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On May 26, 2005 Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced legislation which will bring under federal regulation persons who import large numbers of dogs for resale, individuals who sell dogs at retail through the internet or the mass media, and high volume breeders who sell dogs at retail. The legislation also strengthens the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ability to enforce compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and to identify persons who are evading the Act. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). An identical bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA).

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What is the intent of the legislation?

The legislation is intended to bring under coverage of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) commercial dog dealers who are currently exempt from regulation, including importers, mass marketers, and high volume breeders. It is also intended to strengthen the USDA's ability to identify persons who are covered by the Act and to shut down serious violators.

What are the significant provisions of the legislation?

  • The bill brings under federal regulation entities which import more than 25 dogs per year for resale and/or which sell more than 25 dogs per year at retail which they did not breed or raise (i.e. internet and mass media retailers) and are not retail pet stores.

  • The legislation specifically exempts breeders who whelp fewer than 7 litters a year and raise the puppies on their own premises and do not sell puppies for resale. Hobby and show breeders will no longer be dependent on being classified as “retail pet stores” to be exempt from the Act.

  • The bill also brings under federal regulation breeders who sell exclusively at retail if they whelp 7 or more litters per year. (The law already covers breeders who sell puppies at wholesale.)

  • To summarize the above, persons who breed and raise puppies and sell only at retail will be subject to the 7 or more litter criterion or the 25 dogs sold criterion, whichever is higher. Thus a toy breeder who has a number of small litters will not be covered until they reach the 25 threshold, regardless of the number of litters whelped. Similarly, a Golden Retriever breeder who whelps fewer than 7 litters that result in over 25 puppies would not fall under the regulations. Persons who sell at retail (e.g. Internet sellers) dogs which they did not breed and raise are regulated at the 25 dogs sold threshold.

  • The bill continues the existing exemption for retail pet stores, but narrows the definition of this term to exclude breeding establishments.

  • The bill significantly strengthens the USDA's ability to identify breeders who sell puppies for resale but who evade licensing and regulation, by requiring retail pet stores and others who acquire dogs for resale to maintain records of the source of the dogs they acquire for resale and to provide these records to the USDA upon request.

  • The bill extends the period of time that the USDA can suspend the license of a dealer when the health of animals is in imminent danger from the current 21 days to 60 days.

  • Finally, the bill authorizes the USDA's own lawyers to go to court directly to obtain injunctions against persons operating without a license or with a suspended or revoked license, rather than having to convince busy U.S. attorneys to take up such cases.

Why is AKC supporting this legislation after many years of opposing similar measures?

  • The Internet and other marketing techniques have now made it feasible for high volume breeders to breed and sell substantial numbers of puppies directly at retail. The volume of such breeding for direct retail sales is substantial and increasing. When breeders were brought under the Act in the 1970's this was not feasible, so persons who sold exclusively at retail were, of necessity, small operations and were mainly hobby and show breeders.

  • We have also become aware of a growing number of persons who are importing foreign-bred puppies for direct retail sales. There have been many reports of health and other problems with these imports.

  • Breeders and importers who sell all of their puppies directly at retail currently fall outside any federal regulation, regardless of the volume of activity. The AWA currently covers only breeders who sell puppies for resale, and exempts persons who sell at retail (i.e. the retail pet store exemption), regardless of their breeding activity.

  • Historically the AKC has supported the exemption of retail sellers because this largely protected hobby and show breeders from regulation. However, changing pet market realities, and interest from legislators intent upon addressing the problems posed by large breeding operations which sell at retail (as evidenced by the 2002 Puppy Protection Act and others), dictates that we reconsider this stance.

Why is this bill considered a good solution?

While the AKC has traditionally opposed federal regulation of persons who sell dogs only at retail to protect hobby and show breeders who breed and raise puppies in a residential environment, the rapid rise in imports of puppies for retail resale, and the use of the internet and mass media channels to sell large numbers of puppies at retail have made wholesale versus retail sellers increasingly less synonymous with commercial dealers versus amateur fanciers.

Furthermore, we have long advocated for stronger enforcement of the existing AWA and for giving USDA the resources it needs to address those not in compliance. PAWS includes several enhancements to the AWA that will make existing regulations more enforceable, such as the authorization of USDA lawyers to directly seek injunctions against persons operating without a license or with a suspended or revoked license, rather than depending on U.S. attorneys.

What percentage of our registry will be affected by the new legislation?

This legislation could double or triple the number of dog dealers regulated by the USDA by bringing under coverage large retailers and by licensing many operations already covered by the Act but evading compliance. However, 96 percent of breeders who register their litters with AKC will continue to be exempt from the Act, and many of those who will be covered under the new legislation are already covered under existing law.

Why are we working with a legislator who has been more aligned with the AR agenda in the past?

In preparing the current legislation, Senator Santorum has received input from a wide variety of concerned groups, including AKC, in order to understand the full scope of the issue. He and his staff have been more receptive to our concerns than in the past, and in fact made sweeping changes to the Senator's initial bill in 2001 based on input from AKC and the purebred dog fancy. We feel PAWS addresses many of our most pressing concerns.

It is imperative that we work along side legislators to develop compromises that can lead to effective legislation. The alternative is to be left out of the process entirely, which is likely to make hobby breeders more vulnerable to restrictive legislation.

How will the USDA determine who is breeding more than the exempted number of litters or dogs?

Enforcement currently relies heavily on voluntary compliance and will continue to do so. Currently the USDA is required to license breeders who sell any dogs at wholesale and maintain more than 3 breeding females (whether or not they are actually bred). If the USDA suspects that someone is evading this requirement they develop evidence through an investigation and take action accordingly. The new legislation will help in that regard by giving the USDA access to source records from persons who acquire dogs for resale. The USDA will have to enforce the new legislation in the same manner, by investigating cases of suspected violation and gathering evidence. There is no authority in the current law or in the new bill for the USDA to request or subpoena records from third parties (such as the AKC) who are not persons who acquire dogs for resale.

How will USDA find the resources to conduct all these additional inspections?

Should this legislation pass, finding strategies and resources to carry it out will need to be addressed by the USDA and the Congress. The AKC is open to working with the USDA and the Congress to devise and support effective ways to enhance existing resources and increase resources.

How will the residential breeders covered by this bill meet the USDA's standards?

The USDA will have to write new regulations to implement the provisions of this legislation. These will likely include appropriate standards applicable to newly covered breeders who breed and raise puppies in a residential environment. The AKC intends to work closely with the USDA and with members of Congress to assure appropriate implementing regulations.

What is the potential effect on commercial breeders?

Many high volume breeders are already covered by the law, and most are in compliance. This bill will cover high volume retailers who sell dogs they have not bred themselves, as well as some additional breeders. It will also help bring into compliance commercial breeders already covered by the law who are evading it. Most commercial breeders support measures to insure that all breeders who are covered by the law are licensed and in compliance. All commercial breeders get a black eye whenever a bad operation which is out of compliance with the law is exposed. Likewise, most retail pet stores acquire dogs only from licensed breeders, and support measures to bring all breeders covered by the law into compliance. Finally, it is in the interest of commercial breeders as well as hobby and show breeders to make sure that persons importing puppies for resale abide by the law and import only healthy puppies raised, handled and transported under humane conditions. This bill is a win-win situation for commercial breeders, hobby and show breeders, and purebred dog fanciers generally.

What is the potential effect on rescue groups?

Both existing legislation and PAWS define as dealers only persons who “in commerce, for compensation or profit” sell dogs. True rescue organizations would be exempt because they are not carrying on this activity as a commercial activity. However, groups that call themselves “rescue” operations that actually are doing this as a business will not be exempted. The USDA will have to write regulations to define when an operation is operating “in commerce, for compensation or profit,” and as previously stated, AKC intends to work closely with the USDA and with members of Congress to assure appropriate implementing regulations. USDA does not have an interest in regulating non-profit rescue operations, and nothing in PAWS will require them to do so.

— Click here for more information about PAWS —

On May 26, 2005 Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)…