USDA on Internet Pet Sales

In early May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed a rule change under the Animal Welfare Act that would subject dog breeders to the same oversight as wholesalers. The new rule would apply to dog owners, breeding more than four females, who sell the puppies on the Internet, by mail or over the phone.

Under the original law, written in 1966, retail sales were exempt from USDA inspections because lawmakers assumed that buyers could ascertain the health of the animals for sale just by visiting the store. Since then, the growth of the Internet has provided large-scale breeders a new venue for puppy sales –without oversight or inspection.

According to the new law, anyone selling pets over the Internet, by phone or by mail, would be required to either allow purchasers to see the puppies in person or to obtain a license. If they choose to obtain a license, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will periodically inspect their facility. The rule change will not affect “backyard breeders,” or dog owners who occasionally sell puppies from their homes.

According to The Humane Society of the United States, the rule will help in the crackdown on puppy mills, large-scale breeding establishments notorious for small, overcrowded cages, filthy conditions and nonexistent veterinary care. Under the new law, the USDA will finally be able to enforce violations, shut down these abusive establishments and prevent the fleecing of unsuspecting customers.

The USDA will be accepting comments on the proposed rule change through July 16. If you’d like to share your opinion regarding the topic, visit and select “Comment Now.”

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