By Ken Niedziela
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has narrowed the definition of a retail pet store in a move that brings more Internet animal sellers under federal oversight.
The government on Tuesday issued a final rule that is expected to affect up to 4,640 dog breeders, 325 cat breeders and 75 rabbit breeders nationwide.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed the rule in May 2012 in an effort to address what the agency calls "sight unseen” transactions in which a buyer never sees the animal or its living conditions before purchase. The rule forces many of those breeders to comply with Animal Welfare Act guidelines.
"We know that if the federal standards are being met, the animals are getting humane care and treatment,” said Ed Avalos, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. "By revising the definition of retail pet store to better suit today’s marketplace, we will now improve the welfare of more pet animals sold sight unseen.”
The rule exempts a number of operations and people, including traditional pet stores, sellers of working dogs, most animal rescues and shelters, breeders of rabbits for food or fur, and dealers in fish, reptiles and other cold-blooded animals.
The key threshold is the number of breeding females. Operations with five or more breeding females may be required to be licensed under the Animal Welfare Act. More....