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The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund Applaud USDA For Proposal To Regulate Unlicensed Puppy Mills

Proposed Federal Rule Would Close Internet Loophole in Animal Welfare Act Regulations

WASHINGTON (May 10, 2012) -- The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund applaud U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for issuing a proposed rule designed to close the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations that has allowed thousands of large-scale commercial puppy mills to operate without federal inspections or oversight, particularly operations that sell over the Internet.

“This is a very significant proposed federal action, since thousands of large-scale breeders take advantage of a loophole that allows them to escape any federal inspections,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “Dogs in puppy mills often live in small, overcrowded cages, living in filth and denied veterinary care. We need more eyes on these operations, and this rule will help.”

Currently, the AWA regulations allow most large-scale, commercial puppy producers who sell puppies to distant buyers over the Internet or by phone, to avoid complying with even the most basic humane care standards. To view an HSUS fact sheet on the problems associated with Internet-based puppy mills, click here.

The proposed rule would require large-scale, commercial puppy breeders and dealers who sell to members of the public “sight unseen,” including those who sell over the Internet, to abide by the same basic standards of care as those who sell wholesale to pet stores. The proposed rule will not affect small hobby breeders who sell puppies directly to the public from their homes.

In 2011, more than 32,000 people signed a petition created by The HSUS and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the official White House website urging the Obama administration to crack down on unregulated puppy mills.

Legislation currently being considered in Congress, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, S. 707 and H.R. 835, would achieve a similar reform to the rule proposed today by USDA, and would require Internet puppy mill sellers to meet federal animal care standards. The HSUS and HSLF express their thanks to the bipartisan sponsors of the legislation, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., for advocating for this policy reform.

Announcement of the proposed rule change comes during Puppy Mill Action Week, The HSUS’ sixth annual event marking advocacy in support of stopping puppy mills. To learn more about the campaign to end puppy mills and activities marking the week, visit

The proposed rule comes just a few months after the release of a shocking  HSUS investigation that demonstrated widespread consumer fraud and abuse throughout the commercial puppy mill industry, primarily due to lack of federal oversight of Internet puppy sellers. The investigation revealed that Purebred Breeders LLC, which owns and operates almost 800 websites, was found to be marketing dogs from puppy mills to unsuspecting buyers.

The investigation’s findings led The HSUS to collaborate with Florida-based consumer justice law firm, Leopold Law, to file a lawsuit against Purebred Breeders. The lawsuit, filed last November, alleges that the company uses deceptive sales practices to dupe unsuspecting consumers into purchasing dogs from puppy mills. To view video footage on the investigation, click here.

To view a short video of The HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle commenting on the proposed rule change, click here.

Media contact: Rebecca Basu, (301) 258-3152,


The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at, on our blog at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- on the Web at Subscribe to the blog, A Humane Nation. Join The HSUS on Facebook. Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your Apple or Android device by searching for our “Humane TV” app.