders”. Read and download a copy of the draft regulations here.

The advisory board is scheduled to meet this week to consider the regulations. The advisory board is made up of the state veterinarian and 6 members appointed by the director: one representing a humane society, one who is a county dog warden, one who is a veterinarian, one representing animal rescues, one who is a breeder and one representing the public.

The inspection program thus far has employed 5 inspectors to report to a veterinarian, Terence Kline. The inspectors are not veterinarians. They will be responsible for annual inspections and investigation of complaints for over 3,000 dog kennels. In addition, Kline has said he intends to have the inspectors visit kennels ahead of inspections to let breeders know where they are out of compliance. That way they can remedy any potential violations before the inspection. The goal is clearly to support the breeding industry. And it is not clear how inspections, 6 a day on top of warning visits, will be other than very cursory.