AKC Urges USDA to Improve Animal Welfare Act

In a letter to Secretary Ann Veneman, the American Kennel Club is urging the US Department of...

In a letter to Secretary Ann Veneman, the American Kennel Club is urging the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make important and needed improvements to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals sold at wholesale, used in research, and transported commercially. The AWA does not apply to breeders who sell directly to the consumer. We believe the following changes will improve enforcement of the AWA among its licensed wholesale dealers and preserve the spirit of the law. We're not asking for new laws, we're simply asking USDA to clarify the regulations so that they can support the AWA's original intentions.

AKC is urging USDA to:

  • Close a loophole in the small breeder exemption in current regulations.

The small breeder exemption exempts persons from licensing requirements if they maintain three or fewer breeding females. However, some individuals have argued that they are not required to be licensed even when they keep more than three breeding females on the premises so long as any single member of the household does not own more than three. This practice is not in keeping with the intent of the act and regulations should be clarified to apply to the premises, regardless of ownership.

  • Strengthen the authority of the USDA to deny licenses to unsuitable applicants.

USDA should be allowed to deny a license application to a person who has violated any federal, state, or local law or regulations relating to animal cruelty, neglect, or welfare OR who would be operating in circumvention of those laws OR who has provided false information to any government agency. USDA also needs explicit authority to deny a license application or renewal during the period when an applicant's license is under suspension.

  • Make it harder for dealers to operate illegally.

USDA should prohibit Class B Dealers - persons who buy and sell dogs they have not bred and raised - from knowingly obtaining dogs from persons who required to be licensed are not licensed. The agency should also require Class B dealers who obtain dogs from persons who are exempt from the licensing requirements of AWA regulations to obtain a certification from that person stating the basis on which they are exempt.

These simple changes will dramatically improve enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and put a stop to unscrupulous dealers who manipulate the system. The American Kennel Club urges the USDA to finalize these changes to protect the welfare of dogs and the dog purchasing public.