Of concern to all dog owners and breeders in the US are new APHIS rules set to go into effect in November, 2013. The rules are intended to address internet sales, which the USDA alleges are problematic. I'm still waiting to see the facts and figures which provoked that allegation, but am not holding my breath.
These new rules expand the influence of USDA/APHIS. They will increase the number of breeders who will be forced to comply with USDA regulations. The new rules are ninety-one (that's 91) pages long and are posted on the APHIS website. There is also a Q & A document on the APHIS website, which raises even more questions than it answers.
We do know for certain that anyone who houses more than four intact bitches (or in combination with females of any other covered species) on his or her premises AND who ships any dog by so-called “sight-unseen” methods will now be required to be licensed and inspected by the USDA.
The new rules explanation is vague, leaving many specific questions unanswered. How will breeders be able to comply with commercial kennel guidelines when raising dogs in a home environment? How can I be available during business hours for inspections, when I have a full-time job outside my home? Will rescues be held to these same guidelines? How will that be possible when they do not breed and raise the dogs on their premises? Why is shipping suspect, when all airlines require veterinary health certification prior to shipping? What if you want to sell a dog that is not born and raised on your premises? Why is offering dogs to pet homes considered an undesirable activity, subject to investigation and regulation? What is the definition of a “breeding bitch”? What is the definition of a “working dog”? What proof will be needed for exemption as a breeder working to preserve bloodlines? Why is the Federal government now usurping states' rights to regulate intrastate commerce? Why are small breeders who only sell at retail being subjected to rules meant for wholesalers and dealers?
Unfortunately, during the telephone conference calls with USDA officials, the answers to many of these questions invariably reverted to “we will determine that on a case-by-case basis”. Nothing quite as malleable (and subject to being overturned) as vague rules and guidelines.
The USDA employs animal rights activists in high positions, including Ms. Sarah Conant, formerly an HSUS attorney and now the chief of enforcement at APHIS. The USDA under Ms. Conant has demonstrated a crusader-style, anti-breeder bias, and with these new vague rules that lack specific guidelines, we will likely find that our exemptions are not as available as we think they may be.
The advice from APHIS to breeders is to give the USDA a call, to run your “business model” past them, and then they will inform you whether or not you need to be licensed with them.
USDA licensed breeders have long been subjected to a campaign of hate and discrimination by animal extremist groups. If licensed by the USDA, your information goes public and you may be vulnerable to attack by animal enterprise terrorist groups. These groups like HSUS, PETA, Best Friends and CAPS have conducted smear campaigns against USDA licensed breeders, and they have driven pet shops out of business and pushed for laws making pet sales in retail stores ILLEGAL in certain locales like California. How long until that “no retail sales” mentality is extended to those who sell dogs as retailers.....us! The hobby breeders who are exempt from USDA licensing, because we are in the same category of retail sellers! So we'll be damned if we do get a USDA license, and damned if we don't.
In addition to Ms. Conant, there are other known radical animal rights activist associations at the USDA. The head of the department is Tom Vilsack. Tom's wife Christie was the recipient of HSUS campaign contributions and a near-million dollar campaign television advertising blitz funded by the HSUS in her Iowa congressional bid against Steve King. Deborah Dubow Press, an animal rights activist who co-founded the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund at Cornell University, and received a grant from the HSUS's PCRM, was also employed by the USDA until just last January as an APHIS enforcment specialist.
The “intent” of the breeder is being judged by the Federal government; if you sell mostly pets, then the USDA feels that you need to be subjected to excessive regulations and red tape. The “intent” of the USDA seems clear enough. Though they deny it, it is obvious that they hope that there will be a chilling effect on the breeding of pets. The goal is to gradually and incrementally eliminate breeding of pets.
As a branch of the United States government, the USDA was created to collect and distribute the best farming knowledge. In 1862, Congress passed a bill establishing a Department of Agriculture. Its mission was “to acquire and to diffuse among the people of the United States useful information on subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word.” When did we jump the fence and allow the USDA to over-regulate every little agricultural detail? What happened to the mission of EDUCATION?
Who dreamed way back in 1862 that the people at USDA would turn out to be the most threatening animal enterprise terrorists of all?