Update—June 6, 2019: The comment period is now closed. We want to thank the nearly 16,000 supporters who raised their voices on behalf of this important issue. We will provide an update when the USDA moves forward on a final rule. We may need your help in the future, so please stay tuned!

No matter how miserably federally regulated puppy breeders treat animals, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) automatically renews their Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licenses every year. This means licensed breeders with terrible violations stay in business even if they broke the law.

The agency has just issued a proposal meant to fix this broken system. Unfortunately, the modification fails to root out even the most glaring failures and does little to prevent bad breeders from obtaining or keeping a USDA license. The proposal is so lax that it gives breeders the right to request a trial-like hearing if their application is denied—after multiple failed inspections.

What’s more, the proposal was published just days before the USDA released very troubling 2018 enforcement statistics showing a steep drop in disciplinary actions taken against cruel, commercial puppy breeders.

This proposal, together with the USDA’s ongoing refusal to make complete inspection records publicly available, raises concerns about the agency’s continued efforts to hide information about animal businesses from American taxpayers.

While the proposal does incorporate long-overdue changes to USDA’s licensing system and vet care standards for dogs in USDA-regulated facilities, those advances are meaningless if enforcement is poor. One change would require that each dog receive an annual exam by a veterinarian. This is a step in the right direction toward better welfare for dogs, but the agency must do more to improve the lives of dogs at these miserable facilities.