USDA puppy mill regulations
In a stunning setback in their efforts to increase enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), USDA has suddenly reversed course and decided to, once again, tolerate substandard conditions at puppy mills. Dr. Chester Gipson, USDA’s chief of enforcement for the AWA, recently told animal advocates that the USDA needs “to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores” and citing violations is an impediment to such sales.
In the past few years, many municipalities have enacted ordinances restricting pet stores to only purchasing puppies from breeders with no violations on their federal inspection reports. These ordinances are intended to protect consumers from buying dogs from substandard puppy mills.
Shockingly, USDA has made the decision to help substandard breeders circumvent these ordinances and to continue to sell puppies in spite of continuing violations. USDA has recently instructed their inspectors not to cite breeders for “minor” violations as such documentation is making it more difficult for breeders to sell their puppies. When questioned as to their definition of “minor,” or as to how many minor violations of the Animal Welfare Act will be ignored per facility, and for how long such violations will be tolerated, USDA responded that it will be left up to the individual inspector and admitted that no guidance has been provided for the inspectors.
At a recent meeting of dog breeders, USDA officials told breeders that, “if at any time a violation has the potential of affecting your business, please call our office immediately and let us know,” emphasizing that USDA stands ready to enable breeders to market their dogs to pet stores.
In an effort to further aide substandard dog breeders, USDA has hired a long-time puppy mill lobbyist and advocate, Julian Prager, to be its “Canine Advisor.” Mr. Prager’s duties will include assisting in the training of USDA inspectors. Ironically, Mr. Prager has consistently opposed all laws regulating puppy mills and vigorously opposed Pennsylvania’s new puppy mill law, and most recently, fought against implementation of USDA’s new regulations on puppy mills selling over the Internet. Mr. Prager also opposed a law to prevent puppy mill operators from performing surgeries such as C-sections and debarking on their own dogs. Julian Prager seated with AKC lobbyists. This year the AKC allocated $10,000 to oppose Missouri’s new puppy mill regulations. Yet, this is the individual that USDA has hired to assist in the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the law which regulates the same industry that Mr. Prager has served to promote and protect for several decades.
Please contact the Secretary of Agriculture and remind him that the AWA stands for the Animal Welfare Act and not the Dog Breeders Welfare Act. USDA’s sole focus, as mandated by Congress, should be on the welfare of the dogs and not the welfare of the substandard breeders’ businesses regardless of how the neglect of their animals is hurting them financially.
Contact Secretary Tom Vilsack at [email protected], leave a message at (202) 720-3631 or write him at:
Secretary Tom Vilsack
U. S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
Below is an example of what to write in either email or snail mail correspondence to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack:
It has come to my attention, through a social media campaign, “Accountability
Now”, USDA inspectors are incorrectly issuing violations for commercial dog
breeders. USDA inspection reports show breeding dogs clearly suffering, and in
pain, and inspectors issuing indirect violations.
These breeding dogs need USDA inspectors to do their job correctly and enforce
the Animal Welfare Act.
The issue of incorrect reporting of violations was addressed in in the OIG 2010
report and a corrective plan put in place. Today this corrective
plan is clearly not effective.
The USDA’s 2015 Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan does not contain the
words dog, breeding, kennel or canine once in relation to the AWA, which only
appears four times in the 127-page document. Where do the commercial breeding
Advocates for breeding dogs across the country are becoming aware of this
monumental problem with USDA inspections and are calling on you, the Deputy
Administrator for Animal Care USDA APHIS to make the changes needed to protect
breeding dogs to the fullest extent the Animal Welfare Act allows.
Suffolk County is the first municipality in New York State to regulate pet dealers and the source of the puppies they offer for sale to unknowing consumers. The “Puppy Mill Bill”, sponsored by Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Legislator “Doc” Spencer passed the legislature unanimously on June 3rd, 2014 in Hauppauge.
The bill sets standards for cage size, how cages are stacked, and will require dealers to provide inspection reports of the breeding facilities on request as well as post publicly that that information is available.
The bill also bans dealers in the county from buying animals from commercial breeding facilities that have:
- A direct violation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which regulates breeders) within the past two years
- ‘No access’ violations on the two most recent inspection reports from the USDA
- Three or more different indirect violations, other than “no access violations,” on the most recent USDA reporter
- One or more recurring indirect violations on the most recent USDA report
There would also be a fine up to $500 per violation.
Barbara Dennihy, a local animal advocate spearheaded a movement to regulate pet dealers in Suffolk County in 2010. Along with other local animal advocates she went before Suffolk legislators asking for a ban on the sale of puppies in Suffolk County to combat puppy mill abuse. FOIL documents from New York State Agriculture Department show pet stores in Suffolk County source their puppies from horrible puppy mills some with horrible violations from the USDA against breeding dogs. Nothing could be done at that time because of an existing preemption in the NYS Agriculture law.
After a 3 year long campaign by animal advocates from all over New York State to get the preemption lifted, this past January Governor Cuomo signed a bill to lift the preemption allowing local municipalities to regulate pet dealers as long as they do not pass any bill to ban the retail sale of puppies that are raised in a safe and healthy manner. Before the ink was dry Barbara contacted Legislator Schneiderman and asked him to sponsor a bill to regulate pet dealers in Suffolk County. Working with local animal advocates and Schneiderman a bill was put together to regulate pet dealers. This is a first step in holding pet stores accountable. They can no longer hide the source of the puppies they sell. The real end to this horrible business practice lies with the consumers. They need to stop buying puppies from retail stores and over the internet.
“If you cannot meet the parents or at least the mother of the puppy, see the condition of the kennel the dogs live in, see the veterinary records for the parent dogs, and check references – then you should not purchase that puppy. If you do, you are probably supporting puppy mill cruelty. Pet stores use puppy mills to get puppies, that is a fact.”
My husband and I joined this effort near the tail end to help where we were able. We do not just get involved with awareness and fundraising, but on the legislation level too! My heart is full today!