USDA Closes Internet Puppy Mill Loophole

"Puppy Mill" Breeders, like the one shown above, that have been previously exempt from the Animal Welfare Act will now face USDA inspections and must follow a standard of care and treatment of animals.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture, announced new laws that they hope will close the internet puppy mill loophole that currently exempts breeders that sell puppies online from the same regulations and inspections required of other breeders.

The current Animal Welfare Act, a law written in 1966 to set standards of care for animals bred for commercial resale, has received criticism in recent years due to a lack of adapting to modern technology. Because of loopholes in the law, those breeders selling directly to consumers through new technologies – like the internet – that weren’t in place when the laws were written, have not had to comply with federal regulations and inspections. Basically, these animals are not even guaranteed their very basic needs to survive – clean water, food, shelter, veterinary care, exercise, etc.

Online puppy sellers are generally the worst of the worst puppy mills. These are the breeders whose dogs are kept in deplorable conditions, given only enough food and water to remain alive long enough to breed a litter of unhealthy puppies, never receiving veterinary care, not feeling a loving human touch, or the joy of feeling the grass beneath their paws. They are packed into rickety cages, standing in feces and urine, their nails untrimmed, illnesses untreated, and coats un-groomed – all because the laws have not previously been updated to include them.

Today, animal advocates that have pushed strongly for an updated Animal Welfare Act are celebrating.

In a statement, The Humane Society of the United States said, “The USDA is announcing today a monumental victory for puppy mill dogs and those who advocate on their behalf, with plans to subject the thousands of breeders who sell online to federal inspections and oversight for the first time. The new rule will also apply to large commercial breeders of other warm-blooded pets such as kittens and small mammals and will improve the welfare of thousands of animals across the country, including those in your own backyard.”

The new regulations will take effect in 60 days. Breeders with more than four “breedable” females who currently sell animals online, by phone or by mail will need to apply for a USDA permit, pay an annual licensing fee and consent to random inspections. The USDA estimates some 4,000 breeders will be affected by the new law.

While it’s a step in the right direction for eradicating puppy mills, the USDA – who stands to bring in an additional $2.8 million annually in fees and fines from these breeders – must now step up and do their job of inspecting breeding facilities and imposing serious penalties for those that are in violation.

How do you feel about the changes to the Animal Welfare Act? Do you believe we’re finally headed toward the end of puppy mills? Weigh in with a comment below!

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