HSVMA Urges Veterinary Professionals to Support USDA Proposal to Regulate Unlicensed Large-Scale Commercial Breeding Facilities
Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:51 AM

HSVMA Urges Veterinary Professionals to Support USDA Proposal to Regulate Unlicensed Large-Scale Commercial Breeding Facilities

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association applauds Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for issuing a proposed federal rule designed to close the regulatory loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that has allowed thousands of large-scale commercial breeding facilities, commonly known as puppy mills, to operate without federal inspections or oversight, particularly operations that sell over the Internet.

"Closing this loophole is a very significant action. It will promote better monitoring of the health and humane treatment of dogs in puppy mills who are often confined to small cages, endure continuous breeding, suffer from poor husbandry, and receive minimal or no veterinary care," said Dr. Paula Kislak, president of the HSVMA’s board of directors. "These conditions predispose the dogs to parvovirus, canine distemper, pneumonia, bronchitis, enteric parasitism with Giardia and coccidia, and a multitude of physical injuries."

The USDA is seeking public comments on the proposed rule until July 16, 2012. The HSVMA urges veterinary professionals to voice their support of the proposed rule.

Veterinary professionals are urged to share any personal expertise with the agency that would be helpful; for example, experience treating dogs from puppy mills and concerns about the spread of disease when puppies are shipped state-to-state by unlicensed and unmonitored facilities.

The proposed rule can be viewed and commented on via the USDA website.

Background on Proposed Rule

Currently, Animal Welfare Act regulations allow most large-scale commercial breeders who sell puppies to distant buyers over the Internet or by phone or mail to avoid complying with even the most basic humane care standards. The current definition of "retail pet store" was developed more than 40 years ago―before the Internet existed―and some large-scale breeders selling pets are taking advantage of a loophole that improperly exempts them from the basic requirements of the Animal Welfare Act. The proposed rule will close this loophole, ensuring animals sold over the Internet, and via phone- and mail-based businesses, are better monitored for their overall health and humane treatment.

The proposed rule would require large-scale, commercial breeders and dealers who sell puppies to members of the public "sight unseen," including those who sell over the Internet, to abide by the same basic standards of care as those who sell wholesale to pet stores. The proposed rule will not affect small hobby breeders with four or fewer breeding females, or those who sell puppies directly to the public from their homes.

The announcement about the proposed rule comes just a few months after the release of a disturbing investigation by The Humane Society of the United States that demonstrated widespread consumer fraud and abuse throughout the commercial puppy mill industry, primarily due to lack of federal oversight of Internet puppy sellers. The investigation of Purebred Breeders LLC, which owns and operates almost 800 different puppy-selling websites, revealed that the company was marketing dogs from puppy mills to unsuspecting buyers.

Legislative Reforms Also Pending

Legislation currently being considered in Congress, the PUPS Act, for "Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety," S. 707 and H.R. 835, would achieve a similar reform to the rule proposed today by USDA, and would require Internet puppy mill sellers to meet federal animal care standards. The HSVMA expresses its thanks to the sponsors of the legislation, which enjoys bipartisan support, for advocating for this policy reform: Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif.

To learn more about the campaign to end puppy mills, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills.

UPDATE (9/14/2012): Today, The HSUS released a five-year study today highlighting illnesses of puppies bought online, in pet stores, or through direct sales. The study's results reinforce the need for better regulations for unlicensed puppy mills. Learn more»