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Today, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) formally announced 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 all regulated animals, including dogs.

Should you be regulated under the federal Animal Welfare Act?  Click here to access APHIS’ Licensing and Registration Assistant to find out.

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 announcement, APHIS notes that because licensees would be able to use their own expertise to determine the specific enrichment measures to implement, the 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.

Today’s notice, including nine questions APHIS is particularly interested in receiving comments about, may be viewed here.

APHIS is accepting comments from the public and regulated entities on the ideas proposed through Friday, March 10, 2023.  Comments may be submitted here.  APHIS will review and consider all comments before later developing a proposed rule.

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 is the first bulleted guideline listed 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.  AKC will post its comment to APHIS when finalized, and will continue to provide information on this important federal regulatory issue.

For more information, contact AKC Government Relations at