ASPCA Applauds USDA Rule Expanding Regulation of Puppy Mills

Closing inspection loophole for Internet dog breeders an important step
September 10, 2013

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for issuing a final rule establishing greater federal oversight of puppy mills and online dog sales. The new rule closes a regulatory loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and, for the first time in history, requires commercial breeders who sell their puppies directly to the public—sight unseen—to be licensed and inspected by the USDA.

“This rule represents a meaningful effort by the USDA to target problematic, large-scale breeding operations and will require them to meet minimum care standards for breeding dogs and the puppies they produce,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “The ASPCA has witnessed the abhorrent cruelty that often exists behind the pictures of happy puppies posted on a breeder’s website, and this rule will crack down on the worst Internet breeders.”

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 AWA, breeders that sell directly to consumers, whether via the Internet, newspaper classifieds or other outlets, are exempt from any federal oversight. The direct 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.

Last year, the ASPCA, along with several other national animal welfare organizations, gathered approximately 350,000 letters and signatures from concerned citizens in support of the USDA’s efforts to regulate unlicensed puppy mills.

“The enormous public response to the USDA’s efforts illustrates just how strongly Americans support greater oversight of puppy mills and their intensity of concern about the humane treatment of animals,” said Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. “We thank the USDA for instituting this change and encourage them to continue to establish even stronger legal protections to safeguard dogs from unscrupulous breeders and improve conditions for dogs in USDA-licensed facilities.”

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. In June, the ASPCA launched a new tool on its “No Pet Store Puppies” website that allows consumers to link pet stores that sell puppies with USDA licensed commercial dog breeders who supply puppies to pet stores around the country. The database contains more than ten thousand photos of commercial dog breeding facilities, which not only show conditions that violate federal law, but also conditions that are legal but that the ASPCA—and the general public—consider inhumane. “Consumers can see for themselves what ‘USDA licensed’ means and not be falsely reassured when a pet store tells them their puppies come from USDA licensed breeders,” added Menkin. “Thanks to this new rule, our database will expand to include more breeders who will fall under federal oversight for the first time and allow consumers to make informed decisions and refrain from buying puppies at pet stores or online.”

To learn more about the ASPCA’s efforts to eradicate puppy mills, please visit