Congressional Leaders Introduce Legislation to Close Loophole in Federal Law for Commercial Puppy Mills

The Humane Society of the United States, Doris Day Animal League and the Society for Animal Protective Legislation are urging Congress to pass legislation to extend regulation of large, commercial pet breeding operations to cover facilities that sell directly to consumers.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), who both hold leadership positions in the U.S. Senate, introduced the legislation on May 26th. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced identical legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill is aimed at extending animal welfare protections to address the sale of puppies and kittens over the Internet and through newspaper ads, closing a loophole that exempts those puppy breeders as "pet stores." Many of these young animals cross state lines to arrive at their final destinations and unsuspecting consumers have no opportunity to assess the conditions the animal was bred in, which was the original intention of the Animal Welfare Act.

"Consumers are accustomed to purchasing everything from appliances to wallpaper over the Internet, but it's not the best way to go when you're looking for a new best friend," said Nancy Perry, HSUS vice president for government affairs.

A recent survey of pet owners indicates that 406,000 American households purchased a dog over the Internet. And due to the multitude of dog registries, it is impossible to determine the number of pure-bred puppies sold through newspaper advertisements.

"Consumers who purchase puppies sight unseen run a tremedous risk of receiving a very sick dog whose veterinary expenses will far exceed the cost of the initial purchase," said Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for companion animals for The HSUS. "Common canine illnesses and hereditary diseases can lead to a lifetime of health and behavior problems."

"Dogs and cats and their offspring have suffered at the hands of some of these massive commercial breeding operations," said Cathy Liss, legislative director for the SAPL. "These animals are in need of protection and the operations are in need of oversight."

The Animal Welfare Act requires inspections of large, commercial dog breeders, and establishes minimum standards of care for the animals. The provisions only apply to breeders who sell to wholesalers, and currently exempts breeders who sell directly to consumers. The legislation exempts hobby and show breeders.

After a prolonged struggle through the judicial system to require regulation of large, commercial retail breeders, humane organizations elected to take the issue directly to Congress.

"This is a significant first step in seeking parity between the federal Animal Welfare Act's requirements for large, commercial breeders selling to pet stores and to the public," said Sara Amundson, legislative director for the Doris Day Animal League. "It is long overdue and truly welcomed by the humane community."

"Unscrupulous breeders are taking advantage of advances in technology and loopholes in the law to profit from selling sick puppies to unwitting families," said Shain. "People are being duped into thinking that spending a lot of money for a dog is a guarantee of quality, when the reality is that the best dogs are the ones available for adoption at the local animal shelter."

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