NAIA Action Alert

By:  Date: 03/28/2002

NAIA serves the interests of those concerned about animal welfare and responsible animal ownership. For more information about this legislation or any other matter affecting animal welfare or responsible animal ownership, contact NAIA at the following: NAIA website; NAIA Trust; naia@involved.com; (503) 761-1139; or PO Box 66579, Portland, Oregon 97290-6579.

Letters needed in opposition to the
'Puppy Protection Act'

S. 1478 and H.R. 3058




Decade after decade, puppy mills have remained one of America's most intractable animal welfare challenges. Accordingly, more legislative proposals, more media exposés and more fundraising campaigns have been dedicated to puppy mills than to just about any other animal welfare issue.

This year is no exception. Prompted by the Humane Society of the United States* (HSUS) and other animal rights/welfare groups, a new bill to deal with puppy mills, S. 1478**, was introduced this month by Rick Santorum, (R-PA) and a companion bill, H.R. 3058, was introduced in the House by Edward Whitfield (R-KY). Like so many of its predecessors, this legislation raises many compelling and sensational claims, but it fails to address the less media-worthy issues that are fundamental and essential to making progress.

Although the backers of S. 1478/H.R. 3058 claim that it is only intended to apply to "puppy mills," it is critical to recall that an organization supporting this legislation brought a lawsuit resulting in a recent decision (now on appeal) that every person who sells even one litter of puppies is a "dealer" and therefore subject to the Animal Welfare Act. Accordingly, any legislation aimed at correcting conditions in substandard kennels should return the AWA to its original purpose - the regulation of commercial kennels that sell puppies to pet stores - by clearly exempting breed enthusiasts who produce litters in their homes and sell puppies directly to members of the public.

NAIA strongly and actively supports improvements in commercial dog breeding, but strongly opposes S. 1478/H.R. 3058 because we believe that these provisions are so misguided that passage would actually produce more damage than good.

The following items are the 3 primary elements of the legislation:

1.       Policing breeding practices: This legislation mandates when and how often dogs can be bred. On the surface, this might sound like a good idea because most breeders have much higher standards than the ones called for in these bills. However, it is not the substance of the requirements but the degree to which this provision expands federal regulatory authority over breeding practices that guarantees toxic results. This is a classic "camel's nose under the tent" provision expanding federal regulation to a level that is both excessive and unenforceable. Such a combination produces greater potential for harassment than it does for animal welfare improvements.

2.       Engineering standard for socialization: This legislation mandates that animal welfare and behavior experts develop "engineering standards" for socializing dogs. NAIA is a strong supporter of socialization and training for all puppies and dogs but opposes this provision for a number of significant reasons. For starters, there are no scientifically validated standards for socialization at this time. Second, if such standards did exist, promoting socialization through the development of an engineering standard would still be inappropriate. Performance standards that allow flexibility in reaching the desired result have proven to be far more effective in achieving success. Engineering standards, on the other hand, have served activists far better than the animals they were designed to protect. Finally, if the standards are to have value, they should be developed by scientists with the assistance of recognized experts in the regulated community, not by animal welfare activists, and they should be researched, refined and properly tested before they are mandated by any legislative body.

3.       License revocation: This legislation calls for a strict (3 strikes and you're out) license revocation policy but does not define violations in terms of severity. Because the AWA and USDA regulations do not distinguish between serious violations and minor areas of noncompliance, this provision would slow animal welfare improvements and encourage inequities. NAIA shares the goal of stopping inhumane breeders, removing their animals and preventing them from breeding animals in the future. We do not believe, however, that this is the proper way to accomplish that goal. NAIA believes that the 3 strikes and you're out provision, despite its appealing sound, would make it more difficult for USDA inspectors to suspend the licenses of bad operators.

While having a mom and apple pie appearance, S. 1478 and H.R. 3058 divert attention away from areas of greater concern where legislation could yield far more significant results. This legislation focuses on the most highly regulated members of the commercial dog-breeding sector while ignoring the widespread existence of kennels operating in violation of current laws and regulations - the facilities where truly deplorable conditions are found. Indeed, the need for this particular legislation is predicated on conditions that are already illegal, while the bills' requirements are aimed at the regulated group. This legislation weakens AWA enforcement ability by expanding USDA's licensing and inspections responsibilities and forcing inspectors to spend more of their limited time and resources investigating compliant breeders instead of seeking out those individuals who are operating illegally.

NAIA therefore adamantly opposes both HR 3058, the House version of the bill, and S 1478, the Senate version, as counterproductive feel-good legislation that could easily cause more problems than they solve.

Grant USDA the authority to identify and suspend those who operate illegally

Furthermore, in accord with NAIA's practice of suggesting alternatives to proposed legislation, NAIA suggests that Congress, instead of supporting this legislation, grant USDA the budget and authority it needs to track puppy sales to and from breeders, dealers, and retailers in order to identify and close down those who operate without regard for dog or puppy health and well-being.

Regulate the growing importation of dogs from foreign countries

In addition to its suggestions for increased funding and authority to allow USDA to identify and eliminate unlawful kennels, NAIA urges Congress to consider legislation to cope with problems rising from the importation of foreign dogs for the pet market and foreign strays entering US shelters.

If we are truly interested in protecting the welfare of dogs and the interests of American consumers who purchase them, we should be concerned about the conditions under which these foreign dogs are bred, and we should establish veterinary standards to assure that these imported dogs do not carry diseases or parasites that could threaten the health of US citizens and animals. NAIA also believes that shelters that purchase puppies and import strays to place in new homes are acting as pet stores and that their suppliers should be licensed as dealers under the AWA.

NAIA urges those who want to improve conditions for puppies and dogs in commercial operations to oppose S. 1478 and H.R. 3058 and ask senators and representatives to instead support changes that will give USDA the authority to track down illegal breeders and establish policies to deal with foreign dogs entering the domestic pet market through commercial dealers and shelters.

Here's what you can do

  • Ask your Senators and Representative to oppose S. 1478 and H.R. 3058. To locate your Senators, search the US Senate website. Or, to find  your Representative, search the US Congress website. To find any legislator, call the US Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the office of your Senator or Representative.
  • If your Representative or Senators sit on the House or Senate Agriculture Committee, please ask them to stop these bills.
  • If your Senators or Representative are listed as cosponsors of either bill, please ask them to withdraw their support for the reasons given above and instead support legislation that will give USDA the authority to track down kennels already operating illegally and establish policies to deal with foreign dogs entering the domestic pet market through commercial dealers and shelters.
  • Write letters opposing these bills and ask your friends and associates to do the same.
  • Visit the AKC website for more information on this legislation.



* In the linked article, HSUS disparages the AKC contribution to canine health research by using outdated figures as if they were current. AKC donates more than $1 million annually to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, and AKC clubs have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars more to study, treat, and cure canine diseases.

For more information about HSUS,

** To read the bills in text format, go to Thomas, the US Congress on the Internet and type the bill number in the search window.

For more information on related subjects, see:

  • Redefining pet overpopulation: The no-kill movement and the new jet-setters
  • DDAL sues government over AWA enforcement
  • NAIA's "Dog Event of the Century!" celebrates the joy and wonder of the human-animal bond
  • What everyone should know about animal rights 
  • Animal rights, animal welfare: which is it?
  • Animal rights is a world problem, not just a sportsman's dilemma
  • Animal rights groups raise money, distort issues, and disparage people
  • Why AKC, charities and the media are strange bedfellows



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