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Official U.S. Department of Agriculture Response to Stop Animal Homelessness at Its Roots
This response was published on January 4, 2012.

Ending Pet Homelessness through Responsible Pet Ownership

By Rebecca Blue

The Obama Administration shares the public's concerns about the plight of homeless animals, and believes that responsible pet ownership -- including spaying and neutering -- is necessary to reducing the number of unwanted pets. But the federal government's role in this area is limited, and these issues are primarily within the jurisdiction of states and local governments.

The federal law governing the breeding of dogs and cats is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which is enforced by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The AWA covers commercial breeders of dogs, cats, and other animals, but does not apply to privately owned pets or stray animals. It also does not include provisions concerning spay/neuter practices. Instead, pets and stray animals typically fall under the jurisdiction of state and local governments. We encourage concerned citizens to work with humane organizations and state and local animal control offices to help them in their efforts to promote adoption of animals, and to educate pet owners about the importance of spaying and neutering their dogs and cats.

The Obama Administration is committed to protecting animal welfare, and it is actively working to do so in areas where there is a role for the federal government. For example, as we explain in another petition response, APHIS is increasing its enforcement of the AWA and is currently working on a proposed rule that would require internet breeders provide their animals with care and treatment that meets the AWA standards.

Rebecca Blue is USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs

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