Breaking news: USDA proposes rule to crack down on worst puppy mills and roadside zoos; require veterinary care for dogs

By on March 21, 2019 with 26 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today proposed a new rule to close a loophole in the law that allows puppy breeders and roadside zoo exhibitors whose licenses have been revoked for severe and multiple Animal Welfare Act violations to continue doing business as usual by relicensing under a family member’s name. The rule also proposes enhanced veterinary care for animals held by dealers, exhibitors and research facilities, including annual hands-on veterinary exams and vaccinations for all dogs, and other commonsense measures, like requiring that all dogs and cats have regular access to fresh, clean water

The rule will also require businesses to disclose any animal cruelty convictions before they can obtain a license, and it will prevent those which keep exotic animals as pets from obtaining an exhibitor license to skirt local laws that restrict the private ownership of dangerous wild animals.

We’re pleased to see that the rule mirrors several (though not all) of the improvements we requested in a 2015 petition to the agency to improve standards of care for dogs, and in legal comments we submitted in 2018 regarding the licensing scheme. Under the new rule, licensees will also be required to renew their licenses every three years instead of every year. While we prefer annual renewal, the current process does not require licensees to show compliance with AWA rules before renewal. If the new rule goes into effect, breeders and other licensees will now have to pass an inspection before they can obtain a new license.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund have long pressed for such reforms because of concerns about the manner in which the USDA has been regulating puppy mills and other AWA licensees. For instance, USDA citations, warnings and fines have plummeted dramatically over the last two years. We strongly urge that the USDA accurately and diligently document violations; otherwise, a rule change that prevents noncompliant dealers from renewing their licenses will be pointless.

Our review of the USDA’s recent inspection reports also shows that inspectors rarely ever cite dealers for “critical” or “direct” violations anymore – even when they find bleeding, injured or emaciated animals on the property. When violations are not correctly cited, there is no follow-up. USDA must provide follow-up to address suffering animals.

The proposed rule is similar to the bipartisan Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, H.R. 1002, introduced in the House earlier this year by U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Please comment here and let the USDA know you support measures that will require professional, hands-on veterinary care for dogs, that you support preventing problem pet breeders and other kinds of animal dealers and exhibitors with poor animal care histories from getting a new license, and that you support firm and diligent enforcement of the AWA.

This rule has the potential to improve the lives of tens of thousands of animals now languishing in the squalor of puppy mills and roadside zoos. We can do great good for them by seeing this rule over the finish line together.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Jana West says:

    Yes! This is very good news indeed! Thank you HSUS and many others for I am confident that without your consistent pressure this would not be happening. Thank you also, USDA for bringing some real solutions to the table. We have been waiting for this!

  2. Tracie Harrison says:

    I support this !

  3. Jack Bush says:

    Shut all puppy mills down, period!!

  4. Jeanne Greenhaw says:

    I am very happy these changes are being proposed! I hate to see people abusing and neglecting animals and getting away with it.

  5. Paula says:

    I support stronger laws to prevent abuse!

  6. Cindy Kasnicka says:

    I support hands on veterinary care for all animals, especially those at zoos and puppy Mills. Close down all puppy Mills. Do not give licenses to these awful people. Please put animals first, and stop these horrible breeders and puppy mills

  7. Kathi Kelley says:

    This is the least humans should do to care for all God’s creatures.

  8. Judy richcreek says:

    You can publish my Comments. I’m sick and tired Of reading poor animals Being neglected or abused there is no excuse for this people need to be tortured for their actions I need severe punishment then maybe this would stop . But if the law does not changeAnd crack down on these people like the electric chair for instance things are never going to change. Until something severely happens to them it may give other people something to think about twice before they do something badd. I only wish the government would see that or hang people like they did in the old days they didn’t play around then you need to stop playing around now and start respecting these animals is people that make them fight and stuff like that they need to get throwed in the ring and abused see how they feel it’s horrible I’m sick or reading it please God help change the laws

    • Valerie says:

      Judy, I agree 100%. These sick and evil people need to be tortured or put away for life. America must not condone their despicable actions by letting them get away without the maximum punishment. They are destroying thevlives of millions of precious and innocent creatures if God and their lives must be destroyed also.,

  9. Valerie says:

    All puppy mills must be shut down to protect our precious dogs from cruel and inhumane behavior. These people who run puppy mills and abuse animals are sick and evil and must be stopped. Thank you HSUS. Please never stop fighting for all the loving dogs who can’t speak up for themselves.

  10. Carl Wenzel says:

    I support the proposal. It is indeed sad that such legislation is needed at all.

  11. Karen says:

    Great news! What a victory! Yearly renewals would’ve been way better but I’m so glad that they are making it harder for repeat offenders to continue their operations.

  12. Dan Summy says:

    Sadly, I have seen far too many examples of backyard breeders here in Alabama and the lack of care and concern shown by them towards the puppies continuously being bred. Too often, the only concern of these people is how much they can make off these little ones. Local authorities simply do not have tools to stop this type of enterprise. Help is badly needed

  13. Charity Farrell says:

    Animals deserve kindness and respect ❤️

  14. Penny says:

    I support this shut down puppy mills.

  15. Terry Ann Gerlach says:

    I support this 100 percent. Time for action.

  16. Cheryl Lance-Love says:

    This is good news!!
    Hoping it passes and is enforced!

  17. Deedee D. says:

    I hope a long list of what this administration has done to crush animal welfare is publicized to the max prior to the 202 election. Their anti-animal stance must be breaking records.

  18. Alejandra Benito says:

    This is great news indeed!! Let’s make this happen!!! These babies can’t continue suffering. Enough is enough!!

  19. Mary Bowen says:

    I am in favor of anything that will rid the world of puppy mills and roadside facilities where dogs and puppies live in despicable conditions. Please help these helpless creatures.

  20. K.C.Collins says:

    About time!!! This type of law and or regulation is WAY past due in this country. Wish we could take it to the whole world but It will take USA in a new more moral direction that all people should have no problem getting behind. Please do this for the animals involved and for the souls of us all.

  21. Mike Bankhead says:

    I agree with the new regulation of the USDA governing puppy mills even though it does not go far enough. It is beyond belief that the law allowed puppy breeders and roadside zoo exhibitors whose licenses have been revoked for severe and multiple Animal Welfare Act violations to continue doing business as usual by relicensing under a family member’s name. These businesses should be put out of business forever and periodic checks should be made to make sure they have not opened another business in another area and different name. NEW REGULATIONS ARE ONLY GOOD IF THEY ARE ENFORCED CONSTANTLY.

  22. Nora Craig says:

    I support. Do as much as possible to stop Puppy Mills and the cruelty to animals! I support all measures to help the animals and their welfare.

  23. Debbie says:

    #winning for the animals, about time.

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