DDAL Sues Government over AWA Enforcement

DDAL Sues Government over AWA Enforcement

By: Patti Strand  Date: 01/8/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

Following national exposure of puppy mills on Dateline NBC in April and May, the Doris Day Animal League has once again filed a lawsuit to force the US Department of Agriculture to change the way it enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Although the law was passed by Congress to assure humane treatment of animals involved in interstate commerce, DDAL faults USDA for failure to apply its regulations to direct retail sale of dogs and cats.

DDAL has pressured USDA for years to include direct sale breeders under the regulations. The last attempt in the mid-1990s involved a petition to change the definition of retail outlet so that all breeders would be covered, but after two comment periods and tens of thousands of pro and con responses from dog and cat fanciers and animal rights activists, USDA decided to maintain the status quo for retail sale of dogs and cats but to regulate the raising of dogs sold for for security, hunting, or breeding.



The federal Animal Welfare Act was passed by Congress in 1972 to protect animals bred for and sold in interstate commerce. The regulations written to implement the law specifically exempt direct-to-the-consumer sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores and from breeders who produce these animals for exhibit or sale. Kennels and catteries involved in wholesale interstate commerce must be licensed under the law. USDA enforces the AWA by sending inspectors to licensed facilities throughout the country. Inspectors determine whether the kennel meets the housing, exercise, and care requirements of the AWA. If not, kennel owners can be charged with abuse or given time to correct any violations. In extreme cases of non-compliance, licenses can be revoked and owners fined and prohibited from getting a license in the future.

The Dateline NBC story focused on three USDA-licensed kennels that appeared to violate housing and care standards and criticized USDA for failure to close these and similar operations.



In the last go-round on this issue, NAIA recommended that USDA regulate large commercial kennels that sell puppies and kittens across state lines. In a 1998 letter to USDA, NAIA national director Patti L. Strand wrote that Congress clearly intended to exempt dog and cat fanciers involved in breed improvement and participation in exhibitions, shows, and fairs from regulation and continued:

"On the other hand, there is no doubt that some commercial kennels have fallen through the cracks. These are large commercial retail kennels whose primary purpose is breeding and selling pets at a profit throughout the country, directly to consumers in the general public, who, exactly like pet store consumers, seldom, if ever, observe the premises where the puppy or kitten they purchased was raised or bred. These commercial kennels are in the business of selling dogs and cats through interstate commerce just as much as pet wholesalers; the only difference is that they generally sell one animal at a time to off-premises consumers rather than litter lots to pet stores. "Therefore, NAIA urges USDA to continue categorizing kennels and breeders according to the primary purpose for which the animals are raised, i.e., as a business versus as a hobby or avocation aimed at improving breeds, not by numbers; ...

"to add to the regulation those breeding businesses that make a substantial portion of their income by selling through interstate commerce direct to consumers in the general public who have little or no opportunity to visit the premises and see the conditions where their pet was bred and raised." For more information about NAIA and the 1998 USDA decision on the DDAL petition, visit the NAIA website.

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