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ACA, Animal Welfare Act

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Welcome to the inaugural Washington Watch column from Pet Age. Each month we will keep you apprised about decisions and actions occurring in Washington that affect the pet retailing industry and the pet industry in general.

This month, of course, the biggest news affecting retailers and just about every other industry is the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. While news about the ACA is widely available, here are a few key facts that are important for retailers to know:

The ACA requires all employers with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance coverage to full-time employees, which is defined for the purposes of the act as employees who work 30 hours or more per week.

Although many employers have cut employee hours back to 29.5 per week or fewer to avoid the requirements of the law, you would be wise to check with benefit advisors as there has been some discussion about changing the law’s enforcement to make this more difficult.

Also, the ACA imposes minimum standards for health insurance policies that did not previously exist, including coverage of services like maternity and mental health for all who are covered.

You will want to check to be sure your policy meets the new requirements, and to determine what any changes might mean for your costs.

As of this writing, problems with implementation of the ACA raised some calls for delays in some or all aspects of the law, but not such delays had been put in place.

Of particular interest for pet retailers, the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service under the Department of Agriculture has recently revised the definition of “retail pet store” under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The result is a requirement that breeders and Internet-based businesses selling pet animals sight unseen to buyers must provide their animals with humane care and treatment, and must be licensed and inspected by APHIS.

The last time the federal government adopted a new definition of a “retail pet store” was 40 years ago.

“Requiring these breeders to adhere to the Animal Welfare Act standards is important because we know that if the federal standards are being met, the animals are getting humane care and treatment” Ed Avalos, under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said. “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.”

- Dan Calabrese

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