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Earlier this week, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) announced that it has extended the comment period for future proposed changes to the federal Animal Welfare Act’s (AWA) rules and standards, including adding regulatory requirements to address species-specific environmental enrichment for dogs and other regulated animals.  Originally scheduled to end this week, the comment period will now end on Monday, April 10, 2023.

Currently, AWA rules only contain environmental enrichment requirements for non-human primates and marine mammals.  APHIS is considering expanding those requirements to better address the needs of species known to exist in social groups; species-specific feeding, foraging, and food acquisition behaviors; and enclosure space, lighting, and design that allow for species-specific behaviors.

In its January request for comments, APHIS noted that because licensees would be able to use their own expertise to determine the specific enrichment measures to implement, future regulations could be implemented on an individual basis.  Under this “performance standard” approach, licensees would be required to develop and implement a written plan specifying measures they would take to provide for environmental enrichment, which would have to be approved by an attending veterinarian.  Licensees would be required to monitor the plan on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance and to make adjustments if needed.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) views play as an important enriching factor in the care of dogs, so much so that daily play and exercise and positive human contact and socialization is included in our Care and Conditions of Dogs Policy.  As part of the comment process, AKC will provide information to APHIS to help guide the agency in developing sound, fair, and easy-to-implement regulations.

Comments to APHIS may be submitted here.  Comments will be accepted through Monday, April 10, 2023.  APHIS will review and consider all comments before later developing a proposed rule.

AKC will post its comment to APHIS on our Regulatory Resources page when finalized, and will continue to provide information on this important federal regulatory issue.  For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at