This article originally appeared in The Fancy Speaks column in the February 10, 2012 issue of Dog News. It is reprinted here by permission of the author.
The Sale of Puppies Online
I read the January 20, 2012 DOG NEWS editorial “Regulating The Sale Of Puppies Online” with concern. Although it’s clear that the editorial is well-intentioned, it comes dangerously close to embracing the PUPS bill which is now in Congress. And PUPS, H.R. 835/S. 707, would be very harmful for hobby dog breeders.
The editorial argues that the Internet is used for the sale of dogs, which is true, and that some of these dogs come from places which have no policy or guidelines for their sale. Some even come from “the unregulated commercial breeder.” This is also probably true. The editorial goes on to ask, “Who is there to determine whether or not the seller is responsible? Who establishes the policy to protect the dog in these situations whether or not it is a commercial or homebred sale?”
I would like to point out that people have been selling dogs by means of newspaper classified ads, magazine ads, billboard notices, and other forms of commerce and advertising for generations. No one has been regulating these retail sales directly to the public. The thinking has always been that the buyer needs to be careful when buying anything, from anyone. Caveat emptor has a very real meaning when it comes to buying a pet. The buyer should exercise due caution when buying a puppy or dog, whether they are buying from a magazine, newspaper, or over the Internet. It is not the responsibility of the government to regulate the sale of puppies for the buyer. It is up to the buyer to use some good judgment when making a purchase. This hasn’t changed since people were buying puppies from ads in dog magazines in the 1980s, or buying dogs at any other time in history.
Large commercial breeders who are inspected by the USDA are already regulated and they do report their wholesale sales. However, the retail sale of puppies and dogs directly to individual buyers has never been regulated at the federal level. In many states this kind of sale is now regulated at the state level, if you sell more than x number of puppies per year. In some states it is covered under a sales and use tax, the same kind of tax that covers the sale of Girl Scout Cookies or having a yard sale. If you sell more than a certain number of puppies per year in some states you would be required to get a business and/or kennel license so you could regularly report your tax income from sales.
HSUS calls the fact that retail sales to individuals are not regulated at the federal level a “loophole” and, in PUPS, they are trying to change this situation. But this exemption of retail sales for small breeders is not a loophole. It is the way the law was intended to work. In DDAL vs. Veneman (2003), the case in which the Doris Day Animal League sued the USDA to try to make them inspect retail breeders (home, hobby, show breeders), the judge gave a clear ruling that small breeders were not the same as pet stores and did not have to be regulated or inspected as such. HSUS has been trying to change the law through PAWS and PUPS ever since that time.
These small hobby breeders and others who sell puppies and dogs by retail means were not meant to be regulated in the same manner as large commercial breeders. But that’s what PUPS would do.
It is up to the buyer, not to the government, to check out the person who sells a puppy. Otherwise, all of us who breed dogs are going to have the USDA visiting our homes to see how we keep and raise our puppies.
Now, it’s true, as the editorial mentions, that many people don’t like the idea of “regulation,” but in this case regulation cuts right to the core of everyone who breeds and shows dogs. If PUPS becomes law it would cripple breeders who show, breed dogs for performance, and who breed quality companion dogs. We would be required to meet the same USDA standards that are in place for large commercial breeders, even though we raise puppies in our homes. Most of us could not do this and the result would be the end of countless serious breeding programs in the show world, along with the end of precious bloodlines and, in some cases, the end of breeds.
The AKC sees this, too. On January 26, 2012 they sent a letter to members of Congress from Dennis Sprung with their concerns about PUPS. Among other things it says:
“The AKC does not oppose the concept of regulating high volume breeder retailers but we believe that the definitions proposed in this bill are misleading, overly broad, and potentially damaging to responsible breeders who individually maintain and breed only a few dogs in their homes.
“Although PUPS was designed to regulate internet sales of puppies, it would require anyone who owns or co-owns even a few female dogs that produce 50 or more puppies offered for sale in a year to be regulated under existing USDA dog "dealer" regulations. These regulations are designed for high-volume commercial kennels that produce puppies for wholesale, and require a USDA commercial license, maintenance of specified commercial kennel engineering standards and regular inspections. They are not appropriate for small breeders who may keep only a few dogs in their homes.”
In short, AKC opposes PUPS as it is written and asked members of Congress to withhold their support.
As it is written, PUPS would also regulate anyone who sells these puppies by any means, not just over the Internet. It specifically includes anyone who “sells or offers for sale, via any means of conveyance (including the Internet, telephone, or newspaper),” so it does not just intend to regulate people who sell over the Internet.
I doubt I have to mention how many show breeders have web sites or sell puppies online. You would also fall under this bill for Internet regulation of puppy sales.
PUPS is a very dangerous bill that will harm all of us who breed and show dogs. If you haven’t contacted your legislators to ask them to withhold support for PUPS, you can contact them by visiting this site: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/
Here is some more information about PUPS:
WHAT PUPS DOES:
- Abandons traditional determination between wholesale and retail---so that
USDA can regulate home/hobby breeders who don't sell to pet stores.
- Begins USDA regulation of anyone (with 1 intact female dog over 4 months of
age) who sells, places, or adopts out more than 50 dogs in a year ... to start.
Could easily be amended down to 10 ... to 2.
- Takes away your right to privacy in your own home. USDA or their contractors
can without notice enter your home and inspect it if they SUSPECT you might
meet criteria for regulation.
- Over-regulates responsible home breeders out of existence. Mandates non-
porous floors, kennel sizes, floor drains, and pages of requirements impossible
for most home breeders to follow.
- Forces shelters, and home/hobby breeders to redesign their current facilities in
order to meet federal standards.
- Establishes government controlled exercise standards that are not scientifically
- Sets precedent with exercise standards for future rigid socialization and
breeding standards that would remove owner’s flexibility to use professional
judgment based on breed and purpose.
- Reduces the ability of the American public to obtain healthy privately bred or
rescue dogs of their choosing.
- Places an unfunded mandate on Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(APHIS) and overextends their enforcement ability.
- Fails to exempt sportsmen, sporting dog trainers, and hunting clubs from being
regulated alongside in-home sellers.
- Adds more federal oversight and regulation into Americans’ daily lives.