The unintended consequences of USDA APHIS rule 2011-0003

CHECKIT USDA, Clean up your own houseImagine a world without these dogs:

We Need War Dogs More than Ever

Paging Dr. Dog

Well, that’s exactly what could happen if the USDA has it’s nefarious way. In it’s attempt to clean up either it’s act or it’s image, the USDA has started this “rule” and it’s out the gate and down the track with just a few short days before they close the comment period, on July 16th, 2012.


On my birthday, the new Q and A from the USDA APHIS 2011-0003 proposed rule (page since moved: the current version is at the USDA’s Retail Pet Store Guidance, previous version visible on the Wayback machine for the USDA) change hit the airwaves. I was invited to sit in on a stakeholders call with the office The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, to discuss the ‘changes’ from the previously published Q and A.

Needless to say, it was enlightening.

“Rescues” seem to feel they will be exempt, which is appalling in light of recent news over several “rescues” being brought up on charges of animal cruelty. If it’s just another dog-and pony show “righteous seizure” by Animal Rights activists, it still forces the question of how many “rescues” that operate currently under the auspices of tax exemption are in violation of the basic tenets of the USDA APHIS rule? This article is worth reading for a few reasons, to which I will indulge you the opportunity to formulate your own opinions.

Rescues will not be exempt. Based upon the fundamental tenets of the “rule”, they, too, will be held just as culpable as the privateer who sells, “adopts”, or otherwise “places” a dog for money.

Then, of course, there is this, and this, and this. I do not know the licensing or exemption status of two of these places, but I DO know that at least one was confirmed as operating as a 501 c3 and licensed. If there is one, there are others.

Since “rescues” often engage in the transport of dogs to locations different from where they are housed for “adoption” events, they should be held to the same standard as every other individual engaged in the placement of animals for money. Donations, sales, “adoptions”… Call it what you will. Any time money changes hands, a financial transaction has occurred.

And all of these are from the last 10 months or LESS.

What I found interesting is the wording they chose to carve out an exemption for publicly run shelters. An excerpt appears below:

Q. What does this mean for State, county, or city
owned and operated pounds and shelters, as well
as humane societies and other organizations that
contract with those jurisdictions?
A. This proposed rule would have no effect on State,
county, or city owned and operated pounds and
shelters, or humane societies and other organizations
that contract with those jurisdictions. These public
agencies are exempt from regulation under the AWA.

Thereby, ostensibly, throwing every private, not-for-profit shelter under the proverbial bus.

When again, we have such stellar examples as this. And this.

The world is rife with “Bad Actors” in every walk of life. Bad cops, bad politicians, bad doctors, bad lawyers and certainly bad “rescues” and “shelters” as the examples clearly show.

What the Big Giant Heads at the USDA fail to recognize is the arbitrary and capricious application of their “rule” allows the substandard production of pet animals that are sold in pet stores or over the internet, with their blessings.


All because they want to close a “loophole” in their current “rule” that allows for the sale of pets over the internet.

Uh. huh.

In her letter to the USDA, Peggy Richter is quick to point out the internet avails people to research dogs to a far greater extent than in past years and suggests “Instead, this proposed rule expects the average buyer, whom it believes is incapable of determining what to buy or where to buy an animal, who it asserts cannot make an intelligent decision based on an Internet ad and whatever follow up they choose to conduct, should be employed as inspectors of humane care and quality on an individual’s premises. Which is it? Is the buyer competent to make a decision or not? If they are, use of the Internet will only provide information that previously would have been provided in ads in such publications as Dog World and Horsetrader.  If not, physically visiting someone’s home will not make them so.”

My question is if there fails to be mention of availability, or price on a web page or through social media, how will they know? What constitutes “Internet Sales”?  Is it the transaction or the fact that an individual can see his/her intended “purchase” online, even though no prices are posted. What constitutes “advertising on the internet” for that matter? Are they furtively surfing the internet? Have battalions of employees stationed at their cubicles, daily checking the world-wide-web, searching every puppy picture out there to see if that picture is attached to an internet website offering the subject of the picture for sale? Sounds like a ridiculous allocation of resources to me.

But what are their sources? Where is the information coming from?

Especially since virtually every municipality in this country has some form of Animal Control laws and licensing regulations already in place. As Peggy further states:

Nor does the issue of “internet sales” preclude quality and the “inspection of premises” ensure quality.  Cars and even property can change hands via the Internet ( as an example).  Buyers are neither urged nor auto manufacturers required, to “inspect the premises” as a means of ensuring either automobile quality nor the value. Existing laws regarding false advertising, regarding latent defects and in most states, “puppy lemon laws” provide redress regarding poor quality animals.  The existing Animal Welfare Act and numerous Federal and State laws provide for humane care and management of dogs.”

Which brings us back to shelters and rescues. There are legitimate ones out there, of this I have no doubt. But for as many “Bad Actors” as there are in dog breeding, there are equally as many in the shelter/rescue culture.

Tina Perriguey, President of the Unites States Working Dog Foundation argues that the internet is not “sight unseen” with this observation:

“The ostensible justification for this proposed rule change rests upon USDA/APHIS’s assertion that buying puppies/dogs via the Internet means “sight unseen.”  This is a specious argument. In fact the Internet has greatly INCREASED the ability for buyers to acquire limitless information – in “real time” INCLUDING visual inspection.

Consider a Search-and-Rescue K9 handler interested in a working German Shepherd Dog (GSD) litter in California.  The handler lives in New Jersey.  Yet the handler  can observe this litter from Day One – WITHOUT the danger of communicable disease being introduced into the vulnerable young puppies’ environment, without stress being placed upon their protective mother due to strangers entering the home.

The handler can (thanks to the Internet, webcam & video uploads) see the puppies:
~Reaction to a multitude of environmental influences/exercises designed to reinforce behaviors desirable in a strong, confident, bold working dog.
~Genetic strengths and weaknesses.
~Tattoo’d – & watch the reaction of each.
The handler can:
~Learn from experts who’ve trained close relatives, know the bloodlines intimately & can describe strengths/weaknesses going back generations.
~Use database websites for hip ratings, Schutzhund titles & placings at Regional, National & World Championship Trials.
~Visit websites of working dog trainers who’ve owned or trained close relatives of the litter & view posted videos of those dogs at work.
~Do ALL of these things – BECAUSE OF THE INTERNET.

The Internet is a priceless gift of knowledge to someone who wants to buy a top-quality puppy/dog from a highly ethical breeder.  Stating that buying puppies or dogs via the Internet is buying them “sight unseen” is a fallacious argument. To use it to rationalize a radical AWA Rule change which will wipe out our nation’s best working dog trainers, breeders, and owners? It’s unconscionable.

Please withdraw this proposed rule. It’s a BAD rule, based upon a false premise. And it will have disastrous results.”

Yes, this…


We will be dissecting the updated Q and A over the next few days, as the comment period ends on July 16th.

I implore my colleagues and friends who are involved with dogs in a professional way to oppose the USDA APHIS proposed rule.

You can submit your comments here. I urge you to write your comment in a Word Document format and upload it via the USDA portal. It is a lot easier and you are more likely to be successful that way than constructing it on their interface.

As of this moment, there are 6446 comments published in regard to this proposed rule. You can read them here:!docketDetail;dct=FR%252BPR%252BN%252BO%252BSR%252BPS;rpp=25;po=0;D=APHIS-2011-0003