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May 17, 2012

Humane Care for Dogs is at Stake in Proposed USDA Rule

Citizen support is crucial to help dogs in puppy mills

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund urge support of a proposed rule, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has opened for public comment, that would close a regulatory loophole that has allowed hundreds of large-scale commercial puppy mills to operate without federal inspections or oversight, particularly operations that sell over the Internet.

The USDA will accept comments through August 15.

The rule, which would alter regulations implementing the federal Animal Welfare Act, applies to puppy mills and also includes kitten mills and other facilities that mass-produce animals for the pet trade.

Submitting a comment is easy, and could help thousands of dogs and puppies.

Dogs in puppy mills typically are confined inside cramped, squalid wire cages for life, receiving little to no medical care, exercise, socialization or human interaction. Currently, the AWA regulations allow most large-scale, commercial puppy producers who sell puppies to buyers over the Internet or by phone, to avoid complying with even the most basic humane care standards. Our fact sheet lists the problems associated with Internet-based puppy mills.

By contrast, the proposed new 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 by the USDA, and would require Internet puppy mill sellers to meet federal animal care standards.

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 for details on that investigation.

Media contact: Rebecca Basu; 301-258-3152, rbasu@humanesociety.org

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