The Toledo Area Humane Society is joining several national animal advocacy groups in voicing its approval of a change in federal law that would regulate more dog breeders and sellers.
The proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture rule change would alter the definition of "retail pet store" and bring many puppy mills that are not licensed and inspected under the jurisdiction of the Animal Welfare Act, a federal law that protects animals kept by dealers, exhibitors, and research facilities.
The USDA is taking comments on the proposal through July 16. The Toledo Area Humane Society's legislative committee and its board of directors voted for the group to formally support this change, said John Dinon, the group's executive director. The group sent a letter to the USDA Thursday and is urging those who view its Facebook page to support the change.
The rules now state that some high-volume breeders -- some of which would be considered "puppy mills" -- must be licensed and inspected but only if they sell their dogs wholesale. Breeders who sell retail or directly to the public are exempt from licensing and inspection because they fall under the current definition of "retail pet store."
To submit comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the proposed law change, go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=APHIS-2011-0003-0001. The deadline to submit comments is July 16.
"The proposed rule change will redefine 'retail pet store' as a store where pet buyers see pets prior to purchasing them," Mr. Dinon said. "Changing the rule would mean that high volume breeders who sell directly to the public over the Internet, by mail, or at swap meets would have to be licensed and inspected by the USDA."
National groups that also support the new definition include the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The Humane Society said the rule change would "close a gaping loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations."
The change is in response to concerns about thousands of dogs denied basic humane care at large-scale commercial breeding facilities, according to the Humane Society.
"Industries that profit from mass-producing puppies are vociferously opposing the rule, alleging that it will cause businesses unnecessary expense to provide basic humane care for dogs," the society said. "Providing humane care and safe housing for dogs is not a burden but a fundamental responsibility."
According to the ASPCA, the proposed rule represents a "meaningful effort by the USDA to target problematic, large-scale breeding operations and would require them to meet minimum-care standards for breeding dogs and the puppies they produce."
The ASPCA is optimistic the rule change will strike a balance by excluding hobby breeders and targeting inhumane breeding facilities.
"The online sales exemption was created before the advent of the Internet under the presumption that a consumer buying a puppy directly from a breeder could personally assess the welfare of the dogs on site," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations, in a statement. "It was impossible to foresee that consumers would one day purchase pets online and have puppies shipped to them, sight unseen."
The ASPCA's "No Pet Store Puppies" campaign at NoPetStorePuppies.com 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 Web sites that sell puppies.
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