The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responding to “puppy mill” reports by cracking down on dog breeders who sell animals through the internet, by mail or over the phone. Up until now, many breeders have avoided federal licensing and inspections by classifying themselves as retail pet stores, creating a loophole that has let puppy safely be compromised.
True retail pet stores have long been exempt from federal licensing because buyers have the ability to visit the stores and see the puppies they are about to buy. This lets the buyer determine whether or not the puppy is well cared for and healthy. Unfortunately, this kind of transparency does not exist in online, mail and phone puppy sales and dishonest breeders have taken advantage of outdated rules (nearly four decades old) that were put in place long before the rise of internet shopping.
Kevin Shea, of the USDA, recommended that the regulations be tightened after a 2010 USDA inspector general’s report uncovered the terrible conditions at puppy mills across the country. In addition to to dirty, overcrowded and bug-infested mills, the report detailed the complaints of many buyers who had received sick or dying puppies.
According to Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the United States, “There are hundreds of thousands of dogs languishing in small wire cages, denied vet care and exposed to the elements that literally have no protection under federal law. This [change in policy] turns that around.”
The new regulations will cut down on the prevalence of puppy mills by requiring that all facilities either be open for buyers to visit or be approved by a government inspector. The license, which will only be required for breeders with four or more breeding females and will cost $750 or less, will be provided to all breeders who prove that their animals have adequate housing and medical care.
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