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APHIS proposes to revise the definition of "retail pet store" to bring more pet animals sold at retail under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licensing and regulations. APHIS plans to narrow the definition of retail pet store so that it means a PLACE OF BUSINESS OR RESIDENCE THAT EACH BUYER PHYSICALLY ENTERS in order to personally observe the animals available for sale prior to purchase and/or to take custody of the animals after purchase. Under the proposed rule no dog or other pet animal will be sold at retail WITHOUT either public or APHIS oversight.

Anyone who sells the following animals to the public for use as pets: Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, gophers, chinchilla, domestic ferrets, domestic farm animals, birds, and cold-blooded species.”

APHIS plans to license and regulate these retail sellers unless they can meet the exemption requirements in the revised definition of retail pet store. A breeder may gain an exemption by selling only to buyers who physically enter the premises to observe the animals available for sale prior to purchasing them. A breeder can be exempt from regulation if income from sales (for listed species) is less than $500 a year; this does not include wild or exotic animals, dogs, or cats. Finally, a breeder may be exempt if he/she maintains a total of four (4) or fewer breeding female dogs, cats, and/or small exotic or wild mammals, such as hedgehogs, degus, spiny mice, prairie dogs, flying squirrels, and jerboas,and who sells only the offspring of these dogs, cats, or small exotic or wild mammals, which were born and raised on his/her premises and sold for pets.

The proposed rule change has been circulated in the media and by HSUS as “closing an Internet loophole” in the AWA that will bring regulation to unscrupulous dog breeders who operate in substandard conditions. Far from it!! The broad scope of the proposed rule could bring hundreds of thousands of pet retailers and rescuers of domestic animals under federal regulation.

A breeder/seller of any species currently covered under the “retail pet store” definition can potentially lose their exemption and be required to obtain a federal license for even occasionally selling sight unseen via the Internet. “Covered” species includes dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, gophers, chinchilla, domestic ferrets, domestic farm animals, birds.

The proposed rule would require EVERY SINGLE BUYER to physically visit a retailer’s premises. Therefore selling even one pet OFF PREMISES at a show, at a park, or arranged location without the buyer visiting first, will result in loss of an exemption from federal licensing. Rescue organizations are NOT exempt from this proposed rule. Selling pets at an adoption day event away from their base location or traveling to meet potential adopters would no longer be permitted without a federal license. This proposed requirement places undue limitations on buyers as well as sellers.

Living under USDA licensing is NOT an option for the average retail seller. Spare rooms in homes, porches, covered kennel runs, and barns can never be converted to a USDA-compliant facility. Federal engineered standards for licensed facilities dictate enclosure sizes, sanitation, surfaces that are impervious to moisture, ventilation, bio-hazard control, veterinary care, exercise, temperature controls, waste disposal systems, diurnal lighting, drainage systems, washrooms, perimeter fencing, as well as transportation standards for regulated animals. Most residential environments would not permit zoning variances for such facilities.

Download file - Living with USDA Licensing

The massive expansion of regulatory responsibilities into the private sector outlined in the proposed rule is not only impractical but unaffordable for an agency that is currently addressing serious budget challenges. For the past several years, APHIS’ budget has been shrinking; since 2010 the budget has decreased by roughly 10 percent. The 2013 submitted budget calls for an additional decrease of 6.6%.


OPPOSE adoption of this proposed rule. APHIS needs to hear most from those who are likely to be affected by the rule. Are you already licensed under local or state law and would federal regulation be a duplicate effort? Explain briefly how the rule will impose costs on your breeding program and activities and whether this will cause you to cease or limit your hobby or operations.



Send a copy of your comment to your Congressman and reference Docket No. APHIS-2011-O0003.