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The HSUS Applauds USDA For Proposal To Regulate Unlicensed Puppy Mills

Proposed federal rule would close Internet loophole in Animal Welfare Act regulations

  • The "puppies for profit" approach to Internet dog sales adds greatly to animal suffering. Kelly Colbert/HBO

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund applaud U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for issuing a proposed rule designed to close the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations that has allowed thousands of large-scale commercial puppy mills to operate without federal inspections or oversight, particularly operations that sell over the Internet.

“This is a very significant proposed federal action, since thousands of large-scale breeders take advantage of a loophole that allows them to escape any federal inspections,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “Dogs in puppy mills often live in small, overcrowded cages, living in filth and denied veterinary care. We need more eyes on these operations, and this rule will help.”

Please take action now to help the dogs in puppy mills.

Currently, the AWA regulations allow most large-scale, commercial puppy producers who sell puppies to distant buyers over the Internet or by phone, to avoid complying with even the most basic humane care standards. View an HSUS fact sheet on the problems associated with Internet-based puppy mills.

The proposed rule would require large-scale, commercial puppy breeders and dealers who sell to members of the public “sight unseen,” including those who sell over the Internet, to abide by the same basic standards of care as those who sell wholesale to pet stores. The proposed rule will not affect small hobby breeders who sell puppies directly to the public from their homes.

In 2011, more than 32,000 people signed a petition created by The HSUS and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the official White House website urging the Obama administration to crack down on unregulated puppy mills.

Legislation currently being considered in Congress, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, S. 707 and H.R. 835, would achieve a similar reform to the rule proposed today by USDA, and would require Internet puppy mill sellers to meet federal animal care standards. The HSUS and HSLF express their thanks to the bipartisan sponsors of the legislation, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., for advocating for this policy reform.

Announcement of the proposed rule change comes during Puppy Mill Action Week, The HSUS’ sixth annual event marking advocacy in support of stopping puppy mills. To learn more about the campaign to end puppy mills and activities marking the week, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills.

The proposed rule comes just a few months after the release of a shocking  HSUS investigation that demonstrated widespread consumer fraud and abuse throughout the commercial puppy mill industry, primarily due to lack of federal oversight of Internet puppy sellers. The investigation revealed that Purebred Breeders LLC, which owns and operates almost 800 websites, was found to be marketing dogs from puppy mills to unsuspecting buyers.

The investigation’s findings led The HSUS to collaborate with Florida-based consumer justice law firm, Leopold Law, to file a lawsuit against Purebred Breeders. The lawsuit, filed last November, alleges that the company uses deceptive sales practices to dupe unsuspecting consumers into purchasing dogs from puppy mills. View video footage of the investigation.

Below is a short video of The HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle commenting on the proposed rule change:


Media contact: Rebecca Basu; 301.258.3152, rbasu@humanesociety.org

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