Jen Frey 4/30/08
Please Focus Your Attention on the Animal Welfare Act
Congress needs to take a closer look at the Animal Welfare Act and bring about change. The current act does not outline proper standards of care for animals and it does not include kennels or puppy mills that sell high volumes of puppies to the public. In addition, the act does not address puppies being imported for resale and it should. Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act in 1966 to outline standards of care for certain animals. Four significant amendments have been made since 1966, but standards of care are still low and methods of enforcement remain ineffective. Only wholesale commercial facilities that breed and/or deal animals for resale have to be licensed by the USDA and receive inspections (“Stop Puppy Mills”). An example would be a large-scale facility that sells puppies to pet stores. Thousands of facilities breed and sell the same number of puppies, if not more, and are not required to abide by the Animal Welfare Act because they sell directly to the public. This is where there are problems because those dealers are not held accountable and their treatment of puppies and other animals is considered inhumane to many people. Unfortunately, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has obtained inspection records that are hard evidence that USDAlicensed breeders have a tendency to get away with repeated violations. Breeders who violate the act are rarely fined and almost never have their license suspended. Facilities that have a history of receiving violations due to poor conditions can simply renew their licenses. The standards of care for breeders and dealers to follow are minimum and have specifications regarding the amount of space the animal lives in, the feeding of the
animal, the bedding for the animal and the amount of exercise the animal receives ("The Humane Society of the United States"). The USDA inspectors have discretion over the minimum standards ("In Defense of Animals"). Current Inspection policies permit licensed breeders to continue operation even if they have documented violations. On the rare occasion that the USDA does pursue prosecution, administrative judges typically impose fines that are less than what is authorized by statutes. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, in the U.S. there are 4,500 dealers that need to be inspected annually. There are also a total of about 70 veterinary inspectors who supposedly make unannounced visits to facilities that fall under the jurisdiction of the Animal Welfare Act, AWA, for inspection. In addition to inspecting breeding facilities, those same veterinary inspectors are responsible for inspecting 1,000 research facilities and 2,800 exhibitors. This boils down to 70 veterinary inspectors having to make unannounced inspections to approximately 8,300 facilities nationwide. Now that it’s clear how inspection and enforcement of the AWA works, it’s imperative to outline the minimum standards of care for which many animals are subjected. According to a fact sheet from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, website, “Research facilities must provide their animals with water and a balanced diet of wholesome food, clean and structurally sound housing affording enough space for the animals to move comfortably, and protection from extremes of
Figure 1 shows dogs in small cages stacked on top of one another and was taken from thepoppyfoundation.org/images
temperature and weather” (“Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service"). The fact sheet goes on to say that dogs specifically need to be provided with opportunities for exercise. The problem stems from minimum care standards turning into many breeders’ maximum care standards. Many dogs are barely being fed and have only enough room to turn around. It’s common for multiple dogs to be confined to one small cage. “Clean” needs to be defined for breeders as many of them allow dogs to live in rabbit cages stacked one on top of another, leading to feces from the dogs in the top cages falling into the cages below. It has also become apparent that many breeders do not understand what constitutes exercise for a dog. Recently, Oprah hosted a show investigating puppy mills and her guest, Bill Smith, founder of Main Line Animal
Figure 2 shows dogs running on wheels in fan casings for “exercise”. The image can be found at Oprah.com.
Rescue, said this of one breeder, “He has dogs running on wheels in fan casings" (Oprah.com).
The contraptions resemble big gerbil wheels. "[The breeder] claims that it's good for them because they get exercise." While there are minimum standards of care, those standards are not enough. In addition to the Animal Welfare Act’s lack of enforcement and unacceptable standards of care, the act does not define “dealer” correctly. The reason that the definition needs to be changed is because the current definition does not include all persons who sell dogs on a commercial scale. As of right now, the USDA must license “dealers” and the USDA must inspect their facilities. Breeders who sell puppies directly to consumers at retail are excluded from the current Animal Welfare Act. When the
AWA was originally written, hobby and show breeders usually did not sell very many puppies without having to turn to wholesale dealers and pet stores. Times have changed and so has technology. Now hobby and show breeders have access to mass marketing advertising and the Internet, which has fostered the sale of puppies that go directly to consumers and has also helped grow the industry of importing puppies for resale. It is because these breeding operations sell directly to consumers at a retail level that they are not included under the AWA ("American Kennel Club”). The Retail Pet Store Exemption has been interpreted broadly by the USDA and helps these hobby and show breeders stay in business. As aforementioned, new technology is helping people import puppies for resale. While it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics, it is evident that numbers are growing quickly each year. At a hearing to discuss the Pet Animal Welfare Statute in 2005, John E. Hoffman, a dog fancier, presented a case study on the Slacks, a couple who was importing Bulldogs and French Bulldogs from Eastern Europe to the US. Hoffman spent over 500 hours on his investigation of the Slacks’ business operations. According to Hoffman, “The schedules provided by the Slacks’ former bookkeeper indicate that they alone imported more than 300 puppies during the one year period from June 2003 through May 2004, for total gross sales of more than $440,000 for the one year period” (Hoffman). While this is only one example,
Figure 3 shows a Bulldog puppy from a puppy mill in Maine called J’aime Kennels. The picture was taken from network.bestfriends.org.
Hoffman’s research allowed him to estimate that the number of Bulldogs and French
Bulldogs being imported and sold via the Internet is no less than 5,000 per year. Importing puppies is easier and is less expensive than breeding. It also allows for the operations of substandard kennels to be overlooked. It is obvious that the Animal Welfare Act needs to be examined more closely by Congress and changes are necessary. First proper standards of care should be specifically outlined and need to replace the current minimum standards of care. Breeders need to be told exactly how much space each animal requires, how much exercise each animal should have per day, what constitutes exercise for an animal, what makes a clean living environment for an animal, what type of cage the animal should be housed in, what type of food each animal should be fed, and what type of veterinary care the animal needs to receive in a specific increment of time. It’s clear that breeders lack the enforcement they need in order to follow these laws. For this reason, the USDA should hire more veterinary inspectors. People who breed and sell more than 25 puppies per year need to be licensed by the USDA and their facilities routinely inspected. Additionally, regulation on the importing of puppies needs to be implemented in some form, as technology is advancing quickly. While these changes may not take place quickly, everyone can do their part to help. It’s important to be educated about these issues and to spread awareness, even if you aren’t planning on buying any new pets in the near future. Also, for those who are thinking of buying a new pet, do your research. Consider adopting a pet, as there are more than enough to choose from at shelters. If you can’t find what you want, be sure to buy from a responsible breeder and visit them first to see the environment where the pet has been bred. Next, don’t be naïve about claims made from pet stores as almost every
puppy in a pet store can be traced back to a puppy mill (Oprah.com). Also, don’t be fooled by breeders who advertise on the Internet that their puppies have been raised in loving environments, as many
QuickTime™ and a TIFF (Un compressed) decompressor are neede d to se e this picture.
breeders will put on a façade that they are a small family breeder
Figure 4 shows Bill, a 14-week-old, male puppy that is available for adoption from the Humane Society of Prince Georges County in Maryland. This picture was obtained from petfinder.com.
(“Stop Puppy Mills”). Lastly, do not be tempted to buy a puppy from a puppy mill because you think you are rescuing him or her, as this only makes room for a new puppy that has been bred inhumanely and helps the breeder make a profit.
References "Animal Welfare Act Facts." In Defense of Animals. 2008. 24 Apr 2008 <http://www.idausa.org/facts/awafacts.html>. "FAQS." Stop Puppy Mills. 17 July 2007. 22 Apr 2008 <http://stoppuppymills.org/frequently_asked_questions.html>. Hoffman, John E. "Discussion of the Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS)." Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. 08 Nov 2005. 29 Apr 2008 <http:// agriculture.senate.gov/Hearings/hearings.cfm?hearingid=1649&witnessId=4758>. "Investigating Puppy Mills." Oprah.com. 2008. 26 Apr 2008 <http://www.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/200804/tows_past_20080404.jhtml?pr omocode=ssend20080404TD>. "Remarks from Dr. J. Holt Regarding PAWS 2005." American Kennel Club. 20 June
2005. 25 Apr 2008 <http://www.akc.org/news/index.cfm? article_id=2538>. "The Animal Welfare Act." The Humane Society of the United States. 2008. 24 2008 <http://www.hsus.org/animals_in_research/general_informati on_on_animal_research/laws_protecting_animals_in_research/the_animal _welfare_act.html>. "The Animal Welfare Act: Research Facilities." Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 08/2003. 25 Apr 2008 <http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal _welfare/content/printable_version/fs_awresearchfac.pdf>. Apr