This week two senators reintroduced legislation that would help protect thousands of dogs around the U.S. who are suffering in puppy mills by regulating breeders who sell directly to the public.
The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), will close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that currently allows thousands of breeders to sell directly to the public via the Internet, phone or mail without any oversight.
Under current laws, only breeders who sell to pet stores and brokers are regulated and inspected by the USDA, and even they are only required to provide the most basic care.
The PUPS Act will close this loophole and bring all commercial breeders under federal oversight by requiring any breeder who sells, or tries to sell, more than 50 dogs annually to be licensed and inspected. It will also add a requirement that dogs get exercised, or allowed access to an exercise area, for at least 60 minutes every day.
“As the ASPCA has seen firsthand, the photos of happy, healthy puppies posted on a breeder’s website often grossly misrepresent what conditions are really like for these puppies and their parents,” said Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “Puppy mills are able to completely evade federal oversight by taking advantage of a pre-Internet loophole in current law, but the PUPS Act would change that.”
In January, the International Fund for Animal Welfare released the first public study examining the connection between Internet sales and how they’re helping puppy mills thrive. Investigators found that after looking at almost 10,000 ads from six dedicated puppy seller websites, which represent approximately 10 percent of total ads for these sites, 62 percent were “likely puppy mill” sourced, which investigators called a conservative estimate.
“The media regularly report 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,” said Durbin. “Online dog sales have contributed to the rise of these sad cases.”
The USDA announced a similar proposal last spring that would have regulated breeders who sell directly to the public, but it has not been implemented.
Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to protect these dogs without modernizing the AWA – which was written in 1966 – to deal with advances in technology which would close the current loophole and help shut these operations down. Doing so will not only protect dogs who are forced to suffer in puppy mills, but will also help protect unsuspecting consumers from bringing home sick dogs.
“Dog breeders have taken advantage of this Internet loophole to increase their profits at the expense of the health of thousands of dogs,” said Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA). “The result of breeders’ ability to bypass regulations has led to widespread abuses of dogs that are crammed into small cages with no exercise or social contact. We have a responsibility to close this loophole, because it is simply unconscionable to allow this abuse to continue.”
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