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