EDITORIAL: Doggy discrimination

Obama administration takes aim at purebred puppies

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Advertising kittens or puppies for sale could soon be a crime summoning federal agents and SWAT team raids. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is at work on a rule that furthers the agenda of extreme animal-rights activists by making it substantially more difficult to obtain a purebred dog or cat as a pet.

Earlier this year, the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed a rule that would close a “loophole” in its definition of “retail pet store,” putting the homes of ordinary Americans under the agency’s jurisdiction. Existing rules exempt retail pet stores from USDA inspection because they deal directly with the public and therefore are subject to “public oversight.” Hobby breeders, who own fewer than three breedable females and sell puppies or kittens directly to the owner, are also exempt from such inspections, by the same reasoning.

The proposed rule would require federal licensing and inspections if anyone sells a single pet over the Internet or phone and has four “breedable” females — a term that could mean any female above the age of four months regardless of whether the breeder is planning to breed her. The license runs up to $750 and failure to maintain an environment to the satisfaction of APHIS bureaucrats could mean $10,000 in fines per day, per animal.

As written, the rule could sweep rescue shelters into the federal regulatory net as long as four intact females are at a foster’s home at any point in the year. That is a common scenario: Rescues often take in intact dogs that are too frail to undergo spaying immediately.

This bureaucratic endeavor won’t stop animal cruelty. Hobby breeders love their animals, who almost always live in their homes. There is simply no way to convert a family home into the sterile sort of dog prison mandated by the proposed federal standards. Further, forcing the dogs into an environment with limited human contact is antithetical to the responsible breeder’s goal of well socialized, confident puppies.

Hobby breeders who place a few animals in carefully screened homes — and stand willing to take back an animal they bred — are not abusers. As they do not contribute to the shelter population, there is simply no reason to target them even if it were realistic to do so. There are tens of thousands of hobby breeders nationally; policing them as mandated by the proposed rule would require thousands of new USDA inspectors, resulting in a massive spending increase without any corresponding improvement in animal welfare.

Congress on numerous occasions rejected legislation that would have authorized similar invasions of homes, including the failed Puppy Protection Acts. USDA should not abuse the regulatory process to enact policies to make an end-run around the nation’s elected representatives.

The Washington Times

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