2009 Wisconsin Act
90 Wisconsin Chapter 951 USDA
Animal Welfare Act
2009 Wisconsin Act 90, the ground-breaking law
regulating all commercial dog sellers in the state of Wisconsin, was
unanimously passed by BOTH houses of the state legislature and signed into law
by then-Governor Doyle on 1 December 2009.
however, many people in Wisconsin, including too many of our lawmakers, felt
that our existing state animal cruelty statutes, in conjunction with the
federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), were sufficient to regulate pet breeding and
selling facilities. Unfortunately, as we have shown in our 1999
Interview with a WI "Puppy
Farmer", there were many vagueries, loopholes, and difficulties in
enforcement that allowed this type of "institutionalized cruelty" to
The photo at
left, of small puppies living outside with snow visible on the roof of their
cage and on the ground through the wire mesh under their feet, was taken at the
same "puppy farm" in February of 2008, 8-1/2 years after the WTMJ expose. This miller
stayed in business through countless customer complaints and law enforcement
investigations, because he (a) sells directly to the public and is thus exempt
from federal regulation and (b) is still within the "letter of the
law" by Wisconsin statutes!
if you do not live in Wisconsin and want to know what the humane laws
are in your state, you can look up this information on the ASPCA
State Animal Cruelty Law Summaries page.
Wisconsin Statutes: Crimes Against Animals
Please take a
moment to download and read "Chapter 951: Crimes Against Animals". (This is a
pdf document, so you will need the Acrobat Reader to read it, but the reader is
a free download from the link below.) As you read, you will discover:
951 states that "no person may treat any animal...in a cruel manner."
What constitutes "cruel" is not specified.
state that "adequate" or "sufficient" food, water, shelter,
space, and "sanitation" shall be provided. However, there is no
specific definition of "adequate" or "sufficient."
All of these
sections are open to interpretation, making enforcement difficult, if not
impossible frustrating citizens and law enforcement investigators alike.
The existing statutes are why millers like the one profiled in
Interview with a WI "Puppy
Farmer" and the 2008 photo above could not have been put out of
business. By the existing statutes at the time, they weren't
breaking any laws!
"Chapter 951: Crimes
Against Animals" Acrobat Reader
This does not mean
that it was impossible to secure a conviction within the current laws. It just
means that investigations had to be thorough, painstaking, and well-documented.
Unfortunately, in many cases, it also meant that animals had to be gravely
injured, deathly ill, or already past help for the abuser to be successfully
prosecuted. (Please see our Reporting Animal Cruelty page for more information.)
Wisconsin, there are over 150 certified Humane Officers who are conversant with both the
law and what needs to be done to enforce and prosecute. If you see neglect or
abuse, please check to see if there is a Humane Officer in your area!
suspect that a breeder is in violation of 2009
Wisconsin Act 90, you can file a complaint with the WI Dept. of
Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
Click here for more information.
If you do not
live in Wisconsin and want to know what the humane laws are in your state, you
can look up this information on the ASPCA
State Animal Cruelty Law Summaries page.
USDA Regulation: The Animal Welfare Act
NOTE: On 10 September 2013,
the USDA 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!
For more information,
please click here and read "USDA Restores Important Check and Balance on
Retail Pet Sales to Ensure Health, Humane Treatment"
NOTE: On 15 August 2014, the
USDA announced a revised
and updated definition to help crack down on the import of puppies from foreign
puppy mills. In brief, the new rule requires that puppies be at least 6 months
of age, have veterinary certificates from their country of origin attesting to
their good health, AND be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, hepatitis,
leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus (DHLPP) "at a frequency
that provides continuous protection of the dog from those diseases and is in
accordance with currently accepted practices as cited in veterinary medicine
See USDA Closes Another Loophole: New Regs for Import of Foreign Puppy Mill
Puppies for more details, and
read the final rule, USDA Animal Welfare; Importation of Live
Dept. of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] provides
leadership for determining standards of humane care and treatment of animals.
APHIS implements those standards and achieves compliance through inspection,
education, and cooperative efforts." (APHIS Animal Welfare "home" page)
"Animal Welfare Act, United States Code Title 7 -- Agriculture Chapter 54
-- Transportation, Sale, and Handling of Certain Animals" spells out the
regulations covering the breeding, selling, and transportation of pet animals.
Sec. 2131 is the Congressional statement of policy:
finds that animals and activities which are regulated under this chapter are
either in interstate or foreign commerce or substantially affect such commerce
or the free flow thereof, and that regulation of animals and activities as
provided in this chapter is necessary to prevent and eliminate burdens upon
such commerce and to effectively regulate such commerce, in order--
(1) to insure that
animals intended for use in research facilities or for exhibition purposes or
for use as pets are provided humane care and treatment;
(2) to assure the humane treatment
of animals during transportation in commerce; and
(3) to protect the owners of animals
from the theft of their animals by preventing the sale or use of animals which
have been stolen.
further finds that it is essential to regulate, as provided in this chapter,
the transportation, purchase, sale, housing, care, handling, and treatment of
animals by carriers or by persons or organizations engaged in using them for
research or experimental purposes or for exhibition purposes or holding them
for sale as pets or for any such purpose or use.
You can find
out more about the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) on the AWA section of the
US Dept. of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS) website, including a breakdown of the Animal Welfare Act in
its entirety. Briefly, however:
The AWA licenses and oversees
facilities in the United States which deal in animals for commerce. AWA
categories for licensees include Carriers, Dealers, Exhibitors, Federal
Research Facilities, Handlers, Research Facilities (other than federal), and VA
Hospitals, as well as pet breeders. As for those pet breeders
only those who sell pets wholesale (to pet stores,
research facilities, etc.) are covered once again
bypassing our friend the puppy miller mentioned above and any others who only
sell retail, directly to customers through ads in newspapers, classified
The AWA does have specific rules
and regulations for the minimum requirements, and they do try to
enforce them. However, there are just over 100 inspectors nationwide,
tasked with overseeing about 10,000 facilities!
USDA Animal Welfare
Class A Breeder AWA Licensed and Registered
Class B Dealer AWA Licensed and Registered
Please note: the Class A,
& Class B lists are now several years old -- it appears that the USDA is no
longer posting this informaiton on their website, but you can file a Freedom of
Information Act request to check on specific breeders.
By the way,
the dog whose photo is at the beginning of this section came from a
USDA-licensed "breeding facility." For her story, and more about USDA
"Identification of Animals" regulations, please see:
Little Tag 19
"Chapter 951: Crimes Against Animals"
(pdf) USDA/APHIS Animal Welfare Act "home"
Reporting Animal Cruelty WI Certified Humane
State Animal Cruelty Law Summaries
19 and the USDA Identification of Animals Regulations
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P.O. Box 926 * Sheboygan, WI
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