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Congress Passes Farm Bill – Improvements Made to the Animal Welfare Act

New York, NY – The American Kennel Club® (AKC®) applauds the US Senate today for passing a new five-year farm bill that addresses AKC concerns regarding recent regulatory changes to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regarding the redefinition of retail pet stores and licensing exemptions. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week. The measure now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

AKC outlined to farm bill negotiators from the Senate and House Agriculture committees that although the intent of the changes to the rule was to regulate large-scale breeders and Internet pet sellers, it also would have required some small hobby breeders who maintain more than four “breeding females” and transfer an occasional dog sight unseen, to be licensed and regulated as commercial pet dealers. The regulation also would have required small hobby breeders who provide foster homes for rescue dogs to be licensed as commercial breeders if they maintain more than four female dogs and occasionally use an intermediary to transfer a foster dog to its new home.

“We believe these changes will be welcome to responsible small breeders who not only breed occasionally, but also provide foster homes for rescue dogs,” said AKC Government Relations Director Sheila Goffe. “Without these changes, many could have been forced to give up their rescue activities unless they could obtain a USDA pet dealer license.”

The AWA changes in the Farm Bill (HR 2642) will reduce the number of breeders and dealers required to obtain a license if the size of their business is determined to be “de minimis” (minimal). The Farm Bill Conference Report allows the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to “determine if the number of animals they breed or sell or the gross annual dollar amounts earned are so minor as to merit disregard.” The measure’s conference report states that this will free up more USDA resources and recommends that APHIS finalize a rule regarding this change within the year.

A second measure supported by the AKC directs APHIS to clarify the term “breeding female.” This term is currently used in AWA regulations to define who should be regulated as a pet dealer, but it lacks authority because it does not appear in the underlying statute. House conference managers urged APHIS to clarify that only those female animals capable of reproduction and actively being used in a breeding program should qualify as breeding females.

“We thank the many Members of Congress, Congressional staff and AKC club members whose dedicated efforts made these changes possible,” said AKC President and CEO Dennis Sprung. “We would especially like to thank the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture committees, Chairman Frank Lucas, Livestock Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford and ranking member Jim Costa, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and ranking member Thad Cochran for their leadership in including these beneficial changes to the AWA in the Farm Bill Conference report.”

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