Last week, the USDA proposed changes to their definition of a retail pet store in hopes of closing the internet puppy mill loophole. As it is defined now, breeders selling puppies online, through the mail, or over the phone are not subject to federal regulations, inspections, or licensing that are required of wholesale puppy dealers.
The 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.
Under the newly proposed law, anyone who owns and breeds more than 4 female dogs which are listed for sale on the internet, over the phone, or by mail, must either obtain a license (and make themselves available to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) OR, they must open their doors to the public, allowing buyers to see and inspect animals before purchasing.
According to a USDA press release,
“This proposed change is aimed at modernizing our regulations to require individuals who sell animals directly to the public to meet basic care and feeding as required by the Animal Welfare Act,” said Rebecca Blue, Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “By revising the definition of retail pet store to be better suited to today’s marketplace, we will improve the welfare of pets sold to consumers via online, phone- and mail-based businesses.”
The law, unfortunately, does not make provisions for dealing with backyard breeders or hobby breeders that are selling puppies out of their home.
Supporters hope that the new law will help in the fight against puppy mills and allow the USDA to finally, and legally, deal with a growing problem. Thousands of large scale breeders currently taking advantage of the loophole that allows them to avoid inspection will be forced to either shut down or provide humane living conditions in order to continue breeding.
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