As someone who cares deeply about the welfare of animals, you understand the importance of protecting canine companions from cruelty. It is heartbreaking to picture any pet suffering in inhumane conditions, and it’s simply unacceptable that the federal government is allowing the mistreatment of dogs to continue in licensed breeding facilities.
Right now, a quarter of a million dogs are living in puppy mills across the United States. Many of these dogs are suffering because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)–the agency charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act–has abandoned its enforcement responsibility. We urge you to direct the USDA to fulfill its legal obligation to ensure the humane care and treatment of dogs at federally licensed facilities.
The USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) licenses thousands of commercial breeders, brokers and transporters who breed, sell and ship puppies across the United States. The USDA is responsible for ensuring licensed facilities comply with the Animal Welfare Act, inspecting and documenting violations, and taking action to hold violators accountable.
Instead, the USDA has adopted a “customer service” policy to protect licensed dealers, not dogs. When puppy mills violate the law, the USDA’s official policy is to let violations go unreported and unpunished. This policy was formalized during the previous administration through changes to the Inspection Guide and publication of new policies, which instruct USDA inspectors to ignore certain violations of the law. Even when violations are recorded, the agency fails to bring enforcement actions in response. Since 2017, the USDA has recorded roughly 600 violations of the Animal Welfare Act at licensed puppy mills (a significant decline from previous years)–yet the USDA has failed to take meaningful action against those who violate the Act. Shockingly, not a single dog breeder has lost their license since 2017, despite overwhelming evidence of cruelty reflected on the USDA’s own inspection reports.
We call on you to direct the USDA to embrace its responsibility for these vulnerable animals by utilizing the comprehensive enforcement scheme established under the Animal Welfare Act to hold dog dealers accountable when they violate the law.