Help ISAR work toward the elimination of puppy mills and most retail sales of companion animals here and abroad.

ISAR’s supporters know how long we’ve been working to eliminate puppy mills and most retail sales of companion animals. 

Now, finally, even the United States Department of Agriculture finally admitted that one aspect of the puppy mill problem—the thousands of puppies shipped into this country from abroad (e.g., South Korea, China, and Eastern Europe)—present a serious overpopulation problem for the United States. Until now, among those imported puppies at least twenty-five percent died in transit before even reaching this country.

After many years of ignoring the problem, according to the Associated Press “[t]he U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a regulation . . . that, starting in 90 days, will require all puppies imported to the United States to be at least 6 months old, healthy, and up-to-date on vaccinations.”

While those of us who work tirelessly for Animal Rights and know too well the scourge of overpopulation might welcome the USDA regulation, the fact is that sadly it misses the mark.

For one thing, the government’s concern is not for the puppies—according to the Associated Press, usually less than 8 weeks old—but for the American consumer. That is the wrong emphasis. Breeding of puppies generally and their importation in particular is rooted in the philosophical premise that animals are akin to inanimate objects and thus can be treated as chairs and bowling balls (See Some Thoughts on the Rights of Animals). That is why the puppies are crammed into crates in the holds of intercontinental airplanes with little or no concern for their wellbeing. The government is protecting not the helpless puppies, but the American consumer.

Second, as a practical matter, even if the new regulation was acceptable morally and legally, which it is not, it is unenforceable given the general corruption and document forgeries that the breeders’ countries are known for. To say the least, it is naïve to believe that puppy mill operators abroad (especially in countries whose populations eat dogs) will not falsify the documents required by the new USDA regulation. It requires that the puppies be “at least 6 months old, healthy, and up-to-date on vaccinations.” There is simply no way overworked, and perhaps indifferent, USDA inspectors can get behind the paperwork to ascertain how old puppies are, whether they are “healthy” (whatever that means), or whether they ever received the vaccinations the regulation requires.

Third, those of us who labor in the animal protection movement know how unsuccessful USDA is in enforcing other laws within its jurisdiction pertaining to the welfare of animals. The new regulation will not be adequately enforced, if at all.

Fourth, the heralded fine of up to $10,000 presupposes that violators will be identified (in South Korea, China, and Eastern Europe countries!), fined, and then the fines collected—a utopian assumption that defies reality. And even if the shippers do pay a fine, why would one think they will be deterred, rather than the fine simply seen as a cost of doing business?

An official with a national humane organization has said that the new USDA regulation “eliminates the easy access to market that foreign breeders have had for years.” Nonsense! Not only is that statement not so, but those who support the regulation have now given the shippers and USDA a fig leaf to cover the vile importation practice by making it appear that the problem has been dealt with. Indeed, an official with a national humane organization has said that by promulgating the regulation the organization and USDA “are taking steps in the right direction.”

Sorry, but that is not the “right direction.”

There are only two “right directions.”

If American puppy-buyers are determined to support domestic and foreign breeders by purchasing dogs (and cats, for that matter), rather than by going to a shelter, the least they can do morally is make certain that the animal has not been imported. There are more than enough homeless companion animals right here in the United States.

More than more than enough! 

Even more important, those purchasers should reconsider the entire breeding issue, and then support ISAR’s and others’ efforts to prohibit puppy mills both abroad and in the United States.


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