Not difficult to support the USDA in proposing online puppy sales fall under the Animal Welfare Act

The USAD APHIS proposal would help protect dogs from puppy mills.The public is becoming increasingly aware that if you buy a puppy from a pet store, that puppy has likely come from a substandard commercial breeding facility or “puppy mill.” 

You probably know that puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without veterinary care, inadequate food or water and little or no socialization.

Puppy mill dogs don’t receive treats, toys, exercise or even a towel to lie on. Dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs. Breeder females are mated at each heat cycle to put out litter after litter until exhausted, they can produce no more.

Then they are often killed.

And you may know, commercial breeding facilities and breeders who sell puppies to pet stores, puppy brokers, research facilities, dealers or exhibitors must have a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) license and are subject to periodic inspections by the USDA under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

But breeders who sell directly to the public via the Internet aren’t subject to the same licensing and oversight.

What you may not know is that if you buy a puppy over the Internet, you are likely to be buying from a puppy mill.

Puppy mills and puppy brokers use the Internet to present the image of a loving breeder with a litter of well-cared-for puppies looking for good homes. Their website features cute photos of puppies and have statements like “family raised” to mislead consumers into thinking they are a responsible breeder.

In reality, most puppies sold online are large-scale commercial dog breeding operations – some with more than 500 dogs – where the “breeder dogs” are kept in shockingly cruel conditions and the puppies are often sick or have congenital deformities from irresponsible breeding practices.

Given the horrific conditions that have been found in licensed commercial breeding facilities one can only imagine the horrible conditions that can and do exist in unlicensed facilities.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to revise its definition of “retail pet store” to include those who sell puppies over the Internet to “help provide oversight to ensure these animals are better monitored for their overall health and humane treatment.”

This revision would subject dog owners who breed more than four females and sell the puppies electronically, by mail or over the phone, to the same oversight faced by wholesale dealers as part of the Animal Welfare Act.

The USDA-APHIS proposal was open for public comment until August 15, 2012 and IFAW respectfully submitted a comment paper in general support of the USDA-APHIS proposed rule to revise the definition of “retail pet store” and related regulations to bring more pet dogs sold by puppy mills under AWA protection. IFAW has requested that clarifications or improvements be made to the proposal in three key areas.  Read the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s comment concerning the proposal here.

There are reputable breeders who sell healthy puppies and anyone who wants a particular breed should do their homework first.

Be suspicious of any breeder who will ship a puppy anywhere to anyone or who refuses to let a potential adopter onto their premises and wants to meet you elsewhere. It’s probably a puppy mill.

The best option is to consider adopting a dog from a local rescue or animal shelter. 

-- GA

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Experts

Cora Bailey
Director, Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW)
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Dr. Ian Robinson, Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
Vice President, Programs & Int'l Operations
Gail A'Brunzo, IFAW Wildlife Rescue Manager
Wildlife Rescue Manager, IFAW HQ
Hanna Lentz, Program Officer/Campaigner, IFAW HQ
Program Officer/Campaigner, IFAW HQ
Jan Hannah
Northern Dogs Project Manager
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Companion Animals
Program Director, Companion Animals
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Veterinarian, DVM, PhD
Nancy Barr, Program Director, Animal Action Education
Program Director, Animal Action Education
Rebecca Brimley, Program Advisor
Program Advisor
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters