June 25, 2010

PUPS Act Response to USDA Puppy Mill Audit (See May 26 Post)

PUPS Act is the name appropriately given to federal legislation proposed in the wake of the scathing audit by the Office of Inspector General that condemns USDA's lax enforcement of regulations that apply to puppy mills.
The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, Senate Bill 3424 and House Resolution 5434 would target "high volume retail breeders" defined as anyone who, "in commerce, for compensation or profit" owns or has custody of at least one breeding female dog and sells or offers for sale, whether over the internet, telephone or newspaper or otherwise, more than 50 of the offspring "for use as pets" in any one year. "High volume retail breeders" would no longer be exempt from Animal Welfare Act licensing and other regulation if they sell dogs directly to the public, whether over the internet, telephone or through newspaper ads. The bill also closes the loophole exempting high volume breeders from licensing requirements if they sell to research facilities.

H.R. 5434/S.B. 3424 would also require all dogs held by breeders or dealers to have "daily access to exercise that allows the dog "to achieve a running stride" and otherwise "move sufficiently to develop or maintain normal muscle tone and as appropriate" for the dog.

The exceptions would include those dogs under 12 weeks old, females with unweaned puppies, and those restricted by a veterinarian because of the "health, condition or well-being of the dog". (The veterinarian's restriction must be documented, subject to review by inspectors and updated every 30 days.)

Breeders or dealers must report in their license applications the total number of dogs exempted from exercise requirements.

The area provided for exercise would be required to be separate from any primary enclosure that does not allow the dog to "achieve a running stride". It would be impossible to "run" in the crowded cages typically provided by breeders though under the current regulations a slightly larger cage is deemed suitable for exercise.

The flooring for the exercise area would be required to have solid flooring or nonsolid, nonwire flooring as long as it is safe for the do, free from protruding sharp edges, and "designed so that the paw of the dog is unable to extend through or become caught in the flooring". The exercise area must be cleaned at least once a day and kept free of infestation.

The bill is explicit that state laws that provide the same or greater protection would not be pre-empted.


This bill will not eliminate high volume breeders or dealers. Nor does it improve humane standards under the Animal Welfare Act except for exercise requirements. And, unless the federal government gets serious about enforcement, nothing may change for the dogs.

The bill does put in place essential licensing requirements for high volume breeders that sell directly to the public. Under current law only breeders or dealers that sell indirectly to the public through dealers or pet stores are subject to AWA regulations. All of the breeders or dealers that sell directly to the public through the internet, for example, or newspaper ads, or to research facilities, have been free to operate largely as they please unless they are regulated by the state.

With this federal legislation, all high volume breeders or dealers will be licensed and at least theoretically must comply with the standards and submit to the inspections required by AWA. Some may at least be forced to reduce the numbers of dogs they keep in order to comply with USDA requirements. All breeders or dealers will be required to demonstrate to an inspector at some point there is a place for every dog to run.

S.B. 3424 was introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). The bill is currently in the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Find committee members here (just click on their names for contact info) and your senators here. Write (faxes are best) or call and urge them to support the PUPS Act, S.B. 3424/H.R. 5434

HR 5434 was introduced by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA). The bill is currently assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture. Write (faxes are best) or call your Representatives and urge them to support the PUPS Act, H.B. 5434/S.B. 3424.

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