USDA Closes Internet Sale Loophole for Pet Breeders After Pressure from Animal Groups

Posted by Chris Berry, ALDF Litigation Fellow on September 10, 2013

puppy_cageThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service took a significant step forward today for cats and dogs by closing the internet sale loophole to the Animal Welfare Act. This action is the result of an administrative process started by the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and Doris Day Animal League. When those efforts led the USDA to propose changing its regulations in 2012, the Animal Legal Defense Fund joined the chorus along with Dentons, a well-respected law firm, by submitting a comment in favor of the proposed rule. ALDF also asked its supporters to send comments to the agency.

What is the internet sale loophole? The Animal Welfare Act generally requires that cat, dog, and other pet breeders obtain a license, comply with minimum standards of animal care, and submit to occasional inspections to verify compliance with the law. However, the Animal Welfare Act exempts retail pet stores under the logic that purchasers can see the animals’ living conditions first-hand so inspections are unnecessary.

Breeders take advantage of this exemption by selling pets online and claiming the website qualifies as a retail pet store. This leads to situations where there may be hundreds of dogs or other animals confined to tiny, unsanitary cages in subpar breeding facilities with no oversight to ensure minimum standards of care. Today’s USDA action closes that loophole by requiring the purchasers’ physical presence at the property before a breeder qualifies for the retail pet store exemption.

In its comment, ALDF also pushed USDA to go even further to protect animals by implementing policies to ensure robust enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act in light of a recent internal audit by the Office of Inspector General finding that the law is seriously under-enforced. We will review our options to press these issues in the future, but for now it is exciting that USDA heeded the voices of our community and took a significant step in the right direction.


15 thoughts on “USDA Closes Internet Sale Loophole for Pet Breeders After Pressure from Animal Groups

  1. PAMELA says:

    I AM SO SICK OF ANIMALS ALL OVER THE WORLD BEING EXPLOITED, SUFFERING, BEING EATEN IN CHINA AND VIETNAM AFTER A VERY CRUEL DEATH. THEY DESERVE BETTER, ALL OUR LOVE FOR THEIR LOYALTY AND THE FUN WE GET FROM THEM, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE LOWEST FORM OF HUMAN BEING?

    1. Brigitte Stern says:

      When we stand together, we can make a tremendous difference for animals on a National Level. Happy Tails <3

    2. Kim says:

      You are sick of animals being eaten in China and Vietnam after a very cruel death?
      I am sick of hypocrites ! Do you even know what cows, horses, chickens, sheep, pigs, and just about any other animal killed in the U.S. goes through before they are slaughtered and then eaten? That’s not even to mention other forms of exploitation!
      Grow up! It is no different! For a start, watch “Earthlings”

      1. Jill Nicole says:

        This should ALL b positive Kim. Do U know that in S Korea they put a dog in a bag, head outside the bag and then beat them senseless before killing them as they believe it makes the meat more tender for eating?! Over 300k dogs a year.

  2. Brigitte Stern says:

    With the internet, more puppy buyers are purchasing pets directly from the breeder, but without visiting the breeding facility, so the ‘public policing’ aspect is gone. Greedy backyard breeders wants to run their breeding business under the radar, do not want to be legislated, they don’t want anyone messing with their very lucrative source of income. The irony is that “some-responsible breeders” are the loudest who are screaming and blaming others. To them is the fear of losing extra income “subsidized” [by buying public], pupping litter after litter! Hobby breeders, are worry that this bill takes away a homeowner’s right to privacy in their own home as the USDA or their contractors can enter their home and inspect if they SUSPECT that animals are living in bad conditions. Worry that this bill reduced the ability of the breeder to obtain privately and secretly operating their breeding BUSINESS. Worry about adding more federal oversight and regulation into the daily lives of Americans citizens calling this bill unconstitutional…. If you have nothing to hide where is the problem, where is your transparency and accountability..???

  3. Peter Walters says:

    Here in Nevada, they call it a rehoming fee for up to $600.00. How can they get away with that?

  4. Franklin Stern says:

    Brigitte Stern, you are a genius. We must be related.

  5. Denise says:

    This is the most awesome news! Score one for the good guys!

  6. penny says:

    ALL FORMS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY IS WRONG!!!I UNDERSTAND WE EAT COWS,PIGS ETC.,BUT I BELIEVE THEY NEED TO BE TREATED HUMANLEY!!HAVE A GOOD LIFE EATING GRAZING,BUT WHEN TIME FOR THEM TO DIE,HUMANLEY!!! I PERSONALLY DO NOT EAT MEAT!!!

  7. mila kennedy says:

    Please stop the abuse…………..

  8. Vika says:

    I think Kim needs to gather more facts before spouting off about the US. What was it the Chinese did to fake protein content and as a result end up killing our dogs with its protein change?

  9. Brigitte Stern says:

    We need more laws to protect animals from puppy mills and backyard breeders! BYB has risen in recent years with growing demands for purebred and designed dogs. The laws of each state differ drastically from one another, and the lack of overarching federal law and lack of state law enforcement leads to the problem of puppy mill and increasing trend of illegitimate backyard breeding facilities. More states need to incorporate stricter licensing requirements, regulations for living conditions with mandatory inspections breeding facilities (including private homes, where greedy “hobby breeders” operating their breeding business in secret..). All breeders should be taxes heavily, with strictly limit of the litters/puppies per year, make it illegal to advertise puppies for sale on Craig’s list and E-bay!
    If breeder violates the law, there should be a probationary period where the facility is monitored closely, and if facility continues to violate the standards set by the state statue, the license should be permanently revoked and the violator should not be allowed to conduct any business with animals in the future.
    Everyone is subjected to Laws in this country! I don’t think is so difficult remain ethical, responsible and Legal at the same time, and the new regulations are NOT breeder restrictions my dear…. Online puppy sellers are generally the worst of the worst puppy mills. These are the breeders whose dogs are kept in deplorable conditions, given only enough food and water to remain alive long enough to breed a litter of unhealthy puppies, never receiving veterinary care, not feeling a loving human touch, or the joy of feeling the grass beneath their paws. They are packed into rickety cages, standing in feces and urine, their nails untrimmed, illnesses untreated, and coats un-groomed – all because the laws have not previously been updated to include them.
    A monumental Victory for backyard and puppy mill Dogs, and those who advocate on their behalf, with plans to subject the thousands of breeders who sell online to federal inspections and oversight for the first time. The new rule will also apply to large commercial breeders of other warm-blooded pets such as kittens and small mammals and will improve the welfare of thousands of animals across the country, including those in your own backyard.”
    The new regulations will take effect in 60 days. Breeders with more than four “breedable” females who currently sell animals online, by phone or by mail will need to apply for a USDA permit, pay an annual licensing fee and consent to random inspections. The USDA estimates some 4,000 breeders will be “affected” by the new law, inspecting breeding facilities and imposing serious penalties for those that are in violation. Finally small victory for the Animals!!!
    <3 HAPPY TAILS <3

  10. Lindy Hinds says:

    Indeed this is a monumental victory for backyard and puppy mill dogs, with plans to subject the thousands of breeders who sell online to federal inspections and oversight for the first time. And I see the new rule will apply to large commercial breeders and will improve the welfare of thousands of animals across the country, including those in our own backyard! We now have to make advertising and selling pets on Craigslist and eBay illegal!

  11. Sandra P. says:

    In 2006, I unfortunately purchased a “mill puppy,” out of Lancaster County Pennsylvainia.The Amish are getting in on the action,my german shepherd whom I loved so much,had to be put down at 7 months old because his hip bones were not in his hip sockets (only when he sat down)left worse then right they were a 1/4 inch out of line.My shepherds name was “Sarge”,and I will NEVER EVER buy off of another Amish person again,and YES I did call in the Authorities,don’t you know that Amish man called me at my residence and had the guale to ask me if I wanted another one of his puppies. Let’s just say I had a few choice words for him and slamed the phone down.By the way… I train German Shepherds and donate them to the Police and I’m presently trying to figure out how to pay $25,000.00 dollars so I can get “certified” by Petropolis in Missouri.(NO I will NOT use any on-line courses like Penn Foster they are not accredited.)

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