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Appeals Court: Commercial Dog Breeders May Not Hide Information from Public

Information submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture by regulated commercial dog breeding operations must be released to the public, per an appeals court ruling. Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president & chief counsel for The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Protection Litigation section, issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Court of Appeals has upheld USDA’s decision to be transparent and accountable to the public, as the Freedom of Information Act requires. This lawsuit was yet another cynical attempt by the puppy mill industry to escape public scrutiny. The public is becoming increasingly aware of the horrors faced by dogs in puppy mills, and The HSUS will continue to educate potential consumers about the inhumane treatment of dogs in these mills, who are often sold in pet stores, at open-air flea markets, and over the Internet. We encourage anyone looking to add a dog to their family to first consider adoption from an animal shelter or rescue group, or to find a responsible breeder.” 


  • Beginning in 2009, The HSUS filed several requests for public information about the license renewal applications, which dog breeders and dealers are legally required to submit to USDA under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
  • USDA initially withheld certain information, including the number of dogs bought and sold per year and gross revenues from regulated activities, but reconsidered and decided to release the materials after The HSUS sued the agency.
  •    In April 2011, the Hunte Corporation and the Missouri Pet Breeders Association sued USDA to block the release of the documents. The U.S District Court for the District of D.C. rejected the breeders’ lawsuit.
  •    On Feb. 4, 2014, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. rejected the arguments made by Hunte and the MPDA. The Court ruled that they failed to show USDA’s determination to comply with the FOIA requests submitted by The HSUS was impermissible.