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Docket ID: APHIS-2011-0003, Animal Welfare; Retail Pet Stores and Licensing Exemptions Final Rule

September 18, 2013 the final rule was published in the federal register. The rule goes into effect November 18, 2013. Animal Care Hosted Webinars to Discuss the Retail Pet Store Rule which are posted (without audio) at the APHIS website. Transcriptions of these webinars are posted on this page under the heading FILES AND RESOURCES ON NEW APHIS RULE.

The FINAL RULE is 91 pages long and is posted at the APHIS website. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE FILE

APHIS posted Regulatory Impact Analysis and Final Regulatory Flexibility Analysis. This document is the 2013 revised version of the initial analysis published in April 2012 along with the Rule. Also in the rule docket is the Civil Rights Impact Analysis / Final Rule and 2012 Outreach Plan. APHIS posted a Question and Answer sheet discussing the final rule. This sheet is NOT completely accurate and should be used only as a very basic guide. And a final document is supposed to help pet breeders decide if they must be licensed. Checklist: Does APHIS' New Retail Pet Rule Impact Me?

Decermber 2013 APHIS created a new, online form for the public to submit concerns about animals that are covered under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), submit complaints against pet breeders, and report pet breeders who are not licensed. Anonymous complaints are accepted and all complaints are investigated.

Comments submitted in 2012 are still available for review.

APHIS published the Final Rule September 18, 2013 which revises the definition of "retail pet store" and brings historically exempt retail pet sellers under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licensing and regulation. The new definition of retail pet store means a place of business or residence where the seller, buyer, and animal are physically present in the same location. The transaction does not have to take place at the seller’s home. Previously, APHIS did not regulate any pet sales made directly to the retail consumer.

A USDA License is required for a Dealer, defined as any person who buys, or sells, or negotiates the purchase or sale of animals for pets for one of the following 6 uses: Research, teaching, testing, experimentation, exhibition (to the public for compensation), use as a pet. A Dealer is also anyone who buys or sells dogs at the wholesale level for hunting, security, or breeding purposes. All breeders who sell animals SIGHT UNSEEN and who maintain more than 4 breeding females must be licensed by the USDA. This includes the following list of pets: Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, gophers, chinchilla, domestic ferrets.

In general, APHIS says this rule is driven by purpose of breeding and method of delivery for the sale; and the stated goal is to end sight unseen sales. Since most breeding programs do not fall into neat categories, this creates many gray areas of uncertainty. APHIS maintains that because of the varied situations, they will need to make case-by-case decisions regarding licensure. Of major concern is the interpretive definition of a breeding female. APHIS also states it must be assumed that any intact female or any female capable of breeding may be bred. Determination of whether or not a female on your property counts as a breeding female is solely at the discretion of APHIS inspectors. If you are trying to remain under 4 breeding females for the purpose of being able to ship, any intact females maintained on your premise for any length of time, such as for training or breeding, count toward the total number of females.

Anyone who maintains four or less breeding females of the same species and sells only the offspring of those females may sell pets either at retail or wholesale and may either ship or sell face-to-face without a license. Rescue groups that participate in face-to-face transactions such as off-site adoptions are subject to public oversight and therefore do not need to be licensed.

NOTE. The final rule has raised many additional questions for breeders since most breeding programs do NOT fall into neat categories but encompass multiple levels of competition and types of sales; hunting dog kennels have variations as well with dogs used for more than one purpose. We are working to provide additional clarification and will post when information becomes available.

During Conference Committee negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill, the Conferees formed a substitute bill. See report. The Conference substitute amended the Animal Welfare Act by providing that a dealer or exhibitor shall not be required to obtain a license as a dealer or exhibitor under this Act if the size of business is determined by the Secretary to be de minimus. The Conferees directed APHIS to complete a rulemaking expeditiously and suggested a timeframe not to exceed one year from the date of enactment in order that the agency begin receiving the benefit the policy provides related to resource allocation.

In addition, the Conferees stated, "The managers are aware of confusion among the regulated industry and request clarification of two principles pertaining to the sale of pets:
(1) Current regulatory language uses the term “breeding female” which does not appear in statute and thus lacks statutory direction. The Managers urge APHIS to clarify that only those female animals capable of reproduction and actively being used in a breeding program qualify as breeding females.
(2) The Managers also recommend clarifying that USDA oversight of such sales pertains to those transactions in interstate commerce as provided for under the Commerce Clause (U.S. Const. amend. I, § 8. )] [and as referenced in §2132 (c) of the Animal Welfare Act and regulated under authority of the United States department of Agriculture].

On Thursday, March, 13, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET APHIS held a Farm Bill Listening Session via teleconference to discuss the animal welfare provision in the bill that pertains to APHIS. Again there are no definite answers. As of September, 2014 there has been no announcement of an additional rule making process.

The Rule is effective 60 days from publication in the Federal Register, November 18, 2013. APHIS will begin to identify potential licensees by reviewing breeder marketing and websites and via public complaints. After the effective date of November 18 APHIS will begin to mail out application packets to those who have requested them.

Opposition List to APHIS Pet Sellers Rule

Bengal Cat Society Flyer. Everyone Has The Right To Choose

Docket No. 2011-003
Animal Welfare Act Integrated
Comments from Cat Fanciers Association
AKC. USDA/APHIS Finalizes Rule Impacting Pet Breeders
AKC USDA/APHIS Regulation Resource Page
Living with USDA Licensing
Flow Chart for Licensing for Cat Fanciers from TICA, CFA
FLOW CHART- Do you need a license?
United Kennel Club. How will the New USDA Changes Affect You?
*New* American Kennel Club letter to APHIS October 24, 2013

Transcription of the APHIS Conference Call September 10, 2013 announcing final rule
AKC transcription of call between APHIS and Sheila Goffe
Transcription of APHIS Webinar November 14, 2013. How will USDA Implement the Retail Pet Store Rule
Transcription of APHIS Webinar November 21, 2013. How will USDA Implement the Retail Pet Store Rule
Transcription of APHIS Webinar December 5, 2013. How will USDA Enforce the Retail Pet Store Rule Transcription of APHIS Listening Session March 13, 2014 regarding APHIS-related provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill

APHIS continues to maintain that the benefits from this rule will outweigh any costs. We disagree and believe that AHPIS has continually underestimated the numbers of breeders who will be impacted by this rule as well as cost to both breeders and the agency for implementation.

In the original 2012 analysis APHIS suggested 1,500 dog breeders would be newly licensed. This final rule summary notes, “There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the number of facilities that will be affected by this rule, as we acknowledged in the proposed rule, and as evidenced in the public comments.” According to the new APHIS estimate, there could be as many as 15,000 online breeders who would likely be affected by this rule. APHIS maintains that only 75% of the pet breeders would sell some pets sight unseen and estimate the final number of new licensees would drop to approximately 4,640. However this still doubles their current workload.

In 2012 APHIS also stated that increasing the number of breeding females from 3 to 4 would possibly reduce current license holders by 31%. The final rule summary states that APHIS expects the number of current licensees that will fall below the new exemption threshold will be very small.

APHIS also acknowledges that neither the number of entities that will need to make changes nor the extent of those changes is known. Therefore, the overall cost of structural and operational changes that will be incurred due to this rule is also unknown. We believe APHIS has consistently underestimated the cost required for pet breeders to comply with this rule.

In the final rule summary APHIS maintains that their plan to incorporate newly affected entities into the existing regulatory system using a phased implementation for conducting initial prelicensing inspections and compliance inspections eliminates the need for additional personnel.

For the past several years, the APHIS budget has been shrinking; since 2010 the budget has decreased by approximately $87 million, or roughly 10 percent. The FY 2012 federal Budget contained appropriation for APHIS programs of $837 million, which was 8.3% or $76 million lower than the amount appropriated for APHIS in FY 2011.

Budget cuts are likely to continue into the foreseeable future. The President's 2013 budget request submitted in February to Congress called for a decrease in APHIS funding by an additional $54 million, or 6.6 percent.

There was little revision to the APHIS 2014 budget; the requested $798 million was an overall reduction of $24 million from 2013. Money requested specifically for Animal Welfare activities and enforcement was $29 million, an increase of only $1 million split between Animal Welfare and Horse Protection. Increase for Horse Protection was requested to $893,000 from current $500,000; therefore leaving virtually no additional funds to enact or enforce increased regulation of dog and pet breeders.

FY2015 Budget has now been released. The APHIS 2015 budget request of $834 million is a reduction of about $8 million from the 2014 enacted level ($842M). Money budgeted specifically for Animal Welfare activities and enforcement is again $29 million.

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