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.

Help Dogs Caught in the Pet Trade: End Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are those aptly named businesses that mass produce dogs. Puppy mills are not much different from the factories that churn out blenders, toasters, televisions, DVD players, and the like. And that is one of the many dirty little secrets about puppy mills. They are kept in business by consumers, people like you and me.

People see the cute puppy in the pet store window and want to give it a home. Pet stores thrive on impulsive shoppers. And puppy mills are where most pet stores get their dogs.  

The shoppers or consumers don’t realize, at least not at the time, the sweet looking dog has been strategically placed in the window to attract their attention. The puppy may well have "papers" issued by the American Kennel Club. The consumer will think this means the dog is a purebreed. How would they know the AKC issues purebred registration papers to anyone who submits an application and pays a fee?

The papers simply indicate the purebred lineage the breeder stated on the application. The AKC has said it "is the largest and only significant not-for-profit dog registry …in the US. We register nearly 1 million purebred dogs and over 400,000 litters of purebred puppies every year. "

The AKC does not actually travel to every breeder’s facility to inspect it. Nor does AKC check to find out if the puppy even qualifies for registration. Though the pet stores and breeders may not tell consumers this, the AKC has announced it "cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry."

A would be consumer may be shown a photo of a beautiful farm in Pennsylvania or Missouri. It may well be of an actual place, even the home of the breeder. But, of course, nowhere in the photo will the consumer see the cramped, dirty cages where the puppies are born and kept until they are sold in pet stores or at auctions.

There is no photo of the puppy’s mother who is likely nursing yet another litter. She will be bred over and over. At times the puppies may literally be ripped from her body through caesarian sections that are closed with fishing line or some other homemade suture.

The mother will be bred until her reproductive organs fall out of her body. It is unlikely she will ever see a veterinarian or even a USDA inspector or local animal control officer. Eventually, if she does not die first of illness or disease, she will be killed, dumped at the local pound or sold to a research facility where she will be the subject for experiments and testing.

The cute puppy’s mother will never know human companionship or love. No one may ever even pet her. She will never run or play with a ball. There will be no dog treats or a toy or soft blanket for her. She may not see much sunlight. Instead, she will live her life in a dark cage, crowded with other dogs. If she is lucky, the wire bottom of the cage she lays on all day will not be covered in feces, spoiled food, flies or garbage. There will be little relief from the extremes of weather.

The puppy’s mother would not be very photogenic. It is likely her fur will be matted and dirty, her nails overgrown. She may have fleas, ticks or worms. This would not make for a good photo for a breeder or pet store trying to sell one of her puppies.

If the consumer asks about the puppy’s litter mates, they may not learn that the litter is inbred. It is a common practice at puppy mills to inbreed dogs. Inbreeding increases the likelihood of illness or disabilities in the litters.

But the consumer may not realize there is anything wrong with the puppy until after they get home. Any littermates that are obviously sick or disabled are killed or sent to the local shelter. They are just inventory after all. A breeder will not let the fact dogs are sentient beings interfere with profits.

As the consumer admires the puppy in the window, he may not realize the dog may be ill or diseased. It is unlikely the cute looking baby dog has been properly socialized. Indeed, it is unlikely the puppy has been socialized at all.

It is tempting for the consumer to think the puppy arrived at the pet store in a big basket lined with a soft blanket and a favorite toy. But this dog has never had a soft blanket or any toy. At least not until he was posed in the pet store window on a blanket surrounded by toys. The dog was probably warehoused in a tractor trailer in a crate along with hundreds of other puppies and shipped by a broker to an auction. That is how the cute puppy came to be in the pet store window.

Last year one of those tractor trailers stuffed with crated puppies caught fire while it was en route from Missouri to New England Pet Centers in Nashua, New Hampshire. The puppies were from facilities owned by Hunte Corporation, a large dog breeding enterprise. All of the puppies died.

It is estimated there are approximately 400,000-500,000 puppies born to breeders each year. Last Chance for Animals, reports, "Each of the 4,000-5,000 puppy mills in the U.S., most of which are located in the Midwest, houses between 75 to 150 breeding animals. Only half of the dogs bred at puppy mills make it to the pet store; the other half die from the mill’s squalid conditions, hypothermia starvation, or other horrors of transport."

The consumer who sees the puppy in the pet store window will not learn much about the breeders. The breeders will seem like nice people, very experienced, at least from what the purchaser can tell from the information provided by the pet store. No one really checks to find out the sort of operation run by the breeders, how they treat their dogs.

But if the AKC is registering the breeders’ dogs, they must have a clean facility where the dogs are well cared for, right? Most consumers do not realize a truly reputable breeder does not sell dogs in a pet store or market. Instead, they interview prospective purchasers to assure the dogs will have a good home.

The consumer may actually investigate the breeder. The consumer may point to the claim the breeder is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA does license breeders under the Animal Welfare Act. 7 U.S.C. Sec. 2131, et seq. And, the consumer can obtain a list of licensed breeders known as Class A breeders. There is also available a list of those who broker, purchase or sell animals. They are called Class B dealers. 9 C.F.R. 1.1.  The problem is that the regulations require only enough care to keep the dogs breeding. There are no limits on the breeding. This is an agricultural business after all. The dogs are simply commodities like corn or carrots. And, there are very few inspectors to enforce the regulations. So having a license doesn’t mean much.

How You Can Help End Puppy Mills 

 1.  Don’t ever buy dogs from pet stores, online or newspapers or other ads! Instead, adopt a dog from your local shelter or rescue.

2.  Encourage family and friends to adopt instead of buying dogs.

3. Learn about puppy mills

4.  Educate others about puppy mills and encourage them to avoid supporting commercial dog breeders by adopting not buying dogs

5.  Write a letter to the editor of your local paper or contact local radio stations about puppy mills and call on people to adopt not buy dogs. 

6.  Join a local group that advocates against puppy mills. 

7.  Organize or join a protest at pet stores that sell dogs. Most pet stores get the dogs they sell from puppy mills.

8. Encourage local pet stores that sell dogs also to offer dogs for adoption.

9.  Many puppy mill dogs are sold at specially held dog auctions. Organize or join a protest at these auctions.

10. Support legislation to regulate puppy mills. Contact your Congressional, state or local representatives to learn existing laws and how they could be made stronger and more effective or how they can be better enforced. Look for proposed laws to regulate puppy mills and write or call your legislator and urge their support.

11.  Start or sign a petition in protest of puppy mills.  

12. Look for puppy mills that may be just starting and are applying for permits, or those that are renewing their permits. Work with local officials to oppose permits for puppy mills or set stringent requirements for the permit. Or attend hearings on the permit application and write or call local officials to let them know they should oppose the permit or conditions issuance of the permit on compliance with strict requirements.

13.  Report all cruel, inhumane treatment you observe at a commercial dog breeding operation and potential violations of regulations governing commercial dog breeders.

14.  Volunteer at your local public shelter. 25-30% of puppy mill dogs end up in shelters. They often need special care and attention because they typically have received poor or non-existent care and no socialization.

Ohio Dog Auction: An Infamous Tradition

Puppy millers routinely transport their dogs to auctions. One of the most infamous auctions is the Ohio Dog Auction, formerly known as the Buckeye Dog Auction, in Homes County, Ohio.

On August 25, 2007 once again hundreds gathered at the Farmerstown Auction Barn for the auction of over 350 dogs and puppies. The dogs were placed one at a time on the auction table after a quick "inspection" by someone said to be a veterinarian. Most of the dogs were frightened as they stood there. They fetched prices from a few dollars to $1900 for an English bulldog.

Mary O’Connor-Shaver of BanOhioDogAuctions,, and Columbus Top Dogs,, led a rally that morning against the auction. O’Connor-Shaver noted "Since 2004, the Buckeye Dog Auction in Holmes County, Ohio has grown into anything but run-of-the-mill. Most breeders who participate in this event are raising large numbers of puppies for profit in mills, factory-like operations in which caged dogs churn out litters year after year.  Many of these canine breeding facilities house dogs in shockingly poor conditions. …Dog auctions, like the ones taking place in Holmes County, are a symptom of the puppy mill industry. It is a major problem in Ohio and elsewhere.  As long as people buy dogs at their local pet store, puppy mills will exist and dog auctions will take place week after week."

O’Connor-Shaver added, "The majority of dogs sold at auction are used for one purpose - to breed – and will be shuffled between puppy mills throughout their lives. They churn out puppies – litter after litter – until they cannot do it anymore. Their babies are taken away from them too young and sold through pet shop and over the internet to unsuspecting customers who end up with sick or dying dogs within weeks of joining their new family."   

In many instances at these acutions, the miller may simply be trying to get rid of dogs that cannot be sold or used any longer for breeding because of their poor condition. Some have been returned by pet stores because they are ill or diseased. 

Here is a report of some dogs sold at this auction with inadequate vaccinations:

4 – black male poodles, all 7 mos (with 1 vaccine).  At this age, the puppies should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

1 – 9 mos shihtz-a-poo, male, 10 mos (no records and matted literally to the skin).  It was estimated that he looked more like two years of age.  At this age, the puppy should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

2 – blk/whit chi-poodles, female, 5 mos (w 1 vaccine).  At this age, the puppies should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

1 – shorkie, male, 8 wks (no vaccine history).  At this age, the puppy should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks.

1 – yorkie, male, 1 yr (no records and completely shaved).  At this age, the puppy should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

Animal Welfare Act regulations 

The Animal Welfare Act and its regulations govern the transport of the dogs to and from the auctions and also their care and treatment while they are there. For these puppy auctions millers cart these poor dogs around under conditions that clearly violate even the meager requirements of the Animal Welfare Act’s regulations for transporting dogs.

Under 9 CFR 3.14(b) the cages "must be cleaned and sanitized" every 24 hours. The cages must be cleaned in a way to "prevent the soiling of the dogs… by body wastes".  Also, 9 CFR 3.14(e)(1) requires "[p]rimary enclosures used to transport live dogs …must be large enough to ensure that each animal contained in the primary enclosure has enough space to turn about normally while standing, to stand and sit erect, and to lie in a natural position." The dogs must be handled with care while they are transported in these enclosures or cages. 9 CFR 3.19.

The vehicles used to transport the dogs must prevent engine exhaust from entering the compartment where they are located during the trip. 9 CFR 3.15(a). The compartment must be kept clean. 9 CFR 3.15(f) The animals must be protected from the elements and ventilated to allow "normal breathing". 9 CFR 3.14(e)(2), 3.15(b),(c),(d).  The ambient temperature of the animal cargo space may not exceed "85 [deg]F (29.5 [deg]C) for a period of more than 4 hours; nor fall below 45 [deg]F (7.2 [deg]C) for a period of more than 4 hours." 9 CFR 3.15(e). See also 9 CFR 3.19.

There are minimal requirements for food and water for the dogs. 9 CFR 3.16  "If a dog … is obviously ill, injured, or in physical distress, it must not be transported in commerce, except to receive veterinary care for the condition." 9 CFR 3.17(c )

There are similar requirements for the care and treatment of the dogs when they reach the auction site.  9 CFR 3.18

Last Year’s Buckeye Dog Auction

At last year’s Buckeye Dog Auction in Millersburg, Ohio, 365 dogs were available for sale. Many of the dogs were brought to the auction in tractor trailers. Buyers entered through a staging area where they could view the dogs or livestock as millers and auctioneers refer to them.  According to Mary O’Connor-Shaver who attended the auction, this area "smelled like a cesspool.

"The majority of cages lacked food, water and were covered with feces.  All the dogs were scared and shaking, down right pitiful and heartbreaking.  Some of the dogs had been shaved, and any experienced vet technician could tell by their feet that they have been living in urine and feces.  What was most disturbing was the number of dogs who were immediately registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) following the winning bid.

"[S]everal dogs … were surrendered by the auctioneers to Holmes County Humane Society.  All of them were in a severe state of neglect.  Once such dog was a three year old and the [puppy] miller stated ‘he was injured while being transported’.  [The puppy miller] surrendered the dog to the [Humane Society]. [The dog was then placed with a Chihuahua rescue…. Truth is, once he was examined by experienced rescue folks, it was determined his toe nails were so long and curled up on his one leg, causing  him to walk with a limp.  He was covered with fleas.

"A Cavalier King Charles, Dachsund and eight year old German Shepherd (who had a good portion of her jaw deteriorated [from her many mating cycles]) were also surrendered to [the Humane Society] and then given to rescue[s] because of injuries.  The German Shepherd is now in foster [care] with me".

O’Connor-Shaver explained she could not get photos of the auction. "Anyone taking pictures and they saw you, they stopped you immediately."

Lori Skaggs also attended the Buckeye Dog Auction that day. She explained the auction is in Amish country. Lori noted, "This auction is held several times a year and is a place where puppy millers come to sell their wares."

She described, "I …enter[ed] the building where the dogs were on view before the auction.  The first thing I remember is the smell.  That smell will live with me for the rest of my days.  It is the smell of never washed dogs, mixed with old and fresh excrement, combined with the smell of illness, infection and death.

"As we walked through the 365 dogs being sold, I saw terrible sights.  Tiny little dogs cowering in a corner of their cages with no food or water and were sitting in their own excrement.  Others were begging to be removed from the filthy cages.  I saw dogs with sores, cherry eyes, eye diseases, nails so long that they curled into the pads of the feet, fleas, and filth.  Not one dog was clean.  I saw stains on the fur of their paws that comes from years of standing in urine and feces. 

"Notes on some of the cages proudly stated things like, ‘Due in heat 9/10, last time had 5 puppies’ or ‘AKC female bred this week to AKC male.’  It was simply disgusting.

"I think that what most shocked me was that there was a man wondering the room with a golf shirt announcing he was ‘AKC Staff’.  The American Kennel Club had a staff member on site during this auction, certifying these dogs. 

"I also found out that the vet certifying the health of these dogs had only been contracted to check for things like heart murmurs, surgical scares, hernias, etc.  The vet was not checking the general health of the dogs.  …

"A number of rescues, some from as far away as Vermont had come to buy the dogs in the auction.  While I do understand how they feel, I can’t help thinking that they are only keeping demand up, allowing puppy mills to continue to be lucrative businesses.  In the end the only way puppy mills will end is to dry up demand, pass stringent laws making them illegal, and having the ability to enforce such laws."

About 300 dogs were sold that day at the Buckeye Dog Auction. The prices obtained for the dogs ranged from $25-$450 per animal.

Top of the Ozarks Dog Auction 

Here are observations from attendees of the Top of the Ozarks Dog Auction in Hartville, MO: There were cages in which dogs crammed together could not even hold their heads upright. There was no room for them to do so.  Other dogs could not stand or even sit in a normal position.  Still others could not lie down but were shoved against the wires of the cages unable to extend their legs. For example, an adult Husky was housed in a container that was 18 inches high. Two adult beagles were crammed into a cage 30 inches long, 24 inches wide and 24 inches high. One large pug was observed in great distress because he could not turn around or lay normally in the carrier.  (Recall the Animal Welfare Act regulations state "[e]nclosures must provide sufficient space to allow each dog to turn about freely, to stand, sit, and lie in a comfortable, normal position, and to walk in a normal manner." 9 CFR 3.14(e)(1))

One dog appeared to be starving. His ribs, shoulder blades and hip bones stuck out. The veterinarian examined him and pronounced the dog fit. The veterinarian, however, is the operator of this puppy mill auction.

It was hot. There was no air conditioning in the building. For hours the animals were not provided with any water. The dogs were in obvious great distress. 

At one such auction in Hartville, MO APHIS inspectors were literally thrown out. Those staging the auction and even would be buyers screamed at them, shoved them and tried to take their cameras.      

Typically at puppy mill auctions dogs are carried or dragged to a table next to the auctioneer. The dogs are held onto the table. At times the dogs might be lifted into the air presumably to allow buyers in the audience to see them. Of course, these animals are frightened, anxious. Some are struggling.

During the bidding the auctioneer calls out comments about the dogs. The auctioneer might yell, "No teeth, but she’s a great producer", "She won’t miss that eye; she’ll be too busy producing", "That little cut will go away,"  or "He knows how to do his job".  Missing limbs or eyes, limps, torn flesh or matted, dirty fur are all dismissed by the auctioneer especially when the dog is simply to be used for breeding.  

The American Kennel Club

Thomas W. Sharp, assistant vice president for Compliance for the AKC, claims the AKC does not support puppy mill auctions. He explained, "[I]t perpetuates the problem and tends to create a seller’s market. Reciprocally, auctioneers seek more dogs of those breeds to offer at auctions. …AKC believes that the purchasing of dogs at auctions is not overall in the best interest of purebred dogs." The American Kennel Club has stated it "considers auctions and raffles not to be reasonable and appropriate methods to obtain or transfer dogs." 

Yet, there was AKC at the Buckeye Dog Auction, collecting registration applications and fees, certifying dogs as of "good quality".  Indeed, the AKC has a representative present at many, if not most, of these auctions.

Sharp has also stated, "AKC has spent tens of millions of dollars since the 1990s on its inspections program.  A field staff of fourteen people around the country has the full-time job of inspecting the kennels of high-volume breeders who register with AKC.  The inspections cover the care and conditions of the dogs and the kennels in which they are raised, record-keeping and identification practices, and even collecting DNA samples at AKC’s expense to verify the parentage of AKC registered litters.  In addition to inspections, inspectors also cover dog auctions like this [Buckeye Dog Auction], per the policy noted herein.  My understanding is that approximately half of the dogs at this particular auction were AKC registered.  The inspector verified the microchip identification for every single one prior to sale." 

In effect, AKC has fourteen people who purportedly inspect facilities, attend auctions and certify dogs for thousands of "high volume breeders" or puppy mills.

Sharp would not release AKC’s inspections records. Nor would he elaborate on the amount AKC has collected in registration fees for dogs it has said are of "good quality".

In fact, the AKC does not travel to every breeder’s facility to inspect it. Nor does AKC check to find out if the puppy even qualifies for registration. Though the pet stores and breeders may not tell consumers this, the AKC has announced it "cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry." Sharp has acknowledged "[m]any breeders in that area [of Ohio] … are not inspected by the AKC."

Rescues Attend Puppy Mill Auctions

Many rescuers attend puppy mill auctions. They are there to protest and raise awareness about the horrific conditions, the cruelty of puppy mill operations. They are also there to rescue as many dogs as possible. Critics say these rescuers are only perpetuating the mills. Of course, as long as the public continues to buy dogs, there will be puppy mills. Rescuers say at least they are giving a better life to some dogs like the breeding dogs, those that spend their lives in a cage, producing litter after litter. Those dogs never even get to be the puppy in the window at the pet store.  

For more information on puppy mills and puppy mill auctions, click here. and

A Scathing Assessment of Missouri’s Puppy Mill Inspection Program

In 2001 Missouri’s state auditor, Claire McCaskill, issued an audit of the state’s licensed commercial dog breeders or puppy mills. She found a number of disturbing problems.

Her report stated as a result of the Division of Animal Health’s poor regulation of licensed commercial dog breeders and canines were left at risk. McCaskill followed up in 2004 with another audit and found few improvements.

Now McCaskill is a U.S. Senator from Missouri. When she was a candidate in 2006 for the position of U.S. Senator, the commercial dog breeders announced in an industry magazine, We simply can’t let this woman get to Washington. Think seriously about this threat to your kennel operation. She will try to shut this industry down."

Missouri has the highest percentage of licensed commercial dog breeders in the nation. One third of all licensed dog breeders are located in the state of Missouri. McCaskill was blunt in charging the state program that regulates these breeders is ineffective.

The 2001 audit found deficiencies in four areas of the state’s inspection program: (1) spotty state inspections with few sanctions; (2) appearance of conflicts of interests of top management; (3) state inspections less thorough than federal inspections; and (4) lax program performance measures. McCaskill noted the state inspectors simply encouraged breeders to improve conditions rather than fine or otherwise sanction them. The state inspectors did not even bother to record violations. As McCaskill summarized in the 2001 report of the audit, such a practice leaves the program little paper trail to track violations and breeders little incentive to correct problems.

The federal APHIS inspectors follow a similar philosophy in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act requirements; they, too, prefer to encourage compliance through discussions with breeders rather than criminal citations. The federal inspections are hardly effective in ensuring compliance with the already weak AWA standards. Nonetheless, the federal inspectors fined Missouri commercial dog breeders more than $14,000 in the two years prior to the audit. The state inspectors fined none in that same time period.

McCaskill noted the state inspectors spent far less time inspecting a puppy mill than their federal counterparts. Indeed, state inspections were less than thirty minutes, less than one third as long as those by APHIS. Curiously, the state inspectors claimed their inspections took up to 4 hours. McCaskill found no support for such a claim. She pointed out in the audit report the records of how inspectors spent their time were poorly kept. The Missouri state inspectors failed to check for expired medications, reconcile the number of dogs in a facility to its inventory records, or review records of how dogs were received or distributed. As McCaskill’s report explained, All of these inspection tests concern a dog’s health under a breeder’s care.

The audit report also noted state inspectors did not coordinate inspections with federal authorities. Sometimes they both inspected the same facility on the same day. Yet, their reports would differ dramatically.

In one case, for example, state inspectors found nothing wrong yet APHIS noted seven violations, including six repeat violations. From the comparison of state inspection reports with those by APHIS, it was apparent in addition to failing to report obvious violations, state inspectors missed many unacceptable and illegal conditions of dog breeding facilities.

The audit report noted the lack of training and criteria for state inspections. In fact, the audit report noted inspectors use a blank form in conducting inspections. The form made no reference to what to inspect or guidance that would be helpful in deciding whether or not a violation had occurred.

One problem that accounted for the poor inspection program was the conflict of appearance or at least appearance of impropriety by the program coordinator and one inspector. They are former puppy millers and during their tenure, their spouses continued to run the businesses. Upon issuance of McCaskill’s audit report, both were reassigned to other duties and were said to have no more involvement in the dog breeder inspection program.

McCaskill’s recommendations included training for inspectors and implementation of a system similar to that used by federal inspectors to report violations. This system provides for tracking repeat violations and, if necessary, setting the stage for sanctions against the breeder.

For example, the first time a violation is reported, it is classified as a category III violation. If the state inspector finds the same condition on the next inspection, it would be reported as a category IV. If that violation has not been corrected by the next inspection, it would be reported as a category V violation. When a commercial breeder receives a category V, the breeder is subject to an administrative hearing. The administrative hearing provides the facility owner with an opportunity to refute the alleged violation. If the violation finding is upheld, program officials can levy up to $1,000 per violation or take other remedial action to correct violations. In addition, the facility owner is charged a fee of $100 for a follow-up inspection. Under this practice, a facility owner is given several chances to correct a violation before action is taken.

By December 2004 in a report of a follow up audit, McCaskill noted few improvements. The state inspection program was still plagued by many of the same problems. State inspectors still failed to record many violations. They missed or simply failed to report obvious violations such as poor sanitation. In one example, the inspector did not even cite the breeder for failure to have a license. Inspectors also failed to cite recurring violations. Instead, a violation found at the same facility again was often reported each time as a new violation. As the audit report pointed out, therefore, the original violation could not be upgraded to a category IV or V violation, be subject to the penalty phase, or be used to show a true history of non-compliance.

It was also apparent inspectors did not always conduct even annual inspections.

The inspections conducted were still sketchy and inadequate.

The training for inspectors was still non-existent or insufficient. Little had been done to convince inspectors they must conduct thorough inspections and record all violations. Most still followed the philosophy they should just talk with breeders about how to improve their facilities and not cite or otherwise penalize them for non-compliance.

In the four years since the first audit, inspectors had fined six facilities only $3,800 and obtained voluntary surrender of animals at four facilities through settlement agreements. The audit reported noted reluctance by inspectors to use administrative hearings to penalize breeders or confiscate dogs in trouble. Only two hearings had been conducted since the last audit during 2003 and 2004, resulting in two fines totaling $1,500. These fines had not yet been collected as of the date of the report.

The bottom line is that dogs are still suffering in deplorable, unsafe conditions in many Missouri commercial dog breeding facilities. 

It should be noted the Missouri inspectors are employed by the Division of Animal Health within the Department of Agriculture. The state Animal Care Facilities Act, RSMo §§273.325-357 and 2 CSR 30-9.010-030 provide similar regulations as the AWA for the licensing and operations of commercial dog breeders.