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ASPCA Applauds Federal Efforts to Crack Down on Puppy Mills

Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act closes inspection loophole for Internet dog breeders
February 27, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today commends U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and David Vitter (R-La.) as well as Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Bill Young (R-Fl.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) for reintroducing legislation to establish greater federal oversight of puppy mills and online dog sales. The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act would require commercial breeders who sellnopetstorepuppies their puppies directly to the public, sight unseen, to be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Currently, only breeders who sell dogs to pet stores or to puppy brokers are subject to federal oversight.

"As the ASPCA has seen firsthand, the photos of happy, healthy puppies posted on a breeder's website often grossly misrepresent what conditions are really like for these puppies and their parents," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "Currently, abusive puppy mills are able to completely evade federal oversight by taking advantage of a pre-Internet loophole in current law, but the PUPS Act would change that. We thank the authors of this bill for their efforts to safeguard dogs from unscrupulous breeders."

The PUPS Act would require breeders selling puppies directly to the public to meet the basic care requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Many puppies sold online come from puppy mills and are commonly bred in unsanitary, overcrowded, and often cruel conditions without sufficient veterinary care, food, water, or socialization. While facilities that breed puppies for commercial resale through pet stores are required to be licensed and inspected under the federal AWA, breeders who sell directly to consumers, whether via the Internet, newspaper classifieds, or other outlets, are exempt from any federal oversight due to a "retail pet store" exemption. They are not required to be licensed by the USDA or meet the regulatory standards of the AWA.

"The media regularly reports stories about dogs rescued from substandard facilities–where dogs are housed in stacked wire cages and seriously ill and injured dogs are routinely denied access to veterinary care," said Sen. Durbin.  "Online dog sales have contributed to the rise of these sad cases. This bipartisan bill requires breeders who sell more than 50 dogs a year directly to the public to obtain a license from the USDA and ensures that the dogs receive proper care."

"I was alarmed by the USDA Office of the Inspector General report that exposed inhumane treatment of dogs, especially abusive breeding practices," said Sen. Vitter. "I applaud the USDA's work to close loopholes that unscrupulous breeders have exploited with Internet sales, and the PUPS Act introduced by Senator Durbin and me will help ensure that puppies are treated humanely and bred in safe and sanitary facilities and that consumers can purchase healthy pets for their families."

"We know that there are many reputable breeders who do things the right way and treat their dogs humanely," said Rep. Gerlach. "We want all breeders to play by the same rules so that everyone who wants to welcome a new dog into their family can do so with the confidence of knowing that the animal has been cared for properly. This legislation will ensure dogs are protected and individuals who put profit ahead of the fair and humane treatment of dogs are held accountable for their actions."

Last year, the USDA issued a proposed rule which would have the same impact as the PUPS Act and, for the first time in history, require commercial breeders who sell their puppies directly to the public to be licensed and inspected.  The ASPCA, along with several other national animal welfare organizations, gathered approximately 350,000 letters and signatures from concerned citizens in support of the USDA's efforts to regulate unlicensed puppy mills.

"The enormous public response to the USDA's efforts illustrates just how strongly Americans support greater oversight of puppy mills and their intensity of concern about the humane treatment of animals," said Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. "The current loophole in the Animal Welfare Act has allowed too many dog breeders to get away with abusive behavior for far too long, and we encourage Congress and the USDA to take meaningful steps to protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities."

The ASPCA's "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign aims to reduce the demand for puppy mill puppies by urging consumers to pledge not to buy any items—including food, supplies or toys—from stores or websites that sell puppies. In 2012, the national campaign was successful in eliminating a large platform for puppy mill dogs sold online, and through an ongoing removal process, tens of thousands of puppy mill sale ads have been eliminated from Marketplace on Facebook. To learn more about the ASPCA's efforts to eradicate puppy mills, please visit www.NoPetStorePuppies.com.