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Van Hollen, Durbin Urge USDA to Update Standards for Commercial Dog Breeding Facilities

Government and Politics

November 29, 2022


Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and their Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack urging him to update standards for commercial breeding facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The letter calls on Secretary Vilsack to implement the strong standards for veterinary care, housing, and breeding of dogs suggested in the Puppy Protection Act.

“We write to request that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) consider updating its standards of care for dogs living in commercial breeding facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)…This Congress, we introduced the Puppy Protection Act (S. 1385), which would amend the AWA and provide several critical updates for the humane treatment of dogs by licensed breeders operating in the United States.  The legislation would ensure dogs receive adequate housing, caging, feeding and watering, human and other animal socialization, and veterinary care,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators continued their letter by emphasizing the repercussions for pets and owners when licensed breeders are not exceeding current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards.

“American consumers assume that ‘USDA-licensed’ dog dealers meet high standards for raising dogs.  However, too many American consumers have been disappointed to find out their dog lived in substandard conditions before purchase, and often deal with the repercussions of a sick puppy once they’ve purchased the dog.  We are hopeful that USDA will take the long-overdue step of ensuring its regulatory standards of care for dogs meet the expectations and demands of the American public,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators concluded their letter by noting the strong support for the regulations included in the Puppy Protection Act. They encouraged Secretary Vilsack to implement these new, stronger standards for the health of dogs and for the peace of mind of pet owners.

“The need for increased standards of care for dogs in USDA-licensed facilities is evident through strong congressional support for the Puppy Protection Act.  We encourage USDA to update its regulatory standards of care to embrace the requirements embedded within this bill,” the Senators ended their letter.

Full text of the Senators’ letter is available below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

We write to request that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) consider updating its standards of care for dogs living in commercial breeding facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).   These updates are necessary to ensure breeding facilities provide dogs with proper care. 

This Congress, we introduced the Puppy Protection Act (S. 1385), which would amend the AWA and provide several critical updates for the humane treatment of dogs by licensed breeders operating in the United States.  The legislation would ensure dogs receive adequate housing, caging, feeding and watering, human and other animal socialization, and veterinary care.

USDA has the authority to update these standards, and most responsible breeders are already meeting them.  More than half of the dog breeders regulated by USDA already reside in states with laws that prescribe higher standards of care, including Ohio, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

American consumers assume that “USDA-licensed” dog dealers meet high standards for raising dogs.  However, too many American consumers have been disappointed to find out their dog lived in substandard conditions before purchase, and often deal with the repercussions of a sick puppy once they’ve purchased the dog.  We are hopeful that USDA will take the long-overdue step of ensuring its regulatory standards of care for dogs meet the expectations and demands of the American public.

The need for increased standards of care for dogs in USDA-licensed facilities is evident through strong congressional support for the Puppy Protection Act.  We encourage USDA to update its regulatory standards of care to embrace the requirements embedded within this bill. 

While we commend USDA for its efforts to ensure that dogs and puppies are better protected under the AWA, we urge the agency to ensure the way dogs are cared for in USDA regulated facilities meets the expectations of the American public.  Thank you again for your consideration of this important issue.

Sincerely,