by American Kennel Club (AKC)
Congress Attempts to Federally Regulate Dog Breeding
Legislation has been introduced in Congress to increase regulation of commercial dog breeding operations in the United States. The legislation amends the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to dictate when the first breeding of a female may occur and limits the number of breedings allowed within a certain time period. In addition, the legislation imposes socialization requirements-an engineering standard including a written plan of activities-that will be developed by a panel of animal welfare and behavior experts. Finally, the legislation creates a "three strikes and you're out" penalty provision for breeders. The bills, S. 1478 and H.R. 3058, have already gathered an impressive list of cosponsors to date-11 in the Senate and 59 in the House-and have broad bipartisan support. (Click here for Senate cosponsors; click here for House cosponsors).
In May 2000, the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) initiated a lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand coverage of the number and types of breeders regulated by the Animal Welfare Act. Several national animal rights groups supported this effort. A July US district court decision, currently under appeal by the federal government, would require a huge expansion of the Animal Welfare Act's licensing and inspection activities potentially requiring every person who sells a dog or cat, including non-commercial and private in-home hobby breeders, to obtain a federal license and submit to federal regulations. AKC believes that such expansion would actually weaken the effectiveness of AWA enforcement by forcing USDA inspectors to focus more of their limited time and resources investigating low-risk, small breeding facilities instead of concentrating their attention where it is most needed, in the large commercial facilities.
Now several of these same organizations are supporting S. 1478/H.R. 3058, legislation that is supposed to deal with "puppy mills" but which potentially could expand the AWA to apply to all dog breeders-large or small, commercial or hobbyist, even those who sell from their own homes.
Because the vast majority of AKC dog fanciers across the country already employ higher standards than those set forth in this legislation, they may not immediately recognize the serious problems contained in these legislative proposals. Specifically, the AKC is concerned about the following issues: First, the bills' findings are presented in a sensational rather than a scientific format. Such presentation encourages emotional responses rather than ones that are based on knowledge and fact. Second, the legislation encourages a level of federal involvement in breeding decisions that is intrusive and excessive. Third, it attempts to create an engineering plan for socialization that would be developed by animal welfare and behavior experts instead of the recognized experts in the regulated community.
As the nation's leading authority on purebred dogs, the American Kennel Club would like the opportunity to provide input into these findings before legislation is considered further. The AKC's early attempts to work with sponsors of this legislation to improve the bills' provisions were rebuffed. It's important to note that the AKC strongly and officially supports proper care and humane treatment of animals at all times. It not only advocates strict enforcement of the AWA to ensure humane treatment of dogs in breeding facilities, but it also conducts its own inspections and suspends breeders from its registry that violate its care and conditions standards.
The AKC is studying S. 1478/H.R. 3058 to develop more effective ways to regulate irresponsible and inhumane breeders who may currently fall through the cracks of regulation. We know that there are irresponsible breeders who do not share our concern for the welfare of their dogs and we want to them brought into compliance with the AWA. We believe, however, that it is a misuse of tax dollars and resources to pass overly intrusive and restrictive laws that would affect responsible breeders who already maintain exemplary breeding programs.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
•Contact your U.S. Representative and Senators in Washington. Ask them to oppose S. 1478/H.R. 3058 for the reasons stated above. To find out who represents you in the Senate, click here. To find out who represents you in the House, click here. You may also phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and an operator will connect you directly with the Senate or House office you request.
•If you live in the district or state of a member of the House or Senate Committee on Agriculture, it is especially important that you urge them to stop these bills from moving forward. Click here for committee membership lists.
•If you live in the district or state of a House or Senate cosponsor of these bills, ask them to withdraw their support. For additional information about these bills or other legislative issues affecting dogs and their owners, please contact [email protected].