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USDA Proposal Will Close the Internet Puppy Mill Loophole

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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.

What do you think of the changes to the Animal Welfare Act? Share your thoughts with us below.


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  1. Avatar Of Heidi



    We need these laws to protect all animals,they are defenseless animals who need our help, any and all animal abusers should be shot on sight.

  2. Avatar Of Sue



    Brandy Arnold, you must be one of those animal rights activists! You stated, “The law, unfortunately, does not make provisions for dealing with backyard breeders or hobby breeders that are selling puppies out of their home.” While I agree with the backyard breeder part of your statement, most reputable breeders would fall under what you call the “hobby breeder” category. Hobby breeders are those who breed maybe one or two litters a year, always do health checks on the potential sires and dams, and make sure their animals get the best possible care from birth through death. They make sure that their pups are placed with good families who will love them as a member of their family. Most hobby breeders do not make any money–and quite often lose money–on each sale of a puppy. The cost of health certifying each dam and sire, special food for the dam while she is pregnant, veterinary visits with the dam throughout her pregnancy, vaccinations for the puppies, and vet visits for the pups, all make it nearly impossible to make money from selling puppies. Also, without hobby breeders, there would be very few healthy pups available for adoption by loving families. Hobby breeders also make sure that each pup they place has the best of care throughout their lives. The breeder usually creates a lifetime relationship with each puppy owner and makes each one sign a contract stating that if the new owner cannot keep the dog for any reason during the dog’s lifetime, the dog is to be returned to the breeder to either live out the rest of it’s life with the breeder or to be placed in a loving home.

    Elaine S. stated it well above. Co-ownership is quite often the way many reputable breeders handle the situation of an unknown new owner. That way the pup can be taken back with less legal issues if ever there is a problem.

    So, Ms. Arnold, before you go posting inflammatory “stories” such as this one, do your homework!

  3. Avatar Of Laurel Mancini

    Laurel Mancini


    Educate the public. For any individual to know how to assess a breeder and a pet shop. Educate the public. A puppy mill hustler is not a breeder of healthy animals. It is inhumane to make money from consistent breeding. Any woman who was ever pregnant should shout out in frustration at such a practice. Educate the public. Why not activate retired people, train them to check out breeders. It is not the laws, but the enforcement that is the problem. Need more trained people.

  4. Avatar Of Elaine S

    Elaine S


    “anyone who owns and breeds more than 4 female dogs which are listed for sale on the internet, over the phone, or by mail..”

    This is a horrible law and it will destroy many small, hobby breeders. While “4 female dogs” sounds like a lot, it isn’t because they are including dogs which are co-owned with other people. Most responsible breeders sell their pups on a co-ownership, especially with people new to the breed. The law describes a “breeding female dog” as being 4 months of age! That is way too young and, not only that, but a responsible breeder doesn’t even know at 4 months of age if the female will be of good enough quality to be bred.

    “Puppy mills” need to be regulated on a local level, not a federal level. As it is, APHIS is NOT enforcing the AWA as it currently exists. Before throwing more money at a Federal agency which isn’t doing its job, let them get their act in gear first!

  5. Avatar Of Heather Duncan

    Heather Duncan


    This is great news. This type of action is long overdue. There’s no reason these people should not be held to the same standards and humane conditions for their dogs, as any other retail dog dealer. Hopefully this action has the desired effect and puppy mills will either have to shape up or (preferably) ship out!

  6. Avatar Of Jackie Spratt

    Jackie Spratt


    Thank goodness, something is started, their is a person here in Ohio
    that lives off the backs of the dogs. I for one hope it gets tougher! No one person should ever have 80 dogs plus puppies!!!!!!!!!

  7. I think this is a huge step in the right direction. Accountability will be hard but again heading down this path brings awareness to the public. As far as backyard breeders and hobby breeders will only be that much more in the public eye as far as the public being more educated. We’ll never stop people from breeding dogs so continuing to educate the public about breeding practices is first and for most our goal in reducing the ever growing doggie population. All about education.

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