New USDA Regulations Seek to Protect Pet Buyers, Reputable Breeders and Animals Alike.
So-called "puppy mills" and other "pet mills" have long been the nightmare of reputable breeders, animal lovers, and pet owners alike. These inhumane "commercial breeding" establishments not only treat their animals inhumanely and cruelly, but produce pets that are unhealthy. This is because of the substandard conditions puppies are born into. It is also because breeding females are often treated with extreme cruelty; are required to breed endlessly; are often malnourished; and are kept in unthinkable conditions for their short lives. The intent of these so-called "puppy mill" organizations is simple: To "mass-produce" animals, especially puppies, at lowest cost possible and at highest volume possible, simultaneously. There is no attention to the animals' welfare at all.
The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 sought to protect both animals and prospective pet owners from these establishments by requiring minimum standards of care for cats, dogs, and rabbits, as well as other animals, bred for commercial sale. Enforced by the USDA, large-scale commercial breeders need to be licensed and inspected regularly by the USDA.
While it has done a lot of good over the years, this Act fell short because only breeders and other pet producers that sold animals directly to the public and were considered "large-scale commercial facilities that breed or broker animals for resale" were included. Only such "wholesale" organizations were required to meet specific requirements as set forth by the USDA and to undergo regular inspections.
Private sellers and retail pet stores were unregulated by the 1966 Act
That left many private pet sellers, those that sold directly to the public, unregulated. The 1966 act, of course, could not have foreseen the advent of the Internet, and therefore did not cover that type of sale. Because of that, many unscrupulous private sellers continued to run their "mills" completely unregulated – and it was legal to do so, because they designated themselves as pet stores. As a result, they flourished, sight unseen, free of inspections or any type of laws to protect both the health and safety of their animals and buyers' rights to get a healthy pet.
The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, or "Pup Act," modernizes the 1966 Animal Welfare Act
There is a new law that changes that. First proposed by the USDA in May 2012, the law is expected be put into effect by the end of 2013. The new rules state that: &bul; Any dog, cat and rabbit breeders that have more than four breeding females who currently sell animals online, by phone or by mail need to apply for a USDA permit. They must also pay an annual licensing fee, and consent to random inspections. This includes any breeder that sells animals "sight unseen" to third parties for resale. Small breeders with less than five breeding females that allow sales only by face-to-face transactions, whereby buyers see animals up front, are exempt from these rules. No longer skirting federal oversight
Before this law was updated to address the Internet age, breeders who ran their businesses online could classify themselves as "retail pet stores," which are typically exempt from licensing requirements. Retail pet stores were typically exempt from licensing because it's understood that potential buyers will see animals before they buy, thus given the ability to decide whether or not they look healthy and well cared for. Those who bought puppies, rabbits, or cats over the Internet without the means to see them in person did not have this ability, and therefore did not see whether or not animals were healthy before they bought them.
The new law is a response to a 2010 USDA Inspector General report on unfavorable conditions in "puppy mills"
Truly horrific conditions were uncovered, according to a USDA Inspector General report in 2010, in puppy mills across the country. Dogs were kept in bug-infested, dirty, truly inhumane conditions, and many buyers received animals that were sick or dying. The new rules seek not only to protect buyers, but the animals in question.
Who needs to obtain USDA licensing under the new rules?
Dealers required to obtain USDA licensing include those that "[breed] any dog... for research, testing, experimentation, exhibition, or for use as a pet, or any dog sold at the wholesale level for hunting, security or breeding purposes." Experts estimate that approximately 5,000 dog breeders, 325 cat breeders, and 75 rabbit breeders will be affected.
Are the new rules a good idea? Although some powerhouse organizations, including the American Kennel Club, have decried the new rules as "overly broad and will do more damage than good," others applaud them.
When must breeders pay licensing fees?
Should breeders still wish to sell online sight unseen to third parties, they must pay a licensing fee of about $750 and consent to random inspections. Breeders who have four or fewer females and/or who sell animals to buyers in person, whereby they can judge an animal's health for themselves face-to-face are exempt from these requirements. Breeders who are selling breeding stock and working to preserve their lines may also be exempt.
The USDA defines breeding females as only having the "capacity to breed" based on visual inspection, something the AKC takes issue with. The AKC asserts that operational standards are designed to focus on commercial facilities, but hobby or residential breeders do not have clearly-defined circumstances based upon the regulations. Many breeds, for example, do not thrive in kennel-type settings and do much better in small residential settings, something many small hobby breeders provide. These residential breeders will likely not be able to meet USDA standards for kennel engineering, which would be unrealistic given the environment these dogs will be raised in. Further, these breeders may be limited as to how many changes they can make based on zoning laws, etc.
What do the new rules mean for reputable breeders?
Many may have complained about the new rules, but reputable breeders will certainly follow them. ALL reputable breeders will unquestioningly conform to the USDA's new and stricter requirements, assuring that both the buyer in question and the beloved animals that will become pets will have their rights protected.
Reputable breeders protect buyers… something the new rules don't change
The reputable breeder knows that he or she has the obligation to assure the buyer in every way possible that the animal he or she is getting will be healthy and disease free; will have been raised in humane conditions; and will be suitable for adoption to a good home. Reputable breeders protect the dogs in their care, too
Reputable breeders have always known that substandard, overcrowded and filthy conditions are unthinkable if one is to raise healthy, happy puppies for adoption. The new rules don't change that; there is now simply an official standard that ensures those who might otherwise abuse the privilege of being a breeder are held accountable and either are driven out of business or made to "clean up their act," so speak, so that they are required to raise healthy, happy puppies to the age of adoption – and take care of the breeding mothers, too.
Buyers who choose to buy pets online can be sure that now, there's just a little extra assurance that because inspections will now be done for more breeders, its even more certain that the puppy they'll be getting will be healthy, happy – and ready to be adopted into a good home.
"YES we at Frenchies are licensed with the USDA and in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act"