The US Department of Agriculture is proposing to change their regulations in a way that will affect a lot of border collie breeders. They have published their proposed changes in order for the public to be able to see them and submit comments about them. The deadline for comments is July 16. After all the comments are in, the USDA will review the comments and either go ahead with the new regulations they have proposed, or modify them, or leave the regulations as they are now. You can read the proposal at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2012/05/pdf/docket_APHIS_2011_0003.pdf
The Animal Welfare Act is a federal law that regulates the treatment of animals being sold for research, for exhibition, or for use as pets. In general, anyone who sells dogs for any of these purposes is required to be licensed as a "Dealer" by the USDA, and to meet specified requirements for housing conditions, feeding, sanitation, vet care, etc., and to keep specified records, and to permit inspection by USDA inspectors. The law makes an exception for "Retail Pet Stores" -- they are exempt from these requirements.
Up to now, the USDA regulations have defined "Retail Pet Store" to include anyone who sells pets at retail as opposed to wholesale -- in other words, anyone who sells direct to the ultimate consumer rather than to a middleman. So border collie breeders who sell pups or dogs to individuals who intend to keep them have not had to bother with being licensed, being inspected, or complying with the rules about kennel facilities, feeding, watering, and so forth. Under the current regulations, most border collie breeders are considered by the USDA to be Retail Pet Stores, and therefore exempt from the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.
Now, however, the USDA is proposing to change the definition of Retail Pet Store, so that it would mean people who sell dogs only to buyers who come onto their premises to see the pups, or to pick up the pup they've bought. Under the proposed new regulations, if you sell even one dog to somebody who doesn't come to your place to see or get the dog, then you would no longer qualify as a Retail Pet Store, and so that exemption would not apply to you.
There is one other exemption that could save you from being a Dealer, and therefore from the licensing requirements. If you maintain four (4) or fewer breeding female dogs and/or cats, and you sell only the offspring of these dogs and/or cats which were born and raised on your premises, then you would be exempt. But if in addition to these pups, you sell any other dogs, you could not qualify for this exemption.
The proposed regulations do not define the term "breeding female," so it's not clear whether it would be interpreted to mean only bitches who are actually being bred, or if it would be interpreted to include all sexually mature intact bitches. It's also not clear exactly what the definition of selling puppies/dogs "as pets" or "for use as pets" would be, but chances are that if a buyer thinks the puppy or dog he's buying will be wholly or partially a pet, that dog would be counted as a pet.
How to tell if you would be affected by the proposed regulations
If you sell pups and/or dogs, and do not sell them at wholesale, the following chain of questions will help you figure out whether the proposed change in the regulations would affect you:
1. Do you sell any pups or dogs to pet homes? If you don't, you would not need to be licensed under the new regulations. If you do, go on to Question 2.
2. Do you sell any pups or dogs to people who don't come to your premises to see them (for example, do you ever ship pups, or deliver them to their new owner at trials or clinics)? If you don't, you would not need to be licensed under the new regulations. If you do, go on to Question 3.
3. Do you have more than four breeding females in your household, regardless of who owns them, or do you act in concert with others to collectively maintain more than four breeding females? If you do, you would need to be licensed under the new regulations. If you don't, go on to Question 4.
4. Do you ever sell pups or dogs other than those that are produced by your four or fewer breeding females and are born and raised on your premises (for example, do you ever sell dogs you've bought in and trained, or dogs you've brought over from the UK, or dogs you've bought that didn't work out, or dogs you're placing for a friend, or dogs you've rescued)? If you do, you would need to be licensed under the new regulations.
What you can do
If you want to have your voice heard about these proposed regulations, here are some things you can do:
1. You can submit comments directly to the Department of Agriculture by going to http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2011-0003-0001 and clicking on "Comment Now!" Comments can also be submitted by postal mail, especially if your comments are lengthy. The address for mailed-in comments is: Docket No. APHIS-2011-0003, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. The deadline for comments is July 16.
This is your best chance to make a difference in what happens. The comments that are most likely to be taken seriously are ones that tell in your own words the reasons why you support or oppose this change in the regulations, tell what effect it would have on you or people you know, and provide any suggestions you may have about what the USDA should do instead. Scroll down to the Suggestions for Comments section to get some ideas that may help you in writing your own comments.
2. The ABCA is likely to submit comments as an organization. For our comments to be the most valid and effective, it would be very helpful for us to have as much information as possible about how many of our members would be affected by this change, and what their views are about the change. So if you are an ABCA member, please let us know why and how the proposed change in the regulations would affect you, and why you think the change should or should not be made. You can email this information to Eileen Stein at USDAregs@bordercollie.org. Also, one of the possible alternatives to the approach taken in these regulations would be to require those who sell more than X number of dogs and pups per year to be subject to regulation. Do you think this would be a better approach, and if so, what should be the appropriate number of sales which would trigger licensing/regulation? Please let us know your thoughts.
3. This proposal is for a change in the regulations of the Department of Agriculture. It is not a proposed new law, and therefore Congress will not be directly involved in whether the change is made or not. But even though your Senator or Congressional representative will not be voting on this, it still might be useful to make your views known to him or her.
Suggestions for Comments
• The USDA estimates that about 1,500 dog breeders could be affected by this rule. No basis is given for this figure, which seems to be an extreme underestimate. It is likely that hundreds of owners of working stockdogs and livestock guardian dogs alone would become subject to regulation under these proposed changes.
• The term "breeding females" is not defined in the regulations. There should be no presumption that intact females above a certain age are "breeding females." Those who breed dogs for livestock work must train young dogs until they are close to two years of age--sometimes longer--before they can be sure which dogs are worthy of breeding. During that time the dog must remain intact, even though it's unknown whether she will ever be bred.
• Federal regulation should be reserved for high-volume breeders, but under these proposed changes, many breeders of working stockdogs would become classified as Dealers and subject to regulation even though they breed no more than a litter or two a year. They may maintain more than four breeding females, but those dogs are not confined and bred continuously; some of them may never be bred. They are being trained to determine which of them are worthy of breeding, they are herding and/or guarding livestock daily, they compete in sheepdog trials, they are temporarily in the breeder's household while being trained for their owners, etc. Even those who own fewer than four breeding females, and breed fewer than one litter a year, would become subject to regulation as Dealers if they sold a dog they didn't breed. This is a common practice in the working border collie world, where dogs who may have been bought in for training or imported and did not work out as stockdogs are sold to pet homes, as are the occasional rescued dog or dog retired from a trialing career. If even one dog was delivered to its new owner at a trial or training clinic, or shipped to its new owner, the breeder would be required to be licensed and regulated.
• Because stockdog breeders tend to breed relatively rarely, a large percentage of stockdog puppies are born and raised in the farmhouse kitchen or elsewhere in the owner's home. It would not be practical for these owners to build and maintain facilities to the specifications required under the AWA regulations for full-time, high-volume wholesale breeders, nor would it benefit the dogs and puppies to be moved out of the household into such facilities. High-volume breeders can offset the cost of such facilities against their income from puppy sales, but the low-volume breeders cannot, unless they greatly increase the number of dogs they breed, which would be undesirable.
• If these proposed regulations are enacted, they will have a damaging effect on the quality and welfare of stockdogs, which in turn will harm livestock producers all across the country who depend on these dogs in their livestock operations. In an effort to avoid burdensome regulation, the knowledgeable breeders who maintain working ability in the border collie breed will be forced to change their practices for the worse. They may reduce the number of dogs they take in for training, so as not to be in a position of maintaining more than four breeding females at a time, with the result that it will be harder for farmers and ranchers to obtain well trained stockdogs. Females will be spayed before their merits and value to the gene pool can be fully assessed, in order to avoid exceeding the four-breeding-female limit. Breeders will be less willing to import dogs or to buy dogs from others because of the risk that those dogs might not work out, and selling them would deprive them of the Sec. 2.1(a)(3)(iii) exemption, with the result that desirable bloodlines and combinations of bloodlines will be lost. They will be less willing to take in an unwanted dog to find a home for it, because any payment they received for that dog -- even if just enough to ensure the good faith of the adopter -- would mean that they had sold a dog not born and raised on their premises, which would deprive them of the exemption. And if breeders seek to retain Retail Pet Store status by no longer selling dogs or pups to anyone who does not come to their premises, the availability of high-quality stockdogs to many parts of the country will be curtailed or eliminated.
• Adding thousands of low-volume breeders to the numbers of Dealers subject to federal regulation is a poor use of USDA resources. Some of the added breeders will be large facilities which do pose more risk to the welfare of animals, but as the proposed regulations are worded, the great majority of added breeders will be small-scale and occasional producers who are not the subject of complaints and not the target at which this initiative is aimed. As a result, the benefits to be achieved are small, and the cost will be high, either in terms of greatly increased enforcement costs or the diverting of resources away from inspection of large commercial kennels, where inspection is most needed.
• Regulations which would authorize federal inspectors to enter and inspect people's homes because they occasionally sell pups and dogs as pets drastically violate the liberty and privacy rights of Americans.
• If large Internet retailers have become a problem, the issue should be addressed by Congress, which can target legislation more precisely toward remedying it. Broadening AWA's coverage to include retail sellers is not the answer.