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February 27, 2013

Federal Lawmakers Push to Protect Dogs in Puppy Mills

Legislation would apply welfare requirements to online puppy sellers

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund commend federal lawmakers for reintroducing legislation that will close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations that currently allows puppy mills to sell dogs over the Internet without any oversight or standards of care. Puppy mills are large-scale, commercial breeding operations where dogs are commonly housed in overcrowded, filthy and inhumane conditions. The current law allows large, commercial breeders who sell puppies online or directly to the public to escape the licensing and inspection requirements that apply to breeders selling dogs to pet stores.

S. 395 and H.R. 847  — known as the PUPS Act, or "Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act"— is sponsored by 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.

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“Dogs shouldn't be treated like a cash crop," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, which has conducted multiple investigations of puppy mills and rescued thousands of the dogs from cruelty. "The federal law regarding the care of dogs at commercial dog-breeding operations needs an overhaul, and this legislation will correct some of the worst gaps and deficiencies in current law.”

“The media regularly reports stories about dogs rescued from substandard facilities – where dogs are housed in stacked wire cages and seriously ill and injured dogs are routinely denied access to veterinary care,” Sen. Durbin said. “Online dog sales have contributed to the rise of these sad cases. This bipartisan bill requires breeders who sell more than 50 dogs a year directly to the public to obtain a license from the USDA and ensures that the dogs receive proper care.”

"I was alarmed by the USDA IG report that exposed inhumane treatment of dogs, especially abusive breeding practices,” said Sen. Vitter. “I applaud USDA's work to close loopholes that unscrupulous breeders exploited with Internet sales, and the PUPS Act introduced by Senator Durbin and me will help ensure that puppies are treated humanely and bred in safe and sanitary facilities and that consumers can purchase healthy pets for their families."

The bill would also require that dogs used for breeding be provided daily exercise. Breeding dogs in puppy mills are typically forced to live their entire lives in small cages with no opportunity for exercise, little or no socialization and minimal human interaction.

“We know that there are many reputable breeders who do things the right way and treat their dogs humanely. We want all breeders to play by the same rules so that everyone who wants to welcome a new dog into their family can do so with the confidence of knowing that the animal has been cared for properly,” said Rep. Gerlach. “This legislation will ensure dogs are protected and individuals who put profit ahead of the fair and humane treatment of dogs are held accountable for their actions.”

“The loophole in the Animal Welfare Act created by the Internet has resulted in widespread abuse of dogs in breeding facilities,” said Rep. Farr. “Leaving dogs crammed into small cages with no exercise or social contact goes against our humanity. The PUPS Act is necessary to end the abuses of puppy mills and restore the values of our society.”

Facilities that breed dogs for commercial resale through pet stores are required to be licensed and inspected under the federal Animal Welfare Act. However, puppy mills that sell directly to the public are exempt from any federal oversight partly because the Animal Welfare Act was written before the birth of the Internet. Unregulated Internet sellers and other direct sales facilities sell thousands of puppies a year to unsuspecting consumers. Due to improper care by these breeders, these puppies are often sick, leaving outraged consumers with frail, sometimes dying puppies, high vet bills and broken hearts. Meanwhile, the breeding dogs at these facilities often spend their entire lives in constant confinement, suffering, and deprivation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a draft rule to amend the Animal Welfare Act regulations to require licensing and inspection of commercial dog breeders selling over the Internet or directly to the public, and would essentially achieve the same policy reform as the PUPS Act. But despite being proposed in May 2012 and receiving more than 350,000 public comments in favor of the rule, the agency has not yet taken final action. Similar legislation had the broad bipartisan support of 33 Senate and 216 House co-sponsors in the last session of Congress.

PUPS will close the loophole in the AWA regulations that allows thousands of commercial breeders to go unregulated. It will require the following changes to the AWA:

  • All dog breeders who sell more than 50 puppies per year directly to the public will be federally licensed and inspected.
  • Dogs at commercial breeding facilities must be given the opportunity to exercise for 60 minutes a day.
  • The bill will not affect small breeders and hobby breeders who sell fewer than 50 dogs per year directly to the public, but is crafted to cover only large commercial breeding facilities.

Media contact: Niki Ianni, 610-999-6932, nianni@humanesociety.org

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