Senators urge USDA to update dog breeding standards

Senators urge USDA to update dog breeding standards 2Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 21 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).

In the letter, the Senators call on Secretary Vilsack to implement the strong standards for veterinary care, housing, and breeding of dogs suggested in the Puppy Protection Act, legislation that Sens. Warner and Kaine have consistently cosponsored.

“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),” wrote the Senators. “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.”

They continued, “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.”

Sen. Warner, a dog owner, has been an advocate for dogs in Virginia and throughout the country, earning a 100% on the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Scorecard for 2021. In March, Sen. Warner secured the passage of new language requiring the Department of State to report on the status of dogs in the Explosive Detection Canine Program (EDCP). This program came under scrutiny in 2019 after an Inspector General (IG) report found that the Department failed to conduct proper follow-up after sending highly-trained dogs to foreign partner nations, resulting in the death of at least ten dogs from largely preventable illnesses. As Governor of Virginia, Kaine signed a law that imposed stricter legal penalties for dogfighting offenses.

A copy of the letter is available here and full text is 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,