Recently, The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed an important change that would close a rather devastating loophole in commercial breeding regulations. As it is, there is little standing in the way of unscrupulous dealers peddling pets online. Offering popular breeds, ease of delivery and promises of legitimacy, the puppy mill industry has been allowed to thrive for far too long in cyberspace. But if the USDA's proposed changes are adopted, this will soon change.
The USDA's current rules for commercial pet dealers are nearly 40 years old, established during a time when the internet wasn't a factor in the regulatory process. But it has become clear in recent years that the puppy mill machine has found a new home online. Without knowing it, well-meaning but ill-informed individuals are inadvertently subsidizing this appalling process.
Buying pets from online commercial dealers is so harmful because the conditions the animals exist in are impossible to discern from a simple Google search. It's easy to spot abuse when standing in front of an overcrowded kennel, brimming with malnourished puppies covered in feces. It's much harder to uncover that same level of mistreatment when simply clicking "buy" on a non-descript website.
The USDA is seeking to remedy this oversight by closing the loophole and requiring all online sellers to comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Passed in 1966, the Animal Welfare Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. And while the Act was a landmark piece of animal welfare legislation, the Amendment the USDA is now proposing would finally correct an oversight that has contributed to untold amounts suffering.
This is where you – a devoted friend and protector of our animal companions – come in. While the USDA has proposed and endorsed this amendment, there is no guarantee it will be adopted. It will take pressure from government shelters, humane centers, animal welfare agencies and pet lovers like yourself to make sure that the internet is no longer a refuge for shady commercial pet dealers. We encourage you to follow this link to contact the USDA and tell them that the changes they have put forward will be a life-saving addition to existing animal welfare law.
Puppy mills are an unfortunate reality. But with the help and dedication of the pet loving community, we can make them an unfortunate memory.
Eric Steigleder is the community relations coordinator at the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.