By: Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) reintroduced the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (H.R. 847/S. 395), also known as the “PUPS Act,” on Feb. 27. The bill aims to close the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that exempts large-scale dog breeders who sell directly to the public from U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection and licensing requirements. The bill also requires that dogs in commercial breeding facilities have the appropriate space and opportunities for daily exercise, unless a veterinarian specifically exempts it.
Currently, only breeders who sell their dogs to puppy brokers or pet stores are subject to USDA inspection and licensing requirements. The PUPS Act would re-define a “high-volume retail breeder” as a person who has ownership of at least one or more breeding female dogs and who sells more than 50 of their offspring in any one-year period, requiring that these breeders fall under USDA’s inspection and licensing purview.
The PUPS Act has already garnered broad support from Congress— 61 co-sponsors in the House and 11 in the Senate—and has been referred to the respective agriculture committees in both chambers. No further action is scheduled at this time.
AVMA has been consistently supportive of the PUPS Act in the past, including the identical version of the bill that was introduced last Congress. AVMA finds the language in the bill to be performance-based and consistent with the Model Bill and Regulations to Assure Appropriate Care for Dogs Intended for Use as Pets.
Apart from the PUPS Act, the USDA also submitted a proposed rule last May that if finalized would revise the definition of a “retail pet store” under the AWA with the goal of closing the same federal inspection and licensing requirement loophole that the PUPS act aims to correct. The AWA’s current definition of a retail pet store has been in place since the 1970s and does not take into account the pets that are sold over the Internet, which the buyers never see before taking custody. The USDA’s proposed rule would also raise the threshold from three to four breeding females that a breeder must own to be covered.
The USDA is currently reviewing the thousands of public comments that they received in response to the proposed rule and have not announced a timeline for when the rule will be finalized. AVMA submitted comments Aug. 15, 2012, in support of the proposed rule.