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USDA Proposes Rule to Improve Humane Treatment of Puppy Mill Dogs by Closing Loophole for Internet Breeders

ASPCA supports USDA’s effort to bring all commercial dog breeders under federal oversight
May 10, 2012

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) newly proposed rule calling for greater federal oversight of puppy mills and online dog sales. The rule would, for the first time in history, require commercial breeders who sell their puppies directly to the public to be licensed and inspected by the USDA.

The proposed rule represents a meaningful effort by the USDA to target problematic, large-scale breeding operations and would require them to meet minimum care standards for breeding dogs and the puppies they produce. The rule aims to close a regulatory loophole that currently allows breeders selling puppies directly to the public sight unseen, including over the Internet, to operate without federal oversight. The ASPCA is optimistic that this rule will strike an appropriate balance by excluding hobby breeders while targeting the most inhumane breeding facilities. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days. The USDA will then consider all comments before promulgating its final rule.

"We applaud the USDA for taking this significant step to close a massive loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, and we look forward to working with them to ensure that the final rule is both enforceable and effective," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "The online sales exemption was created before the advent of the Internet under the presumption that a consumer buying a puppy directly from a breeder could personally assess the welfare of the dogs on site. It was impossible to foresee that consumers would one day purchase pets online and have puppies shipped to them, sight unseen."

Many puppies sold online come from puppy mills and are commonly bred in unsanitary, overcrowded, and often cruel conditions without sufficient veterinary care, food, water, or socialization. While facilities that breed puppies for commercial resale through pet stores are required to be licensed and inspected under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), breeders that sell directly to consumers, whether via the Internet, newspaper classifieds or other outlets, are exempt from any federal oversight. They are not required to be licensed by the USDA or meet the regulatory standards of the AWA.

"The current loophole in the Animal Welfare Act has allowed too many dog breeders to get away with abusive behavior for far too long," said Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. "The ASPCA has seen firsthand the cruelty that often exists behind the pictures of happy puppies posted on a breeder's website. Currently, the federal government does not even have the authority to enter these facilities to inspect, but this rule would change that."

The ASPCA's "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign aims to reduce the demand for puppy mill puppies by urging consumers to pledge not to buy any items—including food, supplies or toys—from stores or websites that sell puppies. Earlier this year, the national campaign was successful in eliminating a large platform for puppy mill dogs sold online, and through an ongoing removal process, tens of thousands of puppy mill sale ads have been eliminated from Marketplace on Facebook. To learn more about the ASPCA’s efforts to eradicate puppy mills, please visit www.NoPetStorePuppies.com.