Discover the truth behind ‘USDA-licensed’ breeders


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“Seeing is believing. We wanted to make it easy for the public to truly understand where pet store puppies come from.”

That is a quote from the ASPCA website, which recently launched a new tool to educate buyers on where many pet store pups begin their lives.

Here’s the philosophy behind the tool: Just because a breeder is USDA-licensed, doesn’t mean his or her dogs are treated humanely. And the group has the pictures to prove it.

The new tool, which lives on the ASPCA’s No Pet Store Puppies website, lets you view more than 10,000 photos of USDA-licensed commercial dog breeding facilities and links some of them to specific pet stores that have sold their puppies within the past year. The photos were taken by USDA inspectors during routine inspections of the facilities.

You can search by pet store name or zip code, USDA license number, the breeder’s name and specific breed.

"Consumers need to know that they should not be falsely reassured when a pet store tells them their puppies come from USDA licensed breeders," said Cori Menkin, senior director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. "Unfortunately, USDA standards alone do not ensure that dogs are raised humanely in an environment in which they can thrive. We hope this new tool will allow consumers to make informed decisions and refrain from buying puppies at pet stores, and instead make adoption their first option, or seek a responsible breeder if they choose not to adopt."

So what are the requirements of USDA-licensed breeders? We found them here in the Animal Welfare Act, which was signed into law in 1966. The regulations can be found in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Broadly spelled out, breeders and dealers must meet the basic standards of animal care and treatment established by the AWA and enforced by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Animal Care program. (APHIS is an agency of the USDA.) Regulations include housing, sanitation, food, water and protection against extremes of weather and temperature.

Here are just a couple of the regulations spelled out in Title 9, plus photos from the ASPCA that demonstrate violations:

“The interior height of a primary enclosure must be at least 6 inches higher than the head of the tallest dog in the enclosure when it is in a normal standing position.”

“Primary enclosures equipped with mesh or wire floors shall be so constructed as to allow feces to pass through the spaces of the mesh or wire: Provided, however, That such floors shall be constructed so as to protect the animals' feet and legs from injury.”

Of course, these are only two photos of the more than 10,000 on the site. Just see for yourself.