|September 2013 |
|The New APHIS Rule: Exploring the Options |
As we consider our way forward in light of new federal licensing requirements, now may be a good opportunity for us, as breeders, to take a step back and carefully take stock of our unique breeding programs. Under existing USDA Animal Welfare Act regulations, the vast majority of dog breeders who do not sell dogs at wholesale (those defined as "dog dealers") have been considered "retail pet stores". Being defined as a "retail pet store" meant that most breeders were exempt from federal animal "dealer" regulation, and there was little need to consider other applicable exemptions.
|Click here for the AKC's printable chart, Does the New USDA Rule Affect Me? |
The narrowing of the retail pet store exemption has created a lot of uncertainty for breeders. As you assess your options, take a moment to consider:
What are your goals and purposes? What is your preferred method of communicating about your bloodlines and puppies? Do you sell animals sight unseen? Do you specialize in breeding wonderful family pets? Do you breed for working characteristics? Are you regularly engaged in activities that demonstrate a commitment to preserving a bloodline?
No matter your preference, there are options for you.
If you produce animals strictly for the family pet market and you keep more than four* intact females on your premises, consider contacting APHIS to learn whether your best bet is to get a USDA license.
APHIS has indicated that there are a variety of ways to achieve compliance even within a home-based operation. AKC is seeking information on details. A preview of USDA licensing requirements is available on the AKC GR Regulatory Resource Page. More details are available directly from APHIS.
If you wish to avoid USDA licensing and you maintain more than 4 breedable females, selling pets through face-to-face transactions only may be the option for you. In this scenario, you may continue to advertise online and use online breed or pet referrals, but you should require a face-to-face sales transaction. This will avoid confusion by potential customers.
If you are heavily involved in breed-based activities, such as purebred showing, pedigree research/analysis, or breed-based club or health activities, consider exploring the exception for producing breeding stock. For fanciers, many dogs sold to overseas clients with breeding programs would likely fit into this category. It should be noted that this is not a dog show exemption per se, but it may provide an option for many small breeders/hobbyists who take breeding for the improvement and preservation of their lines seriously and are not selling their dogs as pets.
Likewise, if you are engaged in similar activities with a rare breed, the exemption for preserving bloodlines may be an option for you.
APHIS has indicated that investigations and possible further action will be determined based on what they perceive the breeder's intent to be. While we are concerned about how it could be empirically or consistently measured, we agree it's always good policy to be as transparent as possible about your operations. In all cases, if you have a question about whether your particular situation requires licensing, contact APHIS directly for assistance.
Finally, while federal licensing/regulation can sound scary to those who have never been regulated before, it's likely you're more familiar with this type of interaction than you realize. If you file federal income taxes, you already know there are exemptions and exceptions to most rules. These exemptions are good options if you are entitled to take them.
Whether it is taxes or USDA licensing, specific circumstances vary from case to case, and the decision ultimately comes down to the individual involved. As you determine your next steps, please be sure use common sense: consider your risk factors; contact APHIS for assistance if you have questions; avoid obvious red flags; and when taking exemptions, be sure to keep good records and be prepared to provide documentation if you should receive an official APHIS inquiry about your activities.
In the meantime, AKC will continue to raise questions, seek clarifications, and support the rights of responsible dog owners and breeders. As new information is received, it will be posted on the AKC GR Regulations Resource page.
*Editor's note — this corrects a typographical error published on 9/30/13.