The HSUS and Partners Propose New Federal Standards for Dog Care at Major Breeding Facilities

By on September 21, 2015 with 15 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

The HSUS and other animal welfare organizations today filed a legal petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging the agency to improve minimum standards of care for dogs in commercial breeding facilities – the latest strategic policy action to turn around our nation’s disgraceful tolerance of puppy mills.

The USDA has taken strides in recent years to better regulate commercial dog breeders, adopting rules to ban imports of dogs from foreign puppy mills and to require inspections of Internet sellers of puppies. Those were immensely important advances, but what’s remained untouched are the actual minimum standards of care for the dogs at USDA-licensed facilities in the United States.

Specifically, the current standards do not prohibit extreme confinement, stacking of cages, or keeping the animals on wire floors indefinitely. There are no requirements that animals ever get out of cages or receive routine veterinary care or human socialization. The rules are more like survival standards, stipulating that animals have enough food and water and don’t get cut by protruding wires or freeze to death outside. But they hardly guarantee – even if the standards are followed – that the animals will have any quality of life.

If adopted, the fortified standards proposed in the petition have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of tens of thousands of dogs in such facilities by creating clear requirements for veterinary care, housing, breeding practices, socialization, and placement of retired breeding dogs.

Imagine keeping a Chihuahua in a cage the size of a file drawer for her entire life, or confining a beagle in a pen no larger than your car’s trunk. Imagine giving those dogs water only twice a day, and allowing the temperature around them to drop below freezing for hours at a time.

Our investigations have repeatedly demonstrated that minimum care standards in the Animal Welfare Act regulations are insufficient to protect dogs. Research and investigations, including our report on the Horrible Hundred, reveal that substandard breeders are keeping dogs in entirely deficient conditions, with many facilities routinely violating the minimal standards of the AWA. Yet even those breeders who have no documented violations on their inspection reports often keep dogs in inhumane conditions because the minimum standards are insufficient. It’s time for the USDA to update the AWA standards and give breeding dogs conditions that are livable and humane.

The HSUS filed the petition jointly with the ASPCA and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and it was prepared by HSUS attorneys working with an extraordinary group of pro bono lawyers from Latham & Watkins LLP, one of the nation’s top law firms. Among other things, the petition requests that the USDA restrict the use of wire flooring and stacked cages, and requires that dogs have more space and access to an outdoor exercise area to perform normal canine behaviors such as running and playing. Responsible breeders and pet industry organizations should support these standards and help to crack down on puppy mills and restore consumer confidence.

It’s just common sense that dogs should have space, veterinary care, exercise, and other basic humane treatment. This subpar and often abusive treatment of dogs has gone on too long in our country and there’s no excuse for maintaining deficient standards in a nation that expects more of its breeders. If the industry claims it cares for dogs properly, then it has nothing to fear from upgrading those standards and providing them the kind of care that any responsible dog owner would demand as a matter of routine.

Help stop puppy mills once and for all »

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. connie albright says:

    U saiding that he is is helping in care for the dog living in conditions so they can keep the puppy mills and have space to run around and doing that dogs do best but they r so many of these puppy mills for so much help they need shots and vet care to please give me a feed back on this matter

  2. connieabright says:

    My think r u all need to close the puppy mills down and help in rescue dogs and shelter animals r been put down every day puppy mills r getting rich and the shelter dog r put to sleep every day and need good homes

  3. Tawny says:

    These new standards are still not enough. Puppy mills need to be shut down, puppies and dogs and cats should only be allowed to be sold if they come from shelters. Your new standards do not address cage washing with pressure washers while the name is in them. What is considered reasonable health care for the animal? Is it the same as the standards for reasonable size of cages? I have seen your previous standards and can only hope your new standards are 1 million percent better, but the way to make sure your new standards are really good, is to eliminate puppy mills entirely.

    • Melanye says:

      Totally agree!! There will be no better future for dogs until all puppy mills are closed forever!!!

    • Adrienne Bishop says:

      I agree. Shut them down!

    • Gail says:

      Shelters & rescues don’t have enough dogs to sell. They are importing dogs from foreign countries… dogs that have questionable backgrounds and little to no veterinary care. They are bringing diseases into the US with them. Some shelters and rescues are even becoming breeders. Shouldn’t the goal of each shelter and rescue be to put itself out of business and close down? Instead we have retail rescue….

      • Cath Taylor says:

        In the UK the current USDA standards for puppy mills would be classed as animal cruelty. It took a large amount of time for me to care for my one dog, if puppy mills were obliged to provide a minimum number of carers per number of dogs, it would be easy to spot if they were not doing so, and woud make puppy mills less attractive as a ‘cash crop’

      • shirley wilkerson says:

        Gail, what the hell are you talking about?? “Do not have enough dogs in shelters & rescues….& that dogs are being brought here from the UK “??!!!
        There are thousands of dogs being euthanized on a daily basis in every animal shelter across the U.S. because of OVER CROWDING!!!! The shelters & rescues are begging for adoptions or fosters!!!!
        Bet you are a breeder!!
        That would explain why you made such a ridiculous statement!!!
        NO MORE BREEDERS!!!!

  4. Carol Reed says:

    The the recommended improvements are a step forward, but how is this going to help control the overpopulation of pets. Will the facilities still breed the females EVERY heat cycle until they can’t produce puppy anymore?

  5. Lorry Schlick says:

    No negotiations on your suggestions with these scumbags! Improve the AWA asap! Make it difficult to operate their factories without having to add lots more money to their operations. So difficult they’ll see it not worth it any more. The USDA is their friend. It should be the other way around…they are supposed to be policing firmly not helping them sell their puppies! That is ridiculous!

  6. April Gagnon says:

    Puppy Mills should not be legal in the United States. Period. There are not enough resources to police these cruel breeders and it is immoral to treat any animal as a for profit sales item.

  7. Kris V says:

    This sounds great and I do hope any new regs put at least 50% of the mills out of business the first year. However, even basic enforcement is non-existent. In September 2014, Robert Gibbens and Chester A. Gipson (AWA senior management) apologized to breeders for the few years they had to enforce the Act due to the outrage over the 2010 OIG report you reference. They told mill owners at the Midwestern Regional Breeder Conference that “teachable moments” were back and to call Gibbens is the inspectors wanted to write them up!

    We cannot trust the existing USDA structure to protect dogs under ANY circumstances. It makes sense to put these new rules in and contract enforcement to a coalition including the HSUS, ASPCA and other regional welfare groups, with representatives from the dreaded PIJAC and NAIA to make sure the “breeders” are represented. It would be less money with better oversight. Negotiate that all groups are paid the same no matter how many mills are closed down – this will ensure no group is keeping mills in business to profit from inspection numbers.

    In addition, all inspection photos and historical USDA reports must be free online. They must be carefully monitored for irregularities in number of puppies/dogs, number of violations, severity, etc. They must be full-text searchable and sortable by inspector names as well as the existing fields in the APHIS database. Shipping must also be monitored. CVIs from New York State, for example, do not match the number of puppies in stores by thousands most months.

    This is a huge, long overdue first step. Victory won’t be achieved until we know stricter regs are enforced, fines are levied and collected without discounts and mill owners that reach the companion animal threshold for animal cruelty are charged as criminals, not saved by the fact that the USDA dogs are classified as livestock.

    • Christy Degeorgis says:

      The USDA is on the side of the breeders. We need to remove dogs from Agriculture-they are companion animals, not crops. I’d like to see the Fish & Wildlife Service expand to protect them or create a new Animal Welfare Division to look after them and make sure the AWA is being enforced.

  8. Christy Degeorgis says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Please let the public know what we can do to help make sure the USDA adopts this. In a recent NY Times article Hillary Clinton said we need to do more to help dogs in puppy mills. Since she was endorsed by Tom Vislack, she could certainly reach out to him and ask him to adopt these measures.

  9. Christy Degeorgis says:

    Until these measures are adopted we must continue the fight to ban sales of pets online and in pet stores. I’d like to see the American Kennel Club’s non profit status challenged. And, if commercial breeding facilities are allowed to exist I want them monitored 24/7 with cameras. If people only purchased dogs from ethical breeders or rescues that honored their pledges to take dogs back, I don’t think we would need shelters.

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