May 5, 2023
It was only a few years ago, in 2013, when Congress passed PUPS – the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act – a bill that amended the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and changed standards for pet care, sanitation, handling, exercise, and housing.
Yet, 10 years later, animal rights groups are already pushing for more changes with new arbitrary, one-size-fits-all requirements for USDA-licensed dog breeders. These breeders include anyone who maintains more than four intact females (cats, dogs, or other small pet mammals) and transfers one or more pets sight unseen.
While the Puppy Protection Act (H.R. 1624) is labeled as “commercial breeding regulations,” it would also apply to small hobby breeders. This arbitrary federal legislation would restrict the activities of responsible dog breeders and affect the future of purpose-bred dogs.
This legislation has been introduced in each of the last two congressional terms. In the last term, animal rights groups obtained more than 200 sponsors for the bill. This is a vast over-representation of the support for this agenda in the United States but it increases the likelihood of the bill’s passage during this term.
Federal Mandates included in the Puppy Protection Act
H.R.1624 includes the following federal mandates:
Prohibits the breeding of a female dog:
• Unless pre-screened by a veterinarian.
• Based arbitrarily on the age and size of the dog.
• If the dog would produce more than two litters in an 18-month period.
Additional arbitrary requirements include but are not limited to:
• Mandated unfettered access from dogs’ primary enclosures to an outdoor exercise area large enough that it “allows dogs to extend to full stride.” This would create a potentially dangerous environment for multiple dogs.
• Mandated annual dental exams.
• Mandated indoor space sufficient to allow the tallest dog in an enclosure to stand on his or her hind legs without touching the roof of the enclosure. For family dogs that live in their owner’s homes, the primary enclosure may be considered a dog’s sleeping crate.
• Mandated pre-breeding screenings. No specific details are provided for what the screening would involve or who would make these decisions.
• Prohibition on the keeping of dogs in enclosures above 85 degrees or below 45 degrees F, regardless of breed or acclimation needs for dogs that hunt, sled, detect explosives, or do other work and thrive in cooler temperatures, or that must be acclimated to cooler or warmer temperatures for their safety.
• Completely solid flooring, despite scientific recognition that multiple types of high-quality flooring, including engineered slatted flooring, is beneficial in certain types of kennels and with certain breeds.
What you need to know:
There are some aspects of this “feel-good” legislation that codifies general good practices. However, other parts establish arbitrary, one-size-fits-all mandates that are not in the best interests of dogs. They undermine individual flexibility that allows breeders to make decisions for best practices and optimal outcomes.
Arbitrary requirements that ignore best practices for individual outcomes are not appropriate for federal mandates. The Puppy Protection Act would harm responsible breeders and specialized breeding practices. Many of the mandates can be traced back to the HSUS Petition for Rulemaking from 2015 when the animal rights group tried to force the USDA to make changes to the Animal Welfare Act through the courts.
These arbitrary requirements don’t take into account the wide range of breeds and kinds of dogs in the United States. Nor do they consider best health and breeding practices. They don’t allow for creative approaches used by expert breeders and owners to provide optimal care for their individual dogs that advance the art and science of responsible dog breeding. These breeders and owners have always led the way in advancing canine health and breeding. The Puppy Protection Act would remove their options.
Who would be affected:
Lest you think that the Puppy Protection Act would only apply to larger commercial breeding facilities, it would not. According to the change in USDA regulations which passed several years ago, a commercial breeder is anyone with more than 4 “breeding females” (an undefined term generally considered to mean any intact female). If you sell or transfer even one offspring from these females “sight unseen,” you are subject to USDA licensing as a breeder/dealer. If you fit this description, the Puppy Protection Act would apply to you. “Breeding females” includes any combination of cats, dogs, or other small pet animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs, and so on. If you have two female dogs and two female cats capable of breeding and you sell a puppy sight unseen, you would fall under this proposed law for all of your animals.
What can you do?
Your member of Congress needs to hear from you.
Please call, email, or write to your member of Congress today!
1. H.R. 1632 is bad policy because it mandates arbitrary one-size-fits-all requirements for temperatures, kennel engineering standards, and breeding bans that are not appropriate for all types or breeds of dogs and could actually harm some dogs.
2. Explain that you are a constituent. Respectfully share your experience and concerns as a dog owner/breeder/expert. Breeders: Relying on your experience, explain in practical terms how the new mandates could adversely impact your breeding program.
3. Ask them NOT to support advancing the bill out of committee or in the Farm Bill.
4. Ask them to instead support additional financial resources for USDA so they can appropriately enforce the requirements they already have.
5. Send The Cavalry Group feedback on any discussions you have with your member of Congress or any messages you receive. This will help us know where members stand.
Most legislators are not out to get you or to destroy dog breeding but they are not experts in this area. They probably like dogs and want to do the right thing but they don’t understand the unintended consequences that can occur if they support this legislation. They have animal rights groups and others visiting them, calling them, and telling them that they need to support the Puppy Protection Act to help dogs.
The only way your legislators can find out that they should not support the Puppy Protection Act is if they hear from you!
Arbitrary federal mandates that ignore the expertise of breeders and the individual needs of various breeds are not an appropriate way to ensure good dog care in the United States.
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By Carlotta Cooper a freelance journalist and contributing editor for Dog News magazine. Carlotta is a Dog Writers’ Association of America award winner for her writing about all matters of the canine and animal ownership. Carlotta also writes for The Cavalry Group about legislative issues.