Durbin, Vitter Commend USDA Rule to Close Loophole and Regulate Online Puppy Sales

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and David Vitter (R-LA) today commended the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for closing a loophole that allows domestic puppy mills selling puppies via the internet to escape regulation and avoid inspection. This rule, which will specifically apply to large breeders, is an important step towards ensuring that pets sold over the Internet are treated humanely and receive proper care. Last year, Durbin and Vitter introduced the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, which would close the same loophole and require previously unregulated breeders to be licensed and to undergo inspections.


“Today’s announcement by the USDA brings much needed oversight to the previously unregulated puppy mills raising puppies under terrible conditions. This rule will put an end to a loophole in the law that was being exploited by large, negligent puppy breeders, and is an important step towards ensuring that all dogs – whether they are sold online or in a pet store – are treated with care and compassion,” Durbin said.


“I was alarmed by the USDA's IG report in 2010 that exposed inhumane treatment of dogs, especially abusive breeding practices. That's why I joined with Senator Durbin in introducing the PUPS Act,” said Vitter. “I applaud USDA's proposed rule that will close the loophole that unscrupulous breeders exploited with Internet sales. This is an important step to ensure that puppies are treated humanely and bred in safe and sanitary facilities and that consumers can purchase healthy pets for their families.”


Under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), wholesale animal breeders are regulated, licensed and subject to inspections by the APHIS; however, the law did not include breeders who sell puppies over directly to the public, resulting in an enormous loophole as online puppy sales now bypass those of retail stores. As a result, puppies are often kept in cramped, unsanitary and inhumane conditions. The dogs raised in those substandard facilities and sold to unsuspecting families often suffer serious health problems and, tragically, many die as a result. 


In October, 2011, Durbin and Vitter wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to urge USDA to close this unnecessary loophole through regulatory action, rather than requiring additional congressional action. A copy of the letter is attached.