April 18, 2018

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), a leading companion animal advocacy group representing pet owners and pet care professionals, called for federal and state authorities to address the practices of 86 rescues and shelters uncovered by a Washington Post report.

“The Washington Post’s report on shelters and rescues buying dogs from auctions and characterizing them as ‘rescues’ is disturbing but unfortunately not surprising,” PIJAC President Mike Bober said. “At least 86 groups from across the country have engaged in this practice, including several named in the Post’s well-researched article.”

According to the Post, the groups used over $2 million—often raised through crowdsourcing—to buy healthy, purpose-bred dogs at auction, with some groups engaged in a bidding process that increased the price of the dogs. The groups allegedly then portrayed those dogs to the public as rescue animals in desperate need of a home.

“Thousands of Americans have been misled into thinking their dogs were ‘rescued,’ when in fact they were raised in high-quality, well-socialized circumstances like those illustrated in the Post’s story and the Post’s profile of one licensed commercial breeder,” Bober said. “Like dogs found in pet stores, these well-socialized and healthy animals were purchased and then offered for resale.”

Bober said that PIJAC is concerned about the story because his group stands for transparency, animal care and consumer protection.

“Animal care should be the priority of everyone who connects people with pets,” Bober said. “It’s not negotiable.”

Federal and state laws regulate licensed and inspected commercial dog breeders. Pet stores are regulated by state authorities. Bober said that the rescues and shelters engaging in business transactions should be treated the same way as licensed dealers who purchase dogs and then resell them.

“This kind of activity by shelters and rescues should be similarly regulated at the state and federal level to protect animals and the public,” he explained. “Record-keeping and reporting requirements would ensure that—when possible—accurate information is provided to prospective pet owners. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversight would ensure these groups provide appropriate care for the dogs for which they are receiving compensation. Much of this information is readily available—one auction owner told the Post that he requires vaccination records for all dogs.”

In his op-ed in The Hill, Bober outlined several solutions federal and state regulators should take to fill in the legal gaps in current laws.

“As president of a companion animal advocacy group representing pet owners and pet professionals, I urge lawmakers and regulators to ensure this does not happen again,” Bober wrote. “There are some strong steps that policymakers can quickly take. Federal regulators should require all organizations that operate as pet dealers under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) be licensed as such.”

“We urge the USDA and authorities in all 50 states to take steps to ensure that all providers of dogs are well-regulated and properly overseen,” Bober said. “Like pet stores and USDA-licensed dealers, shelters and rescues must be required to provide health and history records for dogs they offer. These dogs deserve protection and oversight, and the dog-loving public deserves truth and transparency.”

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