Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), the principal sponsor of the so-called “Puppy Protection Act” (PPA) in the 107th Congress has informed the American Kennel Club that he plans to introduce a modified version of the PPA in the near future. The new version of the PPA will be virtually identical to the original, except that it will not require setting “socialization standards” for puppies. The principal Senate co-sponsor of the PPA is expected to be Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL). Legislation is also expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA).
The PPA is once again being promoted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a Washington-based animal rights organization that opposes purposeful breeding of purebred dogs. The PPA would amend the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to require the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to regulate the breeding practices of dog breeders covered by the Act, including the frequency and age at which bitches are bred. It would also require the USDA to adopt a punitive “three-strikes-and-you're-out” enforcement policy revoking the license to breed and sell dogs of persons who commit three violations of the USDA's regulations over an eight year period.
In the 107th Congress the PPA was opposed by the AKC, the American Veterinary Medical Association, most other animal interest organizations, and even some animal welfare organizations. An attempt to circumvent normal legislative processes and attach the PPA to the 2002 Farm Bill was soundly rejected by House-Senate conferees.
The AKC strongly supports the Animal Welfare Act and has a longstanding history of opposing substandard kennel operations. The AKC maintains care and condition requirements which it enforces through regular inspections of all breeding establishments. In 2002 the AKC conducted more than 4000 kennel inspections. The AKC denies registration and other privileges to breeders who do not comply with the AKC's standards. Nevertheless, the AKC opposes the PPA because it is bad public policy and sets dangerous federal legislative precedents.
- While the PPA is advocated as legislation to regulate “puppy mills”, its real purpose is to restrict the breeding of purebred dogs. The HSUS has historically opposed the breeding of purebred dogs. Several years ago the HSUS conducted a nationwide campaign to persuade municipalities to completely ban purposeful breeding of dogs. The campaign was spectacularly unsuccessful.
- The Animal Welfare Act currently does not regulate breeding practices of any species of animals. The PPA will, for the first time, thrust the federal government into a whole new arena of animal regulation. The federal government should not be in the business of specifying and regulating breeding practices of dog breeders. Furthermore, and very importantly, there is no scientific basis for the specific breeding restrictions included in the PPA.
- The USDA's Animal Care regulations already require commercial dog breeders to follow a program of veterinary care developed and supervised by a licensed veterinarian to protect the health of all animals in commercial breeding facilities, including the breeding stock. Breeding decisions should be made by breeders and their veterinarians. The PPA would co-opt the judgment and discretion of breeders and veterinarians.
- As a practical matter, it will be impossible for the USDA, which enforces the Animal Welfare Act, to police breeding practices without imposing overwhelmingly intrusive burdens on persons who breed dogs.
- The “three-strikes-and-you're-out” approach to enforcement of the animal care regulations will undermine rather than enhance compliance with USDA's regulations. Rather than providing incentives to admit and promptly correct violations, it will create incentives to contest alleged violations, and bog down the USDA's enforcement process in litigation.
- Compliance with the Animal Welfare Act has improved substantially in recent years. Congress has increased appropriations for USDA enforcement by more than 50 percent over the past several budget cycles, and the number of USDA inspectors has nearly doubled. Industry groups such as the AKC also conduct educational programs and kennel inspections. The AKC alone conducted more than 4000 kennel inspections in 2002, about half as many kennel inspections annually as the USDA.
- Current USDA Animal Care regulations, including the veterinary care standards, strike an appropriate balance in protecting both the welfare of dogs in commercial breeding establishments and the public who purchase those dogs, without being overly intrusive or injecting the federal government into decisions which should properly be the province of individual dog breeders and owners. The PPA would upset this balance, and impose excessive burdens on small business owners without improving the welfare of animals.
The AKC believes that what is needed to improve the welfare of dogs in substandard kennel operations is not legislation imposing new standards on dog breeders, but legislation that would strengthen the USDA's tools for achieving compliance with the existing standards. We believe the purpose of the Animal Welfare Act is to assure compliance, not put breeders out of business. The proposed new PPA would undermine rather than enhance the USDA's efforts to achieve compliance with its regulations.
The AKC has urged Sen. Santorum and other supporters of the PPA not to reintroduce the discredited PPA, but to instead engage in dialogue with organizations like the AKC and the purebred dog fancy, which have historically been dedicated to promoting the welfare of purebred dogs.
The AKC is monitoring developments with the PPA closely and is in communication with members of Congress and the Administration. Please check www.akc.org regularly for further developments, including any call to action that may become appropriate.
Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), the principal sponsor of the so-called “Puppy Protection Act” (PPA) in…