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February 10, 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it will expand enforcement of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act to now require licensing and inspection of breeders who sell animals online to pet retailers. Prior to this move, breeders who sell exclusively online were exempt from inspection and licensing requirements.

The enforcement move will cover all breeders who sell dogs, cats and rabbits online and own more than four female breeding animals.

USDA estimates that at least 2,600 dog breeders will be affected by the decision, along with 325 cat breeders and 75 rabbit breeders.

One purported benefit of the change as cited by USDA is to reduce incidents of sick animals acquired unwittingly by consumers. In the new guidelines issued by the agency, regulators said: “When breeding operations for which regulatory oversight is insufficient fail to adequately provide veterinary care for their animals, the buyer may subsequently incur greater costs associated with providing that care because needed care has been delayed. The rule will benefit buyers of animals by providing regulatory oversight to ensure that breeders provide necessary veterinary care. Animals can carry zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted between, or are shared by animals and humans). The possibility of an animal carrying a zoonotic disease is reduced with adequate veterinary care, including vaccinations. To the extent that improved oversight reduces the likelihood of pet-to-human transmission of zoonotic diseases such as rabies, the public as a whole will benefit from the rule.”

In other news, a bipartisan collection of congressman is sponsoring a bill that would allow, for the first time, Amtrak passengers to bring their pets aboard on specially designated cars.

The Pets on Trains Act, also known as HR 2066, is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Jeff Denhem (R-Calf.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Michael Grimm (R-NY) and John Campbell (R-Calif.). If HR 2066 passes, requirements would include:

• Amtrak must designate a “pet car” on each train that has more than one car.

• The trip in which pets are transported could not be more than 750 miles.

• Pets must be crated and stowed in accordance with Amtrak baggage policies.

If the bill becomes law, pet retailers could conceivably take advantage of it as an opportunity to step up sales of pet carriers.

“The pet industry embraces Pets on Trains legislation because we understand the benefits traveling together has to pet owners, as well as the pets themselves,” Mike Canning, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, said. “Legislation like this also brings together two powerhouse industries as economic generators, and will have a positive effect on the economies of cities along the rail route.”

– Dan Calabrese

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