Defending the Freedom to Own Pets


The Future of Dogs in an Animal Rights America

by Walt Hutchens


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PUPS -- H.R. 835/S.707 Information PDF  | Print |
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 22:10


If you own (or co-own) even one intact female over the age of four months and sell or offer for sale over 50 offspring of the females you own you would be required to obtain a USDA license and comply with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) including being inspected.

One could spend hours trying to understand that statement but based on government actions in other pet animal law situations you should assume that they'll count every sale or transfer unless you can prove it shouldn't be counted.

For example: Your website says "Puppies available sometimes." During a year you whelp a litter of 10 and three other breeders with whom you co-own bitches whelp one litter of 10 each. You get nothing from the co-owned litters. Each of you keeps back two puppies as show/breeding prospects. You take back three puppies from earlier litters and resell them. You place two mixed breed puppies from the local animal shelter (losing money on them.) You keep your sister's unregistered bitch while she's on vacation; her bitch whelps 10. Mom and pups go back to sis when she returns; you get nothing. You DON'T co-own that bitch but neither you nor sis have paperwork showing that you don't co-own her.

YOU count 32 or maybe 35. Then a neighbor calls a tip line and reports you as an unlicensed 'puppy mill.' USDA inspects you (and then your co-owners) and counts 55. Can you prove that the difference of 20 puppies (or even  five of them) shouldn't count? Maybe, but may be cheaper to just pay the fine and agree not to breed for two years -- a typical punishment for a breeder licensing violation.

These details MAY be clarified when regulations are written, after the PUPS bill passes. But don't count on it. You will want to keep the total number of puppies from owned and co-owned bitches WELL below 50 and watch out for situations where you might have to prove that sales shouldn't be  counted. 

Even if you keep your numbers down it is possible that you could be audited and (in effect) required to prove that you aren't required to be licensed.


You would have to build an AWA-compliant kennel. Floor drains, surfaces that can be sterilized with 180 degree water (or in one of two other ways) certain sizes of pens/shelters, etc. The cost of such a kennel might be $100-200,000. Of course you must be properly zoned and in many areas would have to get county permission and meet setback and waste disposal requirements. There may be requirements that make no sense: A heated floor? Air conditioning? You will almost certainly have to get a business license and that may bring additional requirements possibly including handicapped accessibility, parking ...

You cannot be USDA licensed and keep dogs in your house, whelp litters in your bedroom, or any of that. You must establish certain written procedures (for example your vet has to do things and PUPS will add a requirement for exercise procedures for your dogs), you must keep certain records. Once you have the kennel and procedures, you have to be inspected before being licensed and perhaps once yearly thereafter. These inspections are without notice, you must be there (i.e., your kennel must have someone in attendance at all times) and you cannot say "wait until tomorrow."

Some inspectors are decent, some are knowledgeable, some are both and some are neither. The regulations don't spell out all the details and each inspector fills in the gaps differently. You will have items requiring correction after every inspection and if you have too many violations you will be fined. 

PUPS is a statement by the U.S. government that dog breeding is a hobby only if done at a truly tiny scale. If you do more than that, then (the government says) you have to be a business and meet all the requirements of a business, no matter how much money you lose. The IRS, however, will continue to base its determination (for tax purposes) on whether you make a profit, meaning that as a hobbyist you will be a business for local, state, and federal law but a hobbyist (thus unable to deduct all expenses) for tax purposes.

While most applicants who have the money and do the work for compliance will get licenses, you can't be certain you'll be one of them. The regulations written after the law passes will have specific requirements but there are always gaps and details to be filled in. If your APHIS region or your inspector dislikes you -- maybe they already think you're a 'puppy mill' or you just rub them the wrong way -- they can drag you through sewers with compliance details until you give up.

Names and addresses of USDA licensees are public records, available to anyone. Lists of violations are also public. There's every reason to think that this information would be used by animal rightists for harassment or worse.


Except for the wealthy who can afford a compliant kennel and staff, PUPS will eliminate large hobby kennels overnight.

Co-ownerships will become dangerous so the number will go down rapidly. For those that remain it will be necessary to coordinate closely and to allow and watch for takeback, rescue, and "I'll whelp that litter for you" situations that might be interpreted as counting toward your 50.

Just as has been the case for state 'no puppy mills' laws, enforcement will be a terror campaign: While many people who sell just a few more than 50 probably won't be caught, a few will be publicly ruined every year -- the press releases will say "Illegal puppy mill busted by USDA," rather than "Kennel owner should have had license" -- and if the bill passes, some hobbyists will simply never breed again.


Small commercial breeders now selling exclusively at retail will be eliminated. These are mom-and-pop operations, typically selling 200 puppies/year at $150 each and clearing $10,000. (All estimates based on personal communications; I'm not aware of reliable figures.) These breeders cannot afford a USDA compliant kennel and lack both a large enough market and the business background to expand in order to do so.

Most of the volume now produced by these breeders will move back in the hills to illegal (because unlicensed) black market kennels. Importing -- much of it illegal -- will expand. These hidden retail breeders and dealers will be mostly out of reach of animal welfare laws and won't pay taxes. Over time these businesses will come to look a lot like those supplying moonshine and illegal drugs.

A very few larger retail-only commercial breeders will be able to become compliant. Large commercial breeders who now sell primarily or exclusively wholesale (and are thus already USDA-licensed) will expand into the retail market. 

The resulting shortage of commercially bred puppies will lead to a rise in prices. Many thousands of Americans who have an 'oops' litter and discover that it turns into $1000 of free money at the local fleamarket will decide to keep a bitch puppy, breed her to her daddy, and have two such 'accidents' every year. 

Estimates of the number of retail breeders needing licenses will be well in the thousands (two to three times the current number) but most of them will simply soak into the sand and disappear. The actual number of USDA licensees will increase only slightly.


Because of the need to use a registry and advertise in order to reach the market for the specific breed, purebreds can't be bred in hiding. Thus the decline of hobby and other in-the-open dog breeding will hit purebred dogs hard. Should PUPS pass, those of us who want to continue breeding will need to focus our efforts on breed preservation and on the hardening of our individual breeding programs, in the hope that a wiser generation will in the future undo these destructive laws.

Dog shows will decline in size and number as the number of purebreds falls.

I think passage of PUPS would spell the end for the AKC as a full service organization sanctioning dog shows, licensing judges, and inspecting kennels. I don't see how they can take another body blow to their customer base. It might survive as 'just a registry.' 



by Walter Hutchens

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 December 2011 23:59

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