Thursday, November 20, 2014

Can I keep My USDA Exemption?

Question: If I have only two females, can I ship and still keep my exemption? After all the discussion we've had about the new rule, I don't remember.

Answer: Yes, probably, since according to the amended Regulations, you can have up to four "breeding females" and ship "sight unseen" as pets. However, several issues come to mind that may not make this an easy question to answer:

1. Do you co-own "breeding females" elsewhere? Regulations unclear about whether they should be counted. Similarly, do you kennel or board "breeding females" owned by others? They possibly would be counted in the total number of breeding females allowed.

2. You are aware, aren't you? that APHIS definition of "breeding females" probably would include intact bitches that you wouldn't wouldn't consider breeding? (e.g., too old, too young, health problems etc.) -- you may not breed them but APHIS might still count them in the total if they believe them "breedable". 

 3. Do you participate in Rescue activities, and have you housed rescue "breeding females" (intact bitches)? From what I'm hearing, APHIS has for the present time chosen to look the other way on this issue, and not count rescue animals in the totals. However, by a strict interpretation of the Regulations, intact "rescue" females would count (especially if you transfer any dog "sight unseen" to a pet home), no matter how APHIS is viewing them now.

4. Are all animals shipped by you as pets offspring of the pets you own, and born and raised on your property? It's questionable how APHIS would view a "sight unseen" sale of a "stud fee puppy", for example since to obtain the "four or fewer" exemption, any pet you sell must have been "born and raised" on your property according to the Regulations.. This is not one of the changes made in 2013 to the Regulations, but was there all along, but wasn't generally enforced, at least for small home hobby breeders such as yourself. How or if it will be enforced now is a good question. (This is yet another thorny rescue question as well).

5. Do you own other "breeding females" that are included in the Regulations? (small pet mammals, primarily). Does anyone else in your household or who resides on your property have any "breeding females" (dogs or otherwise.) All those get counted in the total of "four or fewer."

You may want to get clarification on your situation from APHIS directly. Unfortunately, what an APHIS representative tells you now may or may not be admissible in Court if it conflicts with what's in the Regulations.

Finally, remember (especially if you openly ship to people you don't know well, or if you advertise that you ship) that you are a potential target for the ARs, and they might try to have you investigated. If APHIS comes to ask as to your mode of business, you will need to have proof that -- throughout the year that you shipped those animals -- that you only had two "breeding females" (and not more than four) and that you complied with other requirements of the Regulations needed for the "four or fewer" exemption.

If you choose to go the easier route, and decide to have no "sight unseen" sales, you can, of course, have as many "breeding females" as you wish if you sell to the final purchaser (and not wholesale should you own more than four breeding females). But it would still be a good idea to document how these animals were transferred to the new owner so that they weren't a "sight unseen" sale.

AWA and AWA Regulations can be found here,
and here.
Submitted by Margo Milde via the Pet Law list.

Margo is long-time Legislative Liaison for five dog clubs: Rand Park Dog Training Club, Agility Ability Club of Illinois, Fox River Field Spaniel Club, Moraine Tracking Club, and Field Spaniel Society of America (AKC parent club). She is also a Board Member of the Illinois Federation of Dog Clubs and Owners. However, her answer here may not officially represent the position of these organizations.

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