Thanks to the Department of Agriculture, many animal breeders and pet salespeople may soon have a new leash on life — and they aren’t happy about it.
The federal government proposed in May to require online pet stores to meet higher regulatory standards than walk-in retail stores by expanding the Animal Welfare Act, which government officials say aims to protect animals from neglect and cruelty.
Currently, neither online stores nor many brick-and-mortar retail pet stores are required to obtain a license under the AWA or comply with the law’s strict standards, even though it is significantly easier for customers to inspect animals prior to purchase at walk-in pet stores.
But the proposed regulation of online pet stores might do more harm to animals than good because it would target hobby breeders who cannot easily conform to the new standards, according to some experts.
“This doesn’t regulate pet stores in any way shape or form,” George Eigenhauser, the Legislative Coordinator for the Cat Fancier’s Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Pet stores are already regulated, people who sell to pet stores are already regulated, this would regulate people who don’t sell to pet stores.”
Eigenhauser said the new regulations could put breeders out of business and jeopardize their animals. The AWA is not enforced effectively, according to a recent government report, raising fears that regulating more stores would only add to the problem.
“If you get rid of the home hobby breeders, who have the animals that were raised under foot that interact with the family, that are socialized, that sleep on your pillow, all that’s left is the pet stores that … are already not being adequately inspected, so this is actually going to make things worse for the animals,” Eigenhauser said.
But government officials see the new proposal as a necessary update to pet store policy that is several decades old.
“This regulation proposal is a way for the USDA to keep pace with the current market place,” Dave Sacks, the public affairs officer for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told the DCNF.
Many animal organizations and breeders who strongly oppose the proposed expansion of the AWA have voiced concerns in the public comment section of the Federal Register.
“[We] would not survive being raised in a commercial environment as this legislation would require,” The Sussex Spaniel Club of America, parent club for the rare breed, said in a statement.
The public comment period for the legislation on the Federal Register ends August 15. Sacks says the agency will weigh all the comments before deciding whether to go through with the proposal.
“I’m sure these concerns will be brought up,” Sacks said. “If the government agency doesn’t feel it can enforce the proposed regulation change, or it’s not in the best interest of the animals, then certainly that will weigh in on the decision.”
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