Federal inspectors will not knock on their doors

By: Patti Strand  Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

Despite three years of pressure from animal rights groups, the US Department of Agriculture has decided to leave home-based dog and cat breeders alone and to regulate dealers of hunting, breeding, and security dogs under the federal Animal Welfare Act.

The Doris Day Animal League spearheaded the drive to require federal licensing of all dog and cat breeders, even those who produce litters in their homes. USDA turned down the petition from DDAL, but the group convinced a judge that the petition must be considered. USDA held two public comment periods and read tens of thousands of responses from animal rights activists and dog and cat fanciers before deciding to leave well enough alone.

The dispute arose over interpretation of the AWA regulations for retail pet stores and deciphering of Congressional intent when the law was passed in the early 1970s. Lumping all breeders with those who produce pets and show animals in substandard conditions, DDAL claimed that Congress intended for only retail businesses to be free of restrictions and that all who breed dogs and cats in their homes should be licensed. USDA contended that Congress intended to exempt all direct-to-consumer sales from the regulations. After the 1996 court decision, USDA sought public comments to determine if hobby breeders should be licensed and if many commercial kennels should be deregulated in order to accommodate licensing for hobby breeders.

In its recent passage of the USDA budget for the next fiscal year, Congress made it clear to the agency that the increased money could not be used to expand its purview over businesses and individuals not covered under current law. The agency responded with the long-awaited decision based in part on fancier's complaints about federal inspectors on their doorsteps and in part on the fact that many currently licensed kennels would fall through the cracks in order to bring home breeders into the system.

Hunting, security, and breeding dogs

The Animal Welfare Act already requires licensing of dealers of hunting, security, and breeding dogs, but USDA did not write rules to implement that portion of the law. The agency will now seek public comments on proposed regulations for those who deal in dogs used for these purposes.

The three-bitch limit

Confusion has arisen over the current practice of licensing breeders with more than three breeding bitches. This regulation applies only to those breeders who sell to third parties for resale, not to breeders who sell puppies or adult dogs to families or to show kennels.

During one comment period, USDA had considered changing the threshold number of bitches and asked for recommendations for a range of limits up to 60. Obviously, such a limit would have deregulated many wholesale kennels that sell to dealers and pet stores and would not have had any relationship to the purpose - wholesale or retail - for which the animals were bred.

About The Author

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Patti Strand - NAIA President

Patti is a recognized expert and consultant on contemporary animal issues, most notably responsible dog ownership and the animal rights movement. She often appears on radio and television and her articles on canine issues, animal welfare, public policy and animal rights have appeared in major US news publications and in trade, professional and scientific journals. Patti and her…

All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |
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