SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Lifestyle

September 20, 2013

USDA rule change stuns online pet retailers

(Continued)

Another situation is the purchase from online rescue organizations. There are many rescue organizations that do great work and help purebred dogs find new homes. A good link to trusted breed rescue groups is http://www.crdtc.org/ne-rescu.html. Other rescue organizations have worked tirelessly to save pets from hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. They have networks of people who drive the dogs north. Many times they come up in trucks. The dogs are either housed at a foster home for a few weeks or adopted to people right off the truck. I know there are many rescue organizations that transport neglected and unneutered dogs from the South to the North.

Recently, the USDA branch in charge of animals, the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS), changed the definition of a retail pet store precisely because of these online sales of puppies. Apparently, the online puppy sellers were considering themselves retail so they could avoid APHIS licensing requirements and inspections that kennels and licensed breeders and, perhaps, larger breeders (puppy mills) are subject to. The definition of a retail store is now:

“A place of business or residence at which the seller, buyer, and the animal available for sale are physically present so that the buyer may personally observe the animal and help ensure its health prior to purchasing or taking custody of it.”

This requirement will force breeders and other businesses that sell pets over the phone, Internet or mail to obtain a license and submit to APHIS inspections because they are not a retail establishment.

The need for this change was realized in 2010 when the Office of the Inspector General conducted an audit and found that 80 percent of pet breeders were conducting their business with no oversight by authorities. This led to the sale of unhealthy puppies to unsuspecting consumers.

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