Federal Update: Congress Passes Farm Bill with Two Improvements to the Animal Welfare Act

The American Kennel Club (AKC) lauds the US Senate for passing a new five-year Farm Bill today...

The American Kennel Club (AKC) lauds the US Senate for passing a new five-year Farm Bill today that addresses some of the AKC’s concerns regarding recent regulatory changes to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by the USDA/APHIS Retail Pet Stores and Licensing Exemptions rule.  The House of Representatives passed the bill last week.


AKC outlined to Farm Bill negotiators from the Senate and House Agriculture committees that although the intent of the changes to the rule was to regulate large-scale breeders and Internet pet sellers, it also would have required some small hobby breeders who maintain more than four “breeding females” and transfer an occasional dog sight unseen, to be licensed and regulated as commercial pet dealers. The regulation also would have required small hobby breeders who provide foster homes for rescue dogs to be licensed as commercial breeders if they maintain more than four female dogs and occasionally use an intermediary to transfer a foster dog to its new home. 


The changes in the Farm Bill (HR 2642) will reduce the number of breeders and dealers otherwise required to obtain a license if the size of their business is determined to be “de minimis” (minimal).  The Farm Bill Conference Report also allows USDA to “determine if the number of animals they breed or sell or the gross annual dollar amounts earned are so minor as to merit disregard.” 


The measure’s conference report states that this will free up more USDA resources and recommends that APHIS finalize a rule regarding this change within the year. 

“We believe these changes will be welcome to responsible small breeders who not only breed occasionally, but also provide foster homes for rescue dogs,” said AKC Government Relations Director Sheila Goffe. “Without these changes, many could have been forced to give up their rescue activities unless they could obtain a USDA pet dealer license.”


A second measure supported by the AKC directs APHIS to clarify the term “breeding female”.  This term is currently used in AWA regulations to define who should be regulated as a pet dealer, but it lacks authority because it does not appear in the underlying statute.  The conference report urged APHIS to clarify that only those female animals capable of reproduction and actively being used in a breeding program should qualify as breeding females.


The AKC thanks the many members of Congress, Congressional staff and AKC club members whose dedicated efforts made these changes possible. “We are extremely grateful to the Farm Bill negotiators for addressing some of AKC’s concerns regarding the Retail Pet Stores and Licensing Exemptions.  We would especially like to thank the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, Chairman Frank Lucas, Livestock Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford and Ranking Member Jim Costa, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran for their leadership in including these beneficial changes to the AWA in the Farm Bill Conference report,” said AKC President and CEO Dennis Sprung.


A third measure in the Farm Bill also codifies the regulatory changes made by USDA/APHIS in the Retail Pet Stores and Licensing Exemptions rule in late 2013.    


The measure now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature.