Petition Tag - aphis

1. AKC Please Lead the Fight Against the New APHIS Rule

[Please note: While you are encouraged to provide as much information as you are comfortable with, there are only TWO fields which are actually required: (1) Your email address (which is NEVER made public) and, (2) Your name (which you can hide from public view by checking the appropriate box on the signature form. Comments are very valuable, and can also be hidden from public view.]

We urge the American Kennel Club to seek an injunction to block the new APHIS rule from going into effect.

In June of 2012, the AKC published a petition in "support of the AKC’s comments to the USDA in opposition to the proposed regulations as written." That petition received over 74,000 signatures.

In September of 2013, the final version of the APHIS rule was published in the Federal Register and will become the law on November 18, 2013.

In its petition, the AKC wrote: "As the leader and expert in breeding and maintaining dogs for more than a century, the AKC supports responsible breeders and dog owners through its educational and inspections programs. As the only purebred dog registry with a care and conditions of dogs policy - which we have recently enhanced to create a comprehensive policy for the welfare of all dogs - more than 55,000 inspections have been conducted since 2000. We know through experience that regardless of the number of dogs owned or the manner in which breeders interact with potential puppy buyers, a “one size fits all” breeder regulation is unfair and unenforceable."

In the preamble to its petition, the AKC wrote: "It is unreasonable to expect small breeders, who may keep a handful of intact females in their homes, to be able to meet exacting USDA commercial kennel engineering standards that were never intended for home environments. Other pre-existing restrictions such as local ordinances, insurance or licensing may also prevent hobbyists from adapting their facilities."

That situation has not changed. Statements and the implied nuances of representations made by government officials during conference calls and generic responses to specific questions, such as we will make decisions on a "case by case" basis are rarely ever successfully used as a defense to subsequent allegations of non-compliance with the "letter of the law" as set out in the final regulation. In short, the validity of those representations have the life span of a "love letter written in the sand at the water's edge during low tide".

Living under USDA licensing is NOT an option for the average home-based retail seller. The average house cannot be converted to a USDA compliant facility. Federal standards for licensed facilities dictate sanitation measures not feasible in a normal home, surfaces that are impervious to moisture, ventilation, bio-hazard control, veterinary care, exercise, temperature controls, waste disposal systems, diurnal lighting, drainage systems, washrooms, perimeter fencing, as well as transportation standards for regulated animals.

Given the immense uncertainty and confusion about how the rule will actually be enforced, it is imperative that the AKC act to seek an injunction.

2. Investigate USDA/APHIS and Stop Proposed Rule to Regulate Pet Sellers

Retail sellers including small home/hobby breeders who sell directly to consumers have long been provided an exemption from federal licensing through the broad definition of “retail pet store”.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has proposed to limit this definition so that it means a place of business or residence that EACH buyer physically enters in order to personally observe the animals available for sale prior to purchase and/or to take custody of the animals after purchase. APHIS erroneously claims this change restores the intent of Congress; however the intent of Congress to differentiate between wholesale and retail transactions for pets has always been understood and has been upheld in a court of law.

The Proposed Rule changes the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and USDA responsibility forever by granting authority for federal regulation to extend beyond commercial dog businesses, invading the privacy of American homes in order to establish standards for pet care.

When draft rules are “significant” due to economic effects or because they raise important policy issues, the Regulatory Flexibility Act requires agencies to evaluate the potential effects on small businesses, small organizations, and small governmental jurisdictions. An agency may also be required to analyze issues of unfunded mandates, families, and federalism. The agency must publish the regulatory text of the proposal, setting out amendments to the standing body of law in the Code of Federal Regulations.

APHIS did not fulfill a statutory duty to ensure full compliance with the Small Business Act including determination of impact under zoning laws presented by federalizing a hobby and converting small hobby breeders to home-based businesses, and submitting certification to the Small Business Administration with a detailed statement on the impact of the Proposed Rule on the affected "Small Businesses".

APHIS prepared an inadequate and incomplete economic analysis which drastically underestimated the number of affected dog breeders nationwide and did not include breeder/sellers of cats and other species, or rescue organizations that may no longer be exempt from regulation under the narrowed definition of retail pet store.

APHIS released a Revised FAQ in July 2012 that implied use of a double standard between existing commercial license holders and potential retail license holders. APHIS stated that pet retailers and rescue groups selling to buyers face-to-face at locations other than their own premises were "not the focus" of the Proposed Rule and would not need to obtain a license. The FAQ further stated in the case of dog breeders who allow their dogs to have free run of the entire house, APHIS inspectors will assess the homes individually for compliance with the federal standards. This implies that federal standards are interpretive and that APHIS will selectively enforce portions of the AWA and the Proposed Rule. Without accompanying written changes to the AWA all such statements in this FAQ are invalid.

We find publication of the flawed FAQ to be an inexcusable action by a federal agency. It appears to have been written to quell opposition to the Proposed Rule rather than to explain the effect of the rule if objectively implemented.

3. Join With the AKC to Protect Responsible Small Breeders

Join with the American Kennel Club to express your concerns about the harsh and unintended consequences that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations (RIN 0579-AD57) to redefine “retail pet store” would have on responsible small and hobby breeders.

Under the proposed regulations, breeders - who maintain more than four “breeding females” and who sell even one puppy sight unseen, by any means (including online, by mail or by telephone), would now be regulated as commercial breeders by the USDA. The effect of these proposed regulations would be to take away the public’s opportunity to obtain puppies from some of our nation’s top breeders who in many cases, have dedicated their lives to breeding for health, breed type and temperament.

Under current law, the federal Animal Welfare Act exempts from federal oversight “retail pet stores,” which sell puppies directly to a final customer for use as pets. This exemption means that most non-commercial small or hobby breeders do not have to be licensed and regulated by the USDA. The proposed rule rescinds the exempt “retail pet store” status of anyone selling pets at retail to buyers who do not physically enter the breeder’s facilities in order to personally observe the animals available for sale.

The rule also requires anyone who owns more than four “breeding females” and sells puppies, cats or other small/exotic pets “sight unseen,” by any means, to be licensed, regulated and inspected as a USDA commercial breeder.

The AKC shares the USDA’s concern about substandard Internet puppy sellers that operate outside the current regulations. However, the unintended consequences of this proposed rule create unreasonable hardships on small hobby breeders. This rule could threaten the future of a vast number of small responsible dog breeders and the very existence of some rare breeds in the United States.

The rule creates an unfair burden on small breeders who may depend on the ability to place dogs very selectively in known situations without physically meeting with the purchaser at the specific time of sale. Likewise, many hobbyists are comfortable purchasing an animal sight-unseen based on known pedigrees, bloodlines, previous relationships or personal knowledge of each other’s facilities and programs. Such scenarios are particularly common and necessary for breeders and fanciers of rare breeds. The proposed rule does not make allowances if the purchaser is willing to sign a waiver of an in-person sale requirement.

It is unreasonable to expect small breeders, who may keep a handful of intact females in their homes, to be able to meet exacting USDA commercial kennel engineering standards that were never intended for home environments. Other pre-existing restrictions such as local ordinances, insurance or licensing may also prevent hobbyists from adapting their facilities.