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ALERT -- INTERNET-BASED PUPPY MILLS NOW SUBJECT TO USDA REGULATION!

 pawprint bullet point   10 Sept 2013 USDA Press Release (pdf)   pawprint bullet point    USDA Final Rule FAQ (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   USDA Docket No. APHIS-2011-0003 (actual rule & process) (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

     NOTE: Patricia McConnell, University of Wisconsin-Madison zoologist and animal behavior expert, has written a very informative analysis on how the new USDA rule will affect reputable hobby breeders, particularly in the context of Wisconsin's two-year experience with regulation. Please see: The Other End of the Leash: USDA Internet Sale Regulations. .

Poodle mix from Thyme & Sage Ranch.     Last year, we joined animal welfare and rescue groups all across the nation in asking you to contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and urge them to close the Animal Welfare Act loophole that allowed internet, phone, and mail pet sellers to escape USDA regulation and minimum standards of care.

     According to the USDA, during the 90-day comment period, they received more than 210,000 comments and 213,000 signatures on petitions submitted by organizations supporting or opposing the proposed rule.

     We are happy to tell you that the USDA listened! On 10 September 2013, they announced a revised and updated definition of “retail pet store” under the Animal Welfare Act to help ensure the health and humane treatment of pet animals sold sight unseen via phone, internet, and mail!

     Briefly, the USDA Animal Welfare Act (AWA) previously only required licensing of dog, cat, and small mammal breeders who sold wholesale to brokers, pet stores, or laboratories. Prior to the internet, it was felt that pet stores did not have to be licensed, because sellers could visit the premises and see first- hand the puppies they were buying.

These puppies were living in a wire mesh cage outside in the dead of winter.     As the internet made "Direct to public" sales (phone order, mail order, and internet) easier and more lucrative, these sellers claimed “retail pet store” status, exempting themselves from both oversight by consumers and compliance with the USDA minimum standards of care.

     In fact, in 2010 Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit found that more than 80 percent of sampled breeders were not licensed under the AWA because they sold pets over the Internet and claimed “retail pet store” status. "Recommendation 12" at the end of the report advises that "Internet breeders [be excluded] from the definition of “retail pet store,” and require that all applicable breeders or brokers who sell through the Internet be regulated under AWA." (Read the entire report here. CAUTION: this report contains some very graphic photos and examples of violations that may be upsetting to some readers. )

     The new 2013 regulation restores the definition of retail pet store to its original intent: "a place of business or residence at which the seller, buyer and the animal available for sale are physically present so that the buyer may personally observe the animal and help ensure its health prior to purchasing or taking custody of it."

     Traditional “brick and mortar” pet stores under this definition will continue to be exempt from federal licensing and inspection requirements under the Animal Welfare Act. However, Internet based businesses and other businesses that maintain more than four breeding females (dogs, cats or small exotic/wild pocket pets) and sell animals sight unseen as pets* 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 minimum standards of care. For a brief overview of the new rule, please see USDA Final Rule FAQ (pdf). If you are interested, you can also read the entire USDA Docket No. APHIS-2011-0003 (actual rule & process) (pdf).

Puppies starved for human contact vie for attention. They are living on open wire mesh in the snow while the miller wears a heavy coat, hat, and gloves.     Here in Wisconsin, we have an outstanding dog seller law which applies to EVERYONE in our state who sells over 25 dogs per year from more than three litters. 2009 Wisconsin Act 90 requires licensing regardless of how or where dogs are sold, whether to brokers, in traditional pet stores, or via newspaper ads, flea markets, signs along the road, and over the internet. Unlike the new USDA rule and the original Animal Welfare Act, Act 90 applies to rescues, shelters, and animal control facilities as well.

     The USDA/ AWA amendment will not provide the protection for dogs that WI Act 90 does for Wisconsin dogs, but it is a start! It closes up one huge loophole behind which dog sellers in other states have been operating unrestricted, PLUS, it adds protection for cats and "little critters" that, unfortunately, WI does not have yet in its state statutes.

     Patricia McConnell, University of Wisconsin-Madison zoologist and expert on animal behavior, has written a very informative analysis on the effect of the new USDA rule on reputable hobby breeders, particularly in the context of Wisconsin's two-year experience with regulation. Please see: The Other End of the Leash: USDA Internet Sale Regulations.

 pawprint bullet point   Patricia McConnell: USDA Internet Sale Regulations   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   10 Sept 2013 USDA Press Release (pdf)   pawprint bullet point    USDA Final Rule FAQ (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   USDA Docket No. APHIS-2011-0003 (actual rule & process) (pdf)   pawprint bullet point

 pawprint bullet point   2009 Wisconsin Act 90   pawprint bullet point

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