In November 2003, the so-called “Puppy Protection Act” (PPA) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) designated H.R. 3484. 36 co-sponsors have signed onto the bill. H.R. 3484 is virtually identical to the PPA introduced by Whitfield in the 107th Congress, except that it does not require setting federal “socialization” standards for dogs. Although H.R. 3484 has not seen recent movement, the AKC continues to have very serious concerns with this bill. We urge all fanciers to write or call your U.S. Representative asking him or her NOT TO COSPONSOR H.R. 3484.
The PPA is once again being promoted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a Washington-based animal rights organization that opposes all 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. According to an HSUS press release, the decision to drop socialization standards from the current version of the PPA was a “strategic” decision intended to reduce opposition to the bill this year. Clearly the HSUS has not given up on the idea of socialization standards in the long run.
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 standards 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 H.R. 3484 because it is bad public policy and sets dangerous federal legislative precedents.
- The Animal Welfare Act currently does not regulate breeding practices of any species of animals. H.R. 3484 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 H.R. 3484.
- 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. H.R. 3484 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. H.R. 3484 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 strengthens the USDA's tools for achieving compliance with the existing standards. We believe the purpose of the Animal Welfare Act is to assure compliance with the Act, not put breeders out of business. H.R. 3484 would undermine rather than enhance the USDA's efforts to achieve compliance with the Act. The AKC is working with several members of Congress on the introduction of legislation that would strengthen enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, and truly address the problems of commercial breeders who do not comply with the Act, without imposing additional restrictions on responsible breeders.
The AKC urges all fanciers to write or call their Representatives asking them not to co-sponsor H.R. 3484. The AKC has also sent letters to all members of the House of Representatives urging them not to cosponsor the bill.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Contact your U.S. Representative in Washington. Ask them not to sponsor H.R. 3484 for the reasons stated above. To find out who represents you in the House, click here. You may also phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and an operator will connect you directly with the House office you request.
Please check this website regularly for further developments.
In November 2003, the so-called “Puppy Protection Act” (PPA) was introduced in the House of…