Pamela A. Davol, 76 Mildred Avenue, Swansea,
This letter comes to you in regard to the changes in federal regulations in the Animal Welfare Act (contained in 9 CFR parts 1, 2, and 3) proposed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), published on March 25, 1997 in the Federal Register (62 FR 14044-14047, Docket No. 97-018-2), in response to a petition in rulemaking by the Doris Day Animal League. Briefly, this petition requested the following changes: 1) to redefine the term "retail pet store" in part 1 as a "non-residential business establishment used primarily for the sale of pets to the ultimate customer" and 2) to regulate dealers of dogs intended for hunting, security and breeding under the provisions applicable to dealers of other types of dogs in part 3.
As a small hobby-breeder/dog fancier, I am admittedly concerned with the impact that these changes may have on me directly; however, as a pet owner and dog enthusiast, I am more concerned with the certain deleterious outcome these changes will present to pet ownership throughout the United States. The following details some of my express concerns for the changes APHIS is currently considering.
A) Redefining the term "retail pet store"
The purpose of redefining "retail pet stores" was proposed in order to ensure the humane handling, care and treatment of dogs and cats in facilities where animals are sold as pets. Though this objective is admirable from the perspective of animal rights, the method by which the proposed changes will address this issue is poorly conceived. Ironically, federal regulations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) consider "pet retail stores" to be exempt from licensing and inspection by APHIS. Currently, Section 1.1 of the regulations defines retail pet stores as "any outlet where only the following animals are sold or offered for sale, at retail, for use as pets: Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ...etc." To address this issue, the proposed changes would define retail pet stores as non-residential, commercial, retail businesses that sell pets and pet products; as such, these businesses would still be exempt from licensing and inspection. However, APHIS will now be targeting private hobby and professional breeders who no longer fall under the "retail pet store" description. As a result, not only will this "severely strain available Federal resources for carrying out inspections and other enforcement activities", but because many hobby/professional breeders will be restricted from breeding dogs, this will eventually force prospective puppy buyers to obtain their pets from pet stores and puppy mills.
The weakness in this "plan of attack" lies in the fact that APHIS is targeting the wrong group for licensing and inspection. It is not by coincidence that many in the pet care profession, particularly those in veterinary medicine, look unfavorably upon "commercial pet retailers" as a source for acquisition of a puppy. "Commercial pet retailers" are one of the main contributors to irresponsible breeding practices, the dog overpopulation crisis, and pet homelessness for the following reasons:
1) Commercial pet retailers take in puppies for sale with little else than documents for AKC registration. AKC registration alone does not substantiate breeding quality of the dog, as such, commercial pet retailers offer an outlet for "backyard" breeders who randomly breed their pet dogs with no consideration to issues such as health, genetic "soundness", temperament, or finding responsible puppy purchasers who will ensure the same;
2) No documentation of genetic testing/clearances are required to be presented in proof that the sire and dam of the puppies are healthy, genetically "sound", and temperamentally "sound" individuals capable of passing on similar "sound" traits to their offspring;
3) Commercial pet retailers do not sell on "Limited Registration", a policy of the AKC which allows breeders to prohibit pet owners from indiscriminately breeding their pets, thereby serving as one means for assisting in control of the dog overpopulation crisis;
4) Commercial pet retailers do not socialize puppies and since they do not demand high standards from the breeders of the puppies they obtain, these dogs are often deficient in socialization skills with adults, children and other dogs. As a result of these deficits, many of these dogs end up abandoned, in overcrowded animal shelters, or as the premise of a new "dangerous dog legislation";
5) Commercial pet retailers do not screen prospective puppy buyers to ensure that each puppy is placed in a loving home compatible to the traits and requirements of the breed, which will also provide necessary veterinarian care, training and socialization, and responsible pet ownership.
6) Commercial pet retailers do not take back dogs that have not "worked-out" in their new homes, or assist pet owners in finding new suitable homes for these dogs. As a result, these dogs end up in overcrowded animal shelters awaiting euthanasia.
In contrast, many private hobby/professional breeders strive to improve the quality of life for pets. The exclusion of this group, which will ultimately occur due to the redefinition of "retail pet stores," will be severely detrimental to the pet population in view of the fact that private breeders consistently work in cooperation with and are the individuals who comprise organizations like the American Kennel Club, National Breed-Parent Clubs, Local Dog Clubs, Breed Rescue Services which:
1) increase public awareness through education (e.g. hosting seminars)
2) promote responsible dog-ownership (e.g. hosting veterinary clinics -rabies, spay/neuter, eye clinics, etc.)
3) incorporate new policies directed at addressing overpopulation (e.g. AKC Limited Registration)
4) promote a breeding code-of-ethics to ensure quality of life of puppies in terms of health and genetic soundness as well as through proper selection of puppy purchasers
5) support, both through contribution of funds and data, medical research aimed at prevention and treatment of various hereditary and congenital defects affecting the dog (e.g. The AKC Research Foundation, The Dog Genome Project, VetGen Research, etc.)
B) To regulate dealers of dogs intended for hunting, security, and breeding
This change in current federal regulations would require both retail and wholesale dealers of such dogs to be licensed and inspected if they maintain greater than the minimum number of breeding females (currently that minimum is 3 breeding females). As such, this new regulation would directly impact on a majority of private breeders. Basically, private breeders would have to reduce the number of females to 3 or fewer or be required to undergo inspection and licensing. The rationale for determining 3 breeding females as the cut-off was based on the determination that "small facilities usually pose less risk to the welfare of animals than do large facilities." However, APHIS is, quite understandably, concerned that this new requirement would impose a strain on Federal resources to actually carryout what promises to be an extraordinary task. Therefore, APHIS is looking for documentation which could justify "increasing the minimum number of breeding females that an exempt facility could maintain." The main weakness in using "number of breeding females" as a criteria for exemption under this regulation is the assumption that there exists a direct correlation between "number of breeding females" and "total number of dogs maintained on the premises". Statistically, larger facilities which may be at higher risk for noncompliance may indeed have a greater number of breeding females on the premises simply because they have a greater population of dogs. However, logically, one can not infer from this observation that "number of breeding females" is indicative of a greater total population and hence, subject to high-risk. Furthermore, just because a female is intact does not provide conclusive evidence that there is intent for her to reproduce. Many show-breeders retire their females from breeding after one, two or three litters (usually between 6-8 years of age, or earlier), however, for exhibition (show) purposes do not spay the female since regulations of the AKC prohibit spayed/neutered dogs from show competition. Moreover, as with any analysis based on single measurements, this method does not take into consideration other variables that may influence population outcome. For example, Breeder-A, having the minimum 3 breeding females, breeds each of his females at every estrus cycle. Anticipating a 9 month interlude between each cycle (usual average 6 months + 3 months post-partum cycle delay) and an average litter size of 8 puppies, Breeder-A will produce 27 litters and 216 puppies over a 6 year period. Breeder-B, having a total of 5 breeding females thereby requiring APHIS inspection and licensing, breeds each of his females at every other estrus cycle. Anticipating alternating 6 and 9 month interludes between each estrus cycle and an average litter size of 8 puppies, Breeder-B will produce 25 litters and 200 puppies over a 6 year period--2 litters fewer than Breeder-A who does not require APHIS licensing and inspection. Even if Breeder-B had a total of 6 breeding females (double the number of Breeder-A), based on the simplified analysis presented above, Breeder-B would only demonstrate an approximate 10% increase in puppies produced compared to Breeder-A, despite Breeder-B having twice the minimum-breeding females. Therefore, although facilities with greater numbers of dogs may run a higher risk for noncompliance to Animal Welfare regulations, I put forth that the method of using "number of breeding females" as a determinant for constructing restrictive guidelines is inappropriate and has no predictive merit in terms of the APHIS goals.
Based on the arguments presented herein, I submit my opinions to the Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service of the USDA for consideration in their proposed rule making on these regulations. Copies of this letter will be forwarded to my state senators and congressmen.
Thank you for your attention.
Pamela A. Davol
As one writer commented, I was nearly one of those hobby breeders caught unawares, "snoozing in the summer sun," and oblivious to the APHIS rulemaking which if passed, will have a very large impact on the lives of myself, my Labs, and fellow dog enthusiasts. Thanks to an e-mail from Barb Stinehelfer (Whitewing Labs), I took a few moments to read the federal "fine print." Over the past decade, dog enthusiasts have made great contributions toward educating the public in terms of "dog-buyer awareness." The Internet has become one of our greatest sources of information toward improving the breeding and quality of pet dogs and encouraging owner responsibility. It seems ironic that just when we are making the greatest strides, restrictions imposed by those concerned with animal welfare threaten to send us back to the days of pet store purchasing. Therefore, I encourage everyone involved in the world of dogs to take an active voice in the APHIS rulemaking decision. For more information please visit the following on-line sites, make up your own mind, and send your opinions to APHIS (at the address above) by August 24, 1998. Also, please spread the word.
changes in federal regulations in the Animal Welfare Act
TENDERMOUTH: The Miami Valley Labrador Retriever Club Newsletter (June 98)
The AKC Canine Legislative Newletter (July 98)
USDA-APHIS News Release (June 1998)
'Copyright 1998 Pamela A. Davol'