USDA proposes change to regulate Internet sales of pets, could impact puppy mills
Lorrie Shaw | Contributor
The existence of puppy mills has come out into the open in recent months because of more awareness about their practices and the plight of dogs that they produce.
Many of the pets that are the product of puppy mills are in many cases seriously ill, and the ramifications clearly go beyond the physical for some: canines who grow to have behavioral problems due to poor breeding, less-than-ideal husbandry practices and lack of proper socialization. The conditions that the dogs are kept in is awful.
Small and toy breeds are most commonly associated with these operations, and as we've seen in recent months, here in Michigan, puppy mills look quite different than one might expect: They are smaller in size than you might have seen in reports in other states on national news reports, and one clear example is an operation in Allegan that was raided in April as reported on MLive.
One avenue where puppy mills, regardless of the size, are able to get through loopholes that the government currently has in place is selling their commodity on the Internet.
One step in the right direction that has helped curb the practice: Ads from people who breed and sell dogs over the Internet will no longer be allowed on Facebook.
And, those whose aim it is to end puppy mills are lauding a move that was made by the United States Department of Agriculture on Thursday, according the Associated Press.
The agency is proposing that breeders who dodge animal welfare laws by selling puppies over the Internet would face tighter scrutiny under a new rule, if enacted. If it is put into motion, this change would subject dog owners who breed more than four females and sell the puppies electronically, by mail or over the phone to the same oversight faced by wholesale dealers as part of the Animal Welfare Act.
The Animal Welfare Act, or AWA, has established that minimum requirements and standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.
"We feel this is certainly a much-needed change to an outdated system," said Rebecca Blue, deputy undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
If the change goes through, it would not be the first time: although the AWA was initially passed in 1966, it has been amended in 1970, 1976, 1985, 1990, 2002, 2007 and most recently in 2008.
Pam Sordyl, the driving force behind Michigan-based Puppy Mill Awareness notes, "There is a possibility that the Allegan kennel would have fallen under this regulation if they were selling sight-unseen."
Her group has been working hard to get rid of puppy mills here in Michigan, but she says that change has been slow.
"While the PUPS Act has stalled at the federal level, I am glad to see the USDA stepping up to address the problem ahead of time. However, the USDA here in Michigan does not actively seek out even wholesalers to be licensed and allows some licenses to expire as they continue to sell wholesale."
As has been seen here in Michigan, enforcement has been lax.
"Even though my group will be able to identify the large-scale online retailers operating here in Michigan, the USDA has not made kennel regulation or enforcement a priority here in Michigan." says Sordyl.
She clarifies further.
"For example, local animal control is not notified of new USDA licensed kennel operations or ones with violations. When asked to investigate a large-scale home-based seller they simply called without an onsite investigation of the operation that was using several false addresses and not being forthcoming."
Click here to read more about the UDSA proposal, and what other experts from across the country have to say about the topic.
Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com. Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly.