Government Weighs Modest Step to Police Puppy Mills
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Government Weighs Modest Step to Police Puppy Mills

Agriculture Department May Require Breeders to Show They Comply With Anti-Cruelty Laws 

Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

In a rare instance of the Trump administration considering an action to benefit the public, the federal agency that licenses animal dealers in our country says it is looking at writing tougher regulations.

Dealers, exhibitors and breeders currently don’t have to prove they are following the law to renew their federal licenses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to breed, sell or exhibit animals. Some repeat violators have their licenses automatically renewed.

“As a trained veterinarian, humane standards of care for animals are close to my heart and central to my love and concern for our four-legged friends,” said Sonny Perdue,  agriculture secretary.

The agency was criticized by animal groups earlier this year after it took down online inspection reports about puppy mills, roadside zoos, research labs and other breeders. The Animal Legal Defense Fund sued, but the lawsuit was dismissed. The records are back online, sometimes without names and addresses.

ACTION BOX/What You Can Do About It

Tell the USDA what you think about possible tougher regulations for animal dealers, breeders and exhibitors by commenting online. The deadline to comment is Nov. 2.

Call Michael Gregoire, the acting administrator for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the USDA, at 202-799-7017.

The Humane Society of the United States can be reached at 202-452-1100.

“They are useless,” said Kathleen Summers, director of outreach and research for the Humane Society’s puppy mills campaign. “Now we can see all the violations, but consumers still can’t protect themselves from buying from bad breeders because they don’t know who these violators are.”

The proposed regulations could require license-holders to disclose convictions on animal cruelty charges and prevent people with a history of violations from applying for new licenses under another person’s name or new business name.

The deadline to comment on the proposed rules is Nov. 2. More than 41,500 comments have been received so far.

“We commend the USDA for recognizing that the rules must be strengthened to stop animal abusers from repeatedly skirting the law,” said John Goodwin of The Humane Society of the United States.

A 2010 audit found the USDA’s enforcement efforts were ineffective with problem dealers. An estimated 1.8 million puppies are born in what could be 10,000 puppy mills nationwide.

Petland has been tentatively linked to a disease that has sickened at least 55 people in 12 states. The disease, campylobacteriosis, can cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating.

Joe Watson, the chief executive officer of Petland, urged the USDA “to correct breeder licensing loopholes that allow problematic license holders whose licenses have been suspended or revoked from simply canceling their license and obtaining a new license to avoid penalties.”

In Missouri, a habitual problem state for puppy mills, Donald Schrage in Edina stayed licensed for years, despite problems going back to 1995 that included removing parts of the puppies’ tails by twisting and pinching them and keeping puppies in a building with a heat index of 120.5 degrees.

In November, an administrative law judge ordered that Schrage’s federal license be revoked. He isn’t on a recent list of licensed breeders, but Schrage remains licensed in Missouri under the state’s Animal Care Facilities Act.



October 26, 2017