Official U.S. Department of Agriculture Response to crack down on puppy mills.

Improving Regulation and Oversight of Commercial Breeders

By Rebecca Blue

The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which enforces the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), improves its regulation and oversight of commercial breeders. APHIS is currently developing proposed regulations that would ensure that Internet breeders provide their animals with care and treatment that meets the AWA standards. APHIS plans to publish its proposed rule covering Internet breeders in the Federal Register for public comment in 2012. We encourage interested citizens to provide their feedback on the rule at that time; comments can be logged at Regulations.gov.

APHIS is also moving forward with an enhanced AWA enforcement plan to improve its oversight of currently licensed dealers, breeders, and other entities regulated under the AWA (particularly those who are repeat violators). It is also working to improve the performance of its inspectors.

Additionally, in September 2011, USDA proposed a new rule that when finalized will help ensure that dogs imported into the United States for resale are in good health, are at least 6 months of age, and have received their proper vaccinations. Among other things, this proposed rule is designed to prevent the importation of puppies that have not yet been weaned or have fully developed immune systems, or are sick.

Find more information about APHIS’ efforts to improve its enforcement of the AWA.

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

Update 5/16/2012:

We wanted to make sure that you knew about a new proposed rule that the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced this week and about an opportunity for you to weigh in. USDA is proposing to revise its definition of "retail pet store" to close a loophole that has threatened the health and humane treatment of pets sold sight unseen over the Internet and via phone- and mail-based businesses.

The proposed rule is open for public comment now on Regulations.gov until July 16, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Click here to check out the rule and weigh in on this issue.

The current definition of "retail pet store," was developed over 40 years ago and before the Internet existed, and some breeders selling pets are taking advantage of a loophole that improperly exempts them from the basic requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The proposed rule will close this loophole, ensuring animals sold over the Internet and via phone- and mail-based businesses are better monitored for their overall health and humane treatment.

Take a minute to weigh in on this issue on Regulations.gov.

Update 9/18/2013:

We take animal welfare seriously. But the Animal Welfare Act, which sets standards for humane treatment and care of pets for commercial sale, was written more than 40 years ago -- before the internet created new ways for breeders to sell pets sight unseen.

Until now, most online breeders were considered "retail pet stores," and exempt from regulation even though buyers never had the opportunity to view animals before they bought them like they would in a traditional pet store and as the Animal Welfare Act envisioned. Nobody was monitoring or inspecting these breeders to ensure their animals' overall health and humane treatment.

So when you petitioned us to regulate so-called puppy mills, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a rule that would update that "retail pet stores" definition. After huge amounts of public input, the USDA has finalized that ruling -- and is bringing more animals under the protection of the Animal Welfare Act.

This rule restores the original intent of the Animal Welfare Act:  that a retail pet store must be a place where the seller, buyer, and animal available for sale are all in the same place -- so that no animal is bought sight unseen and the buyer can be sure it’s healthy prior to taking it home.

Traditional, “brick and mortar” pet stores will continue to be exempt from federal licensing and inspection requirements under the Animal Welfare Act. But internet-based businesses -- and other businesses that sell animals sight unseen -- must now be licensed and inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to ensure the pets they sell to the public receive a certain standard of care.

Bottom line: This is good for animals, and good for consumers.

Thanks again for your participation in the We the People petitions platform.

Learn more about this new rule.

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