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USDA APHIS Proposed Rules Comment Period Extended Until June 5

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) has confirmed that the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) has extended the period during which the public may offer comments about proposed changes to Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations.  Comments will now be accepted through Wednesday, June 5, 2019.

Interested parties are still encouraged to submit comments to USDA APHIS by going to https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/03/22/2019-05422/animal-welfare-amendments-to-licensing-provisions-and-to-requirements-for-dogs.  Click “Submit A Formal Comment” and submit your comment along with the required information.

AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will continue to provide updates on this process as developments warrant.  For more information on this or other federal legislative or regulatory issues, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), which is charged with enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), continues to accept comments from the public on proposed updates to the AWA’s licensing requirements.  Comments will be accepted through Tuesday, May 21, 2019.  The American Kennel Club (AKC) generally supports the proposed changes and encourages all interested parties to submit thoughtful, experience-based written comments online before the end of next week’s comment period.

Current USDA regulations require that pet breeders who maintain more than 4 “breeding females” (dogs, cats or other small mammals) and sells one sight unseen may be subject to licensing to USDA licensing. For more information on licensing requirements, view AKC’s Does the New USDA Rule Affect Me? or visit https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/awa/ct_awa_program_information.

USDA APHIS is seeking public comments on a proposal to:

  • Amend its licensing requirements to eliminate automatic renewals.  With this change, licensees would have to demonstrate compliance, via a facility inspection, with the AWA and show that the animals in their possession are adequately cared for in order to obtain a license.
  • Provide temporary licensing procedures to avoid inadvertent lapses of licensure by historically compliant licensees if a delay or backlog in USDA inspections occurs.
  • Strengthen existing regulations to prevent individuals and businesses whose licenses were suspended or revoked from working for regulated entities.
  • Reduce regulatory burdens on fully compliant licensees. To accomplish this, APHIS is taking steps to streamline the licensing process by reducing licensing fees—a set $120 fee for a three-year license—and simplifying the payment and collection process.
  • Require any dealer, exhibitor or research facility with dogs to maintain a written program for veterinary care and medical records and to make those records available to USDA upon request.  [Please note that the term “exhibitor” refers to carnivals, circuses, animal acts, zoos, and educational exhibits. It specifically does not include purebred dog shows.) The written veterinary care program would have to include regular visits by the attending veterinarian to conduct a complete physical examination of each dog not less than once a year, vaccinations for contagious and deadly diseases of dogs, and preventative care and treatment for hair coats, nails, eyes, ears, skin, and teeth.

The American Kennel Club supports the above changes.

The proposal also mandates that dogs in regulated facilities have continual access to potable water unless restricted by an attending veterinarian.  However, as stated by USDA, a lack of continual access to water is generally not a risk to healthy dogs.  (Proposal, 84 FR 10728, https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2019-05422/page-10728)  Because regulated facilities vary by type, size, and the number of animals they maintain, standards that would allow licensees some flexibility in operations while still providing appropriate care may be a better, more easily achieved alternative.

The AKC is also concerned that the proposed changes fail to provide a clear definition of the term “breeding female” as used in AWA regulations.  Currently, the USDA appears to define “breeding female” as “capacity to breed” and bases this assessment on a case-by-case visual inspection on the ground of the animals involved, determining whether they are “of breeding age” and whether there are health or other factors that would limit that. The AKC believes that this is not a practical, efficient, or clear way to establish a threshold for licensing and regulation, as it does not allow either APHIS or a breeder to assess whether a breeder would be subject to licensing, regulation, and inspection without first being inspected by APHIS, which could only be undertaken after the license application process has been undertaken.

Unless a breeder is certain which animals will “qualify” as non-breeding animals, a breeder has no way of knowing what their regulatory requirements would be under this rule.  Visual or arbitrary definitions of “breeding females” are also problematic as many breeders “grow out” promising females to at least 24 months of age before determining whether they will have a show career or be worthy of breeding. Maintaining an intact female that physically could be bred does not indicate the intention to breed.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Interested parties are encouraged to submit comments to USDA APHIS by going to https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/03/22/2019-05422/animal-welfare-amendments-to-licensing-provisions-and-to-requirements-for-dogs.  Click “Submit A Formal Comment” and submit your comment along with the required information.

AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will provide updates on the regulatory process as the proposal proceeds.  For more information on this or other federal legislative or regulatory issues, contact AKC’s Government Relations Department at (919) 816-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.

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