Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Please Ask USDA To Enforce The ANIMAL WELFARE ACT .....


Due to the failure of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve its standards of care to ensure the humane treatment of dogs in puppy mills, as well as USDA’s failure to effectively enforce its existing “survival” standards, some states, and even some municipalities, such as New York City, have taken manners into their own hands.  Several states and communities have passed laws and ordinances restricting pet stores from acquiring puppies from dog breeders that have a certain number of violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) documented on their federal inspection reports. 
These laws have had a significant impact on substandard dog breeders here in Missouri.  In fact, puppy millers are complaining that such state and local legislation is substantially hurting their ability to sell puppies and is threatening their businesses due to the documented lack of care that is reflected on their USDA inspection reports.  You would think that a federal agency, such as the USDA, which is charged by Congress to ensure the humane treatment of dogs in commercial breeding establishments, would welcome the help of state and local officials in stopping the sale of puppies from inhumane puppy mills.  
Shockingly, USDA made the decision to help substandard breeders circumvent these laws and ordinances.  USDA has decided to cease documenting violations of the regulations if doing so will “affect the business” of the breeder.  USDA will now work to “educate the breeders into compliance,” and instead of citing a breeder for violating the AWA, USDA will discuss the violation with the breeder in what the agency is calling “teachable moments.” 
One top USDA official explained that “we need to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores…citing violations is an impediment to such sales.”     
USDA claims that they will only turn a blind eye if the violation is “minor” but the agency has failed to define “minor” and has yet to specify how many such “minor” items will be ignored.  Breeders are being told that, “if at any time a documented violation has the potential of affecting your business, please call our office immediately and let us know,” emphasizing that USDA stands ready to enable substandard breeders to market their dogs to pet stores.  
The Alliance’s executive director, Bob Baker, traveled to Washington, DC last month to attend a meeting with over 20 USDA officials to discuss enforcement issues and to press USDA to halt its ill-conceived plan of “educating breeders into compliance” and instead return to “enforcing” the Animal Welfare Act as mandated by Congress.  He also pleaded with USDA to stop aiding and abetting substandard breeders in the circumvention of state laws and local ordinances.  Baker emphasized to USDA officials that it is not the function of federal government to collaborate with puppy mills in evading state and local laws.  Baker followed up his meeting with USDA officials by submitting written input on USDA’s strategic planning efforts (You can read the comments in full at link to comments)  

Instead of issuing citations, USDA now considers substandard conditions as “teachable moments” 

Please contact the Secretary of Agriculture and ask him to enforce the Animal Welfare Act and to stop helping substandard breeders circumvent state laws and local ordinances. 

Contact Secretary Tom Vilsack at AgSec@usda.gov or leave a message at (202) 720-3631 or write him at:

Secretary Tom Vilsack
U. S. Department of Agriculture
Room 200-A
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Please note that USDA’s policy of “educating into compliance” adversely affects not only dogs confined in puppy mills but all animals protected under the Animal Welfare Act including animals used in research and testing, animals housed in zoos, aquariums, circuses, and roadside exhibits, and show horses that are subject to cruel “soring” practices, as well as animals held by animal dealers. 

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