SA 3723, introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) was an amendment to the Senate version of the 2007 Farm Bill (HR 2419). This amendment is nearly identical to the Pet Animal Welfare Act (PAWS) sponsored in 2005 by former Sen. Rick Santorum. The intent of SA 3723 is to amend the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to regulate cat and dog breeders at the retail level.
The AWA currently regulates large-scale commercial breeders who sell pets at wholesale. SA 3723 would change the concept of the AWA as established, requiring federal licensing and inspection of the private homes of many hobby breeders. Presently no federal license is required to breed cats and dogs in a private residence and sell retail to the public. SA 3723 would require in-home breeders that fall within the proposed number limits to follow commercial standards. Compliance with commercial regulations would be difficult if not impossible for small, private cat and dog hobby breeders.
SA 3723 reverses a long-standing, court tested basis for commercial pet business licensing and regulation. Once this traditional retail/wholesale regulation barrier is broken it will be gone forever.
SA 3723 uses numbers to decide which sellers should be licensed. This is completely arbitrary and has no connection or correlation to levels of care or necessity for regulation. Either by design or by accident, it also exposes all buyers and sellers of dogs for hunting, security and breeding purposes to federal licensing and regulation.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) claims this will stop puppy mills and has introduced multiple versions of this legislation since 2001 without success. Contrary to the HSUS claims, SA 3723 will have the greatest impact on the small and mid-size in-home breeders who cannot comply with commercial standards due to construction costs and existing zoning regulations, or who refuse to have their rights to privacy invaded by federal inspectors and simply give up their hobby.
SA 3723 includes a provision for "certified third-party inspector". This concept is an attempt to alleviate the otherwise impossible financial burden on USDA that the increased scope of breeder regulation would create. The third-party inspector can be a nonprofit organization certified by the Secretary of Agriculture. The nonprofit organization would apply to USDA for certification as breeding facility inspectors and establish their own inspection standards which USDA would have to approve. Most assuredly these inspections would be done for a fee paid by the breeder. For example, HSUS could establish another arm of their organization to be inspectors. Then HSUS would come into private homes to check compliance to the facility standards and send a report to USDA. The American Kennel Club [AKC] could also apply for certification. AKC supported the third-party inspection addition during previous PAWS negotiations citing their current inspection program which could be expanded in partnership with USDA and any newly enacted regulations.
It has been assumed by some that standards promulgated for third-party inspections would be performance based standards, as commercial (engineering) standards do not lend themselves to in-home small breeding facilities. One problem will lie in the fairness of two methods of regulation for the same activity. Additionally, performance standards are already being challenged by animal rights groups in favor of engineering standards. Lawsuits would seem to be inevitable as groups from all sides of the issue file suit against USDA.