NAIA Trust supports reasonable laws that protect the welfare of animals and the rights of responsible animal owners, but we cannot support PAWS.
PAWS contains enforcement and import provisions that NAIA Trust could back if proposed as stand alone amendments. However adding retail breeders and sellers to the dealer section of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is a revolutionary change never intended by the law, unconnected to any identified problem warranting federal attention, and in direct opposition to a federal court decision in 2003. Simply put, the companion bills S1139/H2669 propose an end run around the failed DDAL lawsuit against USDA, an attempt to force federal regulation of breeders who sell their puppies and kittens directly to the public. The potential impact of the bill on breeders who whelp litters in their homes is only too clear and NAIA Trust adamantly opposes the bill as it is written.
Instead of enhancing the ability of USDA to find squalid kennels, this bill fails to define the problem it proposes to solve, creates a solution that would swat flies with a sledgehammer, and puts federal inspectors in private homes, something even the embattled Patriot Act does only after issuance of a court order.
NAIA Trust opposition
NAIA Trust opposes S1139/H2669, the so-called Pet Animal Welfare Statute, on several grounds: the bill
- puts federal inspectors in private homes, an intrusion that USDA argued against in federal court;
- places home breeders in violation of many residential planning and zoning codes by classifying them as dealers;
- siphons USDA resources from large wholesale operations housing hundreds of animals to home breeders keeping a small number of pets;
- diverts USDA focus away from the middlemen, wholesale dealers, transporters and brokers that were the original targets of the AWA;
- is poorly written and thus open to broad interpretation and lawsuits;
- would destroy the agency's ability to concentrate its resources on large facilities that present the greatest risk of violations;
- federally regulates retail dealers, including home breeders, that are already subject to public oversight, peer review, and state and local laws that govern humane treatment of animals;
- dodges a federal court decision that affirmed the right of the Secretary of Agriculture to exempt home breeders from the regulations;
- is backed by animal rights groups that oppose pet breeding and have a record of using laws to harass and intimidate those who own animals;
- deletes exemptions for some retail pet sellers by redefining a dealer as someone who exceeds a threshold number of litters raised and dogs sold;
- will require hobby breeders to meet standards of housing and care that have not yet been written; and
- fails to exempt individuals and organizations that rescue dogs and place them in new homes.
Nearly 25 years ago, Congress amended the Animal Welfare Act to require licensing of wholesale dealers of dogs sold as pets, and the US Department of Agriculture wrote regulations exempting retail outlets, including home breeders, from the licensing requirement.
In 1999, when pressured by the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) animal rights organization to regulate home breeders, USDA reaffirmed the exemption of hobbyists and others who sell puppies directly to consumers for the following reasons:
- Regulating home breeders would destroy the agency’s ability to concentrate its resources on large facilities that present the greatest risk of violations.
- Retail dealers, including home breeders, are already subject to public oversight, peer review, and state and local laws that govern humane treatment of animals; and
- The definition of retail pet store conforms with the original Congressional intention that the AWA focus on wholesale dealers selling pets through middlemen.
Now comes Senator Richard Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) with S1139, a bill that will classify home breeders as dog and cat dealers, forcing them to accept federal inspection of their homes if they produce more than six litters and sell more than 25 animals in a calendar year.
S1139 allows federal intrusion into private homes on an unprecedented and unwarranted scale, ignores the many state and local ordinances and regulations that monitor pet breeding, and flies in the face of a court decision that considers such impositions to be invasions of privacy. USDA won a strong appellate decision in 2003, a decision the US Supreme court refused to review, thereby upholding its authority to, and rationale for, limiting its scope to overseeing the wholesale channel of the pet industry.
There are good reasons for laws to protect the welfare of animals bred and raised as pets and for other purposes, but unless a significant federal question is involved none warrant a federal law to accomplish that purpose. There are state and local laws and regulations in place to prevent animal abuse. Animal welfare problems can be addressed by enforcement of state and local animal protection laws and kennel licensing requirements, and in states where pet breeding is a large industry, by full blown kennel licensing and inspection programs that operate under the authority of humane societies, animal control agencies, and state departments of agriculture. Consumer problems can be handled through the courts, state attorney general offices, consumer laws and consumer protection agencies. If these laws and remedies are not effective, they can be strengthened. A federal law should only be added if significant problems exist which cannot be remedied by state and local laws and rograms. Otherwise, the involvement of a federal agency in the private business of selling puppies and kittens from one’s own home becomes a bizarre and wasteful abuse of power.
USDA and the US court of appeals have already ruled on this issue
In July 1999, USDA wrote in the Federal Register: “If we were to amend the definition of ‘retail pet store,’ it is conceivable that a significant portion of our annual personnel and financial resources would be used to regulate a very small fraction of the animals covered under our regulations. This disproportionate expenditure of funds would not be in the best interest of animal welfare.”
In January 2003, the US Court of Appeals upheld USDA’s determination to exclude home breeders by defining them in federal regulations as retail outlets. It also left it up to USDA to determine the best allocation of their resources to provide for the welfare of the largest number of animals possible.
In its decision, the court cited arguments by USDA and said: “ It was also within the authority delegated to him by Congress for the Secretary to decline to amend the definition in light of the potential invasions of privacy that would result if federal inspectors began enforcing ‘cleaning, sanitation, handling, and other regulatory requirements in private homes.’”
Proponents of this bill claim that new funds can and will be appropriated to enforce PAWS, but to NAIA Trust, it seems unreasonable to shift limited funds to solve problems that have yet to be defined when USDA resources are already stretched to their limits by issues of major consequence to the country, including biotechnology, mad cow disease, and natural and bioterrorism threats to our food supply. It is both irrational and absurd to use the agency’s finite resources to find and monitor home breeders of puppies and kittens when these potentially life-threatening issues need their attention.
For more information, please contact NAIA Trust's legislative chairman, Laurella Desborough at email@example.com.
To contact your Senator or Representative please use NAIA Ttust's lobbying tool at http://capwiz.com/naiatrust/home/