Wednesday, June 6, 2012

CALL TO ACTION: Comments needed - USDA/APHIS retail pet seller rule change

As you know by now, APHIS proposes to revise the definition of "retail pet store" to bring more pet animals sold at retail under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licensing and regulations. APHIS plans to narrow the definition of retail pet store so that it means a PLACE OF BUSINESS OR RESIDENCE THAT EACH BUYER PHYSICALLY ENTERS in order to personally observe the animals available for sale prior to purchase and/or to take custody of the animals after purchase. Under the proposed rule no dog or other pet animal will be sold at retail WITHOUT either public or APHIS oversight. This is the critical point.


- For decades pet sellers in the retail sector have enjoyed immunity from federal licensing under the definition of a “retail pet store”. Historically retail sellers were not licensed by the federal government due to the general ability of the public to provide their own scrutiny of pet sellers and government concerns such as duplicative efforts with state or local laws.

- The proposed rule change has been circulated in the media and by HSUS as “closing an Internet loophole” in the AWA that will bring regulation to unscrupulous dog breeders who operate in substandard conditions. Far from it!! The broad scope of the proposed rule could bring hundreds of thousands of pet retailers and rescuers of domestic animals under federal regulation.

- A breeder/seller of any species currently covered under the “retail pet store” definition can potentially lose their exemption and be required to obtain a federal license for even occasionally selling sight unseen via the Internet. “Covered” species includes dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, gophers, chinchilla, domestic ferrets, domestic farm animals, birds.

- The proposed rule would require EVERY SINGLE BUYER to physically visit a retailer’s premises. Therefore selling even one pet OFF PREMISES at a show, at a park, or arranged location without the buyer visiting first, will result in loss of an exemption from federal licensing. Rescue organizations are NOT exempt from this proposed rule. Selling pets at an adoption day event away from their base location or traveling to meet potential adopters would no longer be permitted without a federal license. This proposed requirement places undue limitations on buyers as well as sellers.

- Living under USDA licensing is NOT an option for the average retail seller. Spare rooms in homes, porches, covered kennel runs, and barns can never be converted to a USDA-compliant facility. Federal engineered standards for licensed facilities dictate enclosure sizes, sanitation, surfaces that are impervious to moisture, ventilation, bio-hazard control, veterinary care, exercise, temperature controls, waste disposal systems, diurnal lighting, drainage systems, washrooms, perimeter fencing, as well as transportation standards for regulated animals. Most residential environments would not permit zoning variances for such facilities.

- Exemptions from licensing are limited. Breeders of cats, dogs, and small exotic animals are currently exempt if they have 3 or fewer breeding females. APHIS proposes to increase this to 4 or fewer breeding females. However, either limit makes it very difficult to build a breeding program without constantly moving out or spaying older females to make room for the next generation. To have more than this number of breeding females requires a license.

- There is still an exemption for sellers who derive less than $500 gross income from the sale of other animals (this does not include dogs, cats, and exotic or wild animals).

- The massive expansion of regulatory responsibilities into the private sector outlined in the proposed rule is not only impractical but unaffordable for an agency that is currently addressing serious budget challenges. For the past several years, APHIS’ budget has been shrinking; since 2010 the budget has decreased by roughly 10 percent. The 2013 submitted budget calls for an additional decrease of 6.6%.


OPPOSE adoption of this proposed rule. APHIS needs to hear most from those who are likely to be affected by the rule. Are you already licensed under local or state law and would federal regulation be a duplicate effort? Explain briefly how the rule will impose costs on your breeding program and activities and whether this will cause you to cease or limit your hobby or operations.

Suggested comments are available at the SAOVA website and can be customized. Submit a separate comment for each point you wish to make in opposition to the rule. Comment period ends July 16, 2012.

Post comments at the APHIS portal
Send a copy of your comment to Congressman and reference Docket No. APHIS-2011-0003
Directory of Representatives
Directory of Senators

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION can be found at PIJAC and at the Cat Fanciers Association.


  1. Enough with the big govt take overs. Go after the big puppy mills and leave the small show breeders and rescues alone. This will cause tremendous hardship being able to adopt and socialize puppies away from tyhe home.

  2. With the overwhelming amount of unethical people breeding animals for profit without concern for the physical and emotional wellbeing of the animals, perhaps some kind of legislative control is necessary. This may be the only means of shutting down breeders such as a woman in the state of Texas who holds a position with Cat Fanciers Associaton, but was raided a few years ago by people who took video and reported horrific living conditions for several cats and kittens. Nothing was done and the woman has continued breeding, but she ceased allowing customers to come to her home, choosing instead to meet them in public places. I believe that the serious creation of policies for such legislation should include people who have been involved with animal welfare and those who are or have been breeders, as well as politicians with the right intentions.

    1. Yes, there are a few bad breeders out there, they give the rest of us a black eye for sure. Would we like something done about them? Yes. But this regulation is not going to achieve the end result that you believe it will. What this regulation is going to do, if it passes, is shut down many good small breeders. The people who breed companion pets in their homes, the animals who are loved & socialized with families from the time they're born, will be a thing of the past. Most of us will not allow strangers into our homes to kitten or puppy shop, we aren't retail locations, we raise our human children there & the safety of our families has to come first. This regulation would require us to let anyone who said they wanted to buy a kitten or puppy into our homes where we are most vulnerable. Would you allow a stranger to come into your home & show them the best of everything you had? You've set yourself up to be robbed, raped, even murdered. That's not okay. Set that aside, look just to the animals, people carry all sorts of bacteria, fungus, etc on their clothes, I don't want my breeding animals & my babies exposed to all that the outside world can bring in. If this regulation passes, our genepools that have been the entire world becomes limited to only where we can drive to aquire new lines, highly inbred animals produce unhealthy offspring. For a multitude of reasons, this new regulation is a bad thing, it's poorly thought out & poorly written & the consequences of passing it will be disastrous. If you support the USDA in this bid to take our right to breed healthy, happy, well socialized animals in our homes away from us today, commercial mills will become the only breeders of America's pets because they'll be the only ones able to meet these regulation requirements.

  3. Animal rights agendas will eventually regulate animals out of our lives. What is next? Will we have to have inspectors come to our homes to see if we provide "proper" living environments for our pets? In my opinion, humans (CHILDREN) live in more squalor and filth in our country with less people advocating for them than animals. Not that we need more legislation on the federal level. I love my animals but at the end of the day they are animals... not people. Abuse is sad and wrong. If you can treat helpless animals horribly you can do the same to people, but the bad breeders shouldn't ruin it for the good and loving ones. I would rather buy an animal from a small family breeder then a retail store any day and I don't want to go to your home for the same reasons we don't want strange people in our homes. How do I know that I will be safe visiting someone's home to buy an animal? In addition, if you no nothing about raising rabbits for example and come to my rabbit barn you might think it was "horrible" conditions when in reality they aren't. There is no way to keep a barn with animals clean as you would a kitchen or bathroom. I hope we can stop these attacks on our freedoms so that my two year old that daily helps me with rabbits, chickens, and dogs can someday keep his own. (We have a small farm by the way).

  4. These unfortunate new laws do nothing more than push the pet buying market right back into the open arms of the puppy mills, where it supposed to saving these sad dogs and cats from in the first place. Pet shops in malls are becoming far less popular but will make a return and the honest and loving home that rear loving and socialized babies from a cared for mother will be a thing of the past. I have purchased three kittens from three different breeders - all out of state, all of whom raise their cats in their homes around their families. A great deal of love, and care is given to each kitten that finds a home and these breeders put fourth a great deal of financial and emotional investment year after year to ensure the health of their own cats but to benefit and strengthen the breed of cat or dog that they love and wish to share to with the world. Passing and keeping these regulations from the USDA and APHIS puts the target on the wrong back. It is a lazy and irresponsible way of fixing a real problem by going after the private breeder by making the public feel sorry for puppy mill dogs and cats which will in effect become an even bigger victim.