The rule change only applies to breeders with more than four breeding females. The rule includes dogs, cats, birds and pocket pets.
According to the Associated Press, the USDA estimates that the rule will affect up to 4,640 dog breeders, 325 cat breeders and 75 rabbit breeders.
Many entities will still be exempt from APHIS regulations, including:
Brick and mortar pet stores
Many animal rescue groups, pounds, shelters, and humane societies
People who breed and sell working dogs
People who sell rabbits for food, fiber (including fur) or for the preservation of bloodlines
Children who raise rabbits for 4-H projects
Groups that raise, buy and sell farm animals for food or fiber (fur included)
Businesses that only handle fish, reptiles and other cold-blooded animals
This new ruling has caused a lot of controversy. Well-known behaviorists such as Patricia McConnell, author of “The Other End of the Leash,” and many veterinarians are in favor of the new rule. In theory, veterinarians who work diligently for APHIS will now be able to find and inspect these large-scale breeders to make sure they maintain the appropriate environment for the pets in their care. On Patricia’s Facebook page, you can see the controversy as the smaller breeders object to this new regulation possibly forcing them to purchase licenses; build kennels with proper lighting, ventilation and flooring; and submit to inspections. Breeders point out that they may have five or six breeding females, but they are more diligent than these large-scale puppy mill operations that may have the required facilities but keep the dogs in bad conditions anyway.
The Office of the Inspector General reviewed the oversight of large breeding operations (mills) in Oklahoma. They found that APHIS animal control inspectors were not enforcing the $10,000 per offense rule and let a lot of offenses slide, leading to terrible conditions for the animals being bred. The link to the inspector general’s report is http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33002-4-SF.pdf. The pictures are heartbreaking.