Animal welfare groups this week urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the standards of care for dogs kept in commercial breeding facilities.
The Humane Society of the United States, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association filed a legal petition with the USDA, which regulates such facilities under the federal Animal Welfare Act, but current AWA regulations fall far short of ensuring the humane treatment of dogs.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS said in a news release, “It’s common sense that dogs should have water, space, exercise, and other basic care, and responsible dog breeders and pet industry groups should welcome these improved standards to restore consumer confidence and deal with the outliers who cut corners and treat puppies like products. The current standards are insufficient and outdated, and need to be fortified to crack down on abusive puppy mills.”
The requested changes would create more specific standards for veterinary care, housing, breeding practices, socialization and placement of retired breeding dogs.
“Dogs are not products that can be simply warehoused without appropriate regard for their welfare,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. “The public overwhelmingly agrees that the current USDA standards for dogs kept in commercial breeding facilities do not amount to humane treatment for dogs. The USDA needs to recognize this, and step up to ensure these vulnerable animals have proper care to maintain their health and well-being.”
Among other things, the petition urges the USDA to adopt the following rules for licensed dog breeders:
Restrict the use of wire flooring in the dogs’ primary cage space. Wire flooring is routinely used in commercial breeding facilities, often in cages stacked on top of each other, and is highly detrimental to the dogs’ welfare;
Require breeders to provide dogs with access to an exercise space. Current regulations do not mandate even daily or weekly exercise, and many dogs are kept in their cages day in and day out, for years on end;
Require that dogs be physically examined by a veterinarian at least once per year, including a determination that breeding dogs are fit to endure pregnancy and nursing;
Restrict the frequency of breeding. Currently there are no limits on how frequently dogs may be bred, and commercial breeders routinely breed female dogs at every heat, with no rest between litters, contrary to the recommendations of most breed clubs;
Require breeders to provide dogs with constant access to potable water;
Increase the minimum cage space requirements so that dogs have adequate space to move around freely and to stand on their hind legs without touching the top of the cage; and
Require breeders to make reasonable efforts to work with rescue groups to adopt out retired breeding dogs and “unsellable” puppies, rather than euthanizing or abandoning the dogs.
“This petition requests much needed enhancements to existing regulations concerning the treatment of dogs used and bred for commercial sale, including the physical conditions of the breeding facility and the health and welfare of the individual dogs,” stated Dr. Susan Krebsbach, veterinary advisor for HSVMA. “These new regulations would greatly improve the living space, physical health and psychological well-being of literally tens of thousands of dogs in the United States.”
The petition was prepared pro bono by the law firm Latham and Watkins LLP and by attorneys in the Animal Protection Litigation department at The HSUS and by the ASPCA.