Does the PUPS Act Go Far Enough to Stop the Cruelty?

PUPS Act is the name appropriately given to federal legislation proposed during the 2009-2010 Congressional session in the wake of the scathing audit by the Office of Inspector General that condemns USDA’s lax enforcement of regulations that apply to puppy mills.

The bill didn’t go anywhere during that session – or the next session – and has now been re-introduced in the House of Representatives by Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach. The Senate version, S.B. 395, has been introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, House Resolution 847 and Senate Bill 395, would target "high volume retail breeders" defined as anyone who, "in commerce, for compensation or profit" owns or has custody of at least one breeding female dog and sells or offers for sale, whether over the internet, telephone or newspaper or otherwise, more than 50 of the offspring "for use as pets" in any one year.

"High volume retail breeders" would no longer be exempt from Animal Welfare Act licensing and other regulation if they sell dogs directly to the public, whether over the internet, telephone or through newspaper ads. The bill also closes the loophole exempting high volume breeders from licensing requirements if they sell to research facilities. The pet store exemption would not apply to a high volume retail breeder.

H.R. 847/S.B. 395 would also require all dogs held by breeders or dealers to have "daily access to exercise that allows the dog "to achieve a running stride" and otherwise "move sufficiently to develop or maintain normal muscle tone and as appropriate" for the dog. The exercise cannot be a forced activity. Some breeders actually force dogs onto "exercise wheels, like hamster wheels, where they are forced to run for a period of time.  

The exceptions would include those dogs under 12 weeks old, females with unweaned puppies, and those restricted by a veterinarian because of the "health, condition or well-being of the dog". (The veterinarian’s restriction must be documented, subject to review by inspectors and updated every 30 days.)

Breeders or dealers must report in their license applications the total number of dogs exempted from exercise requirements. 

The area provided for exercise would be required to be separate from any primary enclosure that does not allow the dog to "achieve a running stride".  It would be impossible to "run" in the crowded cages typically provided by breeders though under the current regulations a slightly larger cage is deemed suitable for exercise.

The flooring for the exercise area would be required to have solid flooring or nonsolid, nonwire flooring as long as it is safe for the do, free from protruding sharp edges, and "designed so that the paw of the dog is unable to extend through or become caught in the flooring". The exercise area must be cleaned at least once a day and kept free of infestation.

The bill is explicit that state laws that provide the same or greater protection would not be pre-empted.

Find the current Animal Welfare Act here. Go here for information about the current Animal Welfare Act and its regulations as they apply to dog breeders or dealers.


This bill will not eliminate high volume breeders or dealers.  Nor does it improve humane standards under the Animal Welfare Act except for exercise requirements. And, unless the federal government gets serious about enforcement, nothing may change for the dogs.

The bill does put in place essential licensing requirements for high volume breeders that sell directly to the public. Under current law only breeders or dealers that sell indirectly to the public through dealers or pet stores are subject to AWA regulations.  All of the breeders or dealers that sell directly to the public through the internet, for example, or newspaper ads, or to research facilities, have been free to operate largely as they please unless they are regulated by the state.  

With this federal legislation, all high volume breeders or dealers will be licensed and at least theoretically must comply with the standards and submit to the inspections required by AWA. Some may at least be forced to reduce the numbers of dogs they keep in order to comply with USDA requirements. All breeders or dealers will be required to demonstrate to an inspector at some point there is a place for every dog to "reach a running stride".

H.R. 847 has been assigned to the House of Representative Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit. Find committee members and (just click on their names for contact info) call or write (faxes or letters are best) and urge them to approve H.R. 847. If your rep is a committee member, be sure to let him or her know that you are a constituent. Find out if your U.S. representative is a co-sponsor. If not, find your U.S. rep and write and urge him or her to co-sponsor this legislation.

S.B. 395 has been assigned to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Find members here and their contact info here. Write or call and urge them to vote yes on this critical legislation to improve the lives of puppies in puppy mills. If one or both of your senators are committee members, be sure to let them know you live in their state. Also, find out if your senators are co-sponsors, and if not, write or call and urge them to sign on as co-sponsors of S.B. 395 to help limit puppy mill cruelty.

ALM GL ch. 272, § 801/2 (2010) Restrictions on devocalization of dogs and cats

§ 801/2. Devocalization of Dogs and Cats. [Effective July 21, 2010.]

 (a) For the purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:–

 "Board", the board of registration in veterinary medicine.

 "Devocalization", a procedure on the larynx or vocal cords of an animal which causes the reduction or elimination of vocal sounds produced by that animal.

(b) Whoever performs, or causes to be performed, the surgical devocalization of a dog or cat shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 21/2 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500 or by both such fine and imprisonment. In addition to this penalty, the court may order that any person who violates this section shall successfully complete a course of instruction relative to the humane treatment of animals or be barred from owning or keeping a dog or cat or sharing a residence with another who owns or keeps a dog or cat for a period of time as determined by said court.

(c) Subsection (b) shall not apply if:

 (1) the person performing such devocalization is licensed under section 55 of chapter 112; and

 (2) surgical devocalization of a dog or cat is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease or injury or to correct a congenital abnormality that is causing or may cause the animal physical pain or harm; or

 (3) the person who causes a devocalization procedure to be performed is relying upon the opinion of a person licensed under section 55 of chapter 112 that surgical devocalization of the dog or cat is medically necessary to treat or relieve an illness, disease or injury or to correct a congenital abnormality that is causing or may cause the animal physical pain or harm.

(d) A veterinarian who performs a surgical devocalization procedure on a dog or cat shall keep a record of the procedure for a period of 4 years after the last contact with the animal. This record shall include: the name and address of the animal’s owner; the name and address of the person from whom payment is received for the procedure; a description of the animal, including its name, species, breed, date of birth, sex, color, markings and current weight; the license number and municipality that issued the license for the animal; the date and time the procedure; the reason the procedure was performed; and any diagnostic opinion, analysis or test results to support the diagnosis. These records shall be subject to audit by the board.

Any person who performs a devocalization procedure on a dog or cat shall report the number of all such procedures to the board annually on or before March 30. The board shall maintain all notices received under this subsection for 4 years from the date of receipt.

Records maintained under this subsection shall not be considered a public record, as defined in clause twenty-sixth of section 7 of chapter 4 or section 10 of chapter 66, and these records shall not be publicly disseminated.

(e) The board shall, annually on or before March 1, report to the joint committee on the environment, natural resources and agriculture the number of animals that were the subject of devocalization notices received under subsection (d).

(f) Whoever being licensed under section 55 of chapter 112 violates any provision of this section shall be subject to the suspension or revocation of such license under section 59 of said chapter 112 and 256 CMR 7.00.