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USDA "Turning a Blind Eye" to Abuses At Puppy Mills

Articles reprinted with permission from The Alliance Speaks, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, ©2018

Lizzie was sold with a terrible case of mastitis.
(Click on photo for larger view & caption)

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Teddy was a puppy mill stud dog. He was thrown away at around age 6 and came to rescue with one eye, terribly infected teeth, and a broken leg.

Editor's note: Except for Wisconsin and a few other states, when a petstore brags that they sell "only dogs from licensed sources," it is very likely that the USDA is the sole licensing agency. All of the dogs pictured on this page were from USDA- licensed facilities, as was the Keep Out photo.

If you bought an Italian Greyhound at a petstore, this might have been his father. Teddy was a puppymill stud. He only had one eye, and his teeth were so infected that they had rotted away part of his jaw. When he was thrown away at age 6, he came to rescue wtih an untreated, badly broken leg.

BUT THAT'S OK, the breeder tells us with a wink; he more than got his money's worth out of a defective pup by putting him to work producing puppies himself. After all, you don't need two eyes, all your teeth, or four legs to make puppies.


USDA Covering Up Abuses at Puppy Mills   *   USDA Aiding and Abetting Cruel Puppy Mills   *   What You Can Do


Tiny blue paw print bullet point   USDA Covering Up Abuses at Puppy Mills: Undermining the Animal Welfare Act

Sign outside commercial dog breeding facility.       The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency responsible for enforcing the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), is greatly disturbed by the fact that state legislators and local government officials have been enacting their own laws and regulations against puppy mills. More than 250 municipalities have now banned the sale of pet store puppies; two states, California and Maryland, have enacted statewide bans on the sales of dogs in pet stores, and seven states and several municipalities, including New York City, have imposed restrictions on pet stores to ensure that they are not sourcing dogs from inhumane breeders.

       USDA believes that such state and local restrictions are seriously affecting the economic viability of the commercial dog breeding industry. In response, USDA initiated steps to enhance the image of puppy mills a few years ago by covering up violations of the AWA at puppy mills. USDA defended its actions by explaining that “we need to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores…[and] citing violations is an impediment to such sales.”

       This past year, USDA has ramped up its efforts to conceal poor conditions at puppy mills amid mounting concerns about the continuing bad reputation of the industry. USDA is determined to paint an idyllic picture of the dog breeding industry regardless of the deplorable conditions at puppy mills and the neglect and abuse inflicted upon puppy mill dogs. In an effort to conceal violations of the federal law to protect dogs, USDA has blocked public access to inspection reports and refuses to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Agency has additionally devised new policies to keep violations from being documented on USDA inspection reports.

       The Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation has listed below the numerous policy changes that USDA has instituted to help cover-up substandard conditions at dog breeding facilities.

  • Failure to comply with the Freedom of Information Act -- When the Agency responds to FOIA requests for copies of inspection reports of dog breeding operations, the Agency blackens out the entire report, the excuse being that such reports are equivalent to personnel and medical records which are exempt from FOIA.

  • “Teachable Moments” -- Certain violations are no longer to be documented on the inspection reports but are instead to be treated as “teachable moments” that are to be documented separately (out of public view).

  • Self-Identifying and Self-Reporting -- If the breeder informs USDA of his/her violations of AWA and makes a promise to correct them, the Agency’s inspector will not document the violations on the inspection report.

  • Limited Inspections -- USDA will now inspect only those kennel buildings and dogs that the breeder consents to let USDA inspect and will document violations only in areas permitted by the breeder.

  • Announced Inspections -- USDA has implemented a “pilot project” to evaluate the use of “announced” inspections whereby USDA calls the breeder in advance and schedules an appointment for the inspection. USDA plans a nationwide implementation of this announced inspections policy if such warnings result in reduced violations during the pilot project.

  • Limitations on Number of Non-Compliant Items -- The Agency is limiting the number of non-compliant items that can be cited by an inspector to one per category of regulations. For example, if 10 dogs are sick and/or injured and have been denied veterinary care, the breeder can be cited for only one non-compliant item for lack of veterinary care even if all 10 dogs are suffering.

  • Identification of Suffering Animals No Longer Necessary -- The section on how to identify suffering animals has been eliminated from USDA’s Inspection Guide.

  • Veterinarian Oversight No Longer Necessary -- The requirement to ensure oversight by a veterinarian has been eliminated from USDA’s Inspection Guide.

  • Preventive Veterinary Care No Longer Necessary -- The requirement for care by a veterinarian to provide vaccinations and parasite control has been eliminated from USDA’s Inspection Guide.

  • Ignoring of Serious Conditions in Dogs -- Infected or rotting teeth, overgrown toenails that curl into the pads of feet, eye and ear infections, and other so-called “minor” illnesses and injuries are no longer to be documented by USDA.

  • Elimination of All Incentives to Provide Veterinary Care on a Continuing Basis -- If the inspector is able to contact the breeder’s veterinarian about sick and injured dogs discovered during the inspection, then no violation is documented regardless of how much the animals have suffered and how long they have gone without treatment.

  • Reporting of Criminal Abuse and Neglect No Longer -- USDA inspectors are prohibited from reporting abuse and neglect discovered during the inspection process to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

  • No Unannounced Inspection to Take Place If the Breeder Objects -- USDA will now accept any number of excuses for a refusal, which can be as general as the breeder having a “personal event” to attend. Instead, USDA will schedule an inspection appointment in advance if a breeder continues to refuse unannounced inspections.

       Bernadette Juarez, USDA Deputy Administrator for Animal Care, was concerned that too many violations were being documented on USDA inspection reports detailing breeders’ failure to provide proper veterinary care to their dogs. In response, Juarez eliminated numerous veterinary care requirements and now boasts that 70% of commercial dog breeders have zero non-compliant items on their inspection reports.



Tiny blue paw print bullet point   USDA Aiding and Abetting Cruel Puppy Mills

Maltese mama dog from puppy mill       USDA is not only conspiring with the dog breeding industry to cover-up abuses at puppy mills but is also actively aiding and abetting puppy millers as they attempt to evade state and local laws. In addition, USDA is blatantly violating the federal Freedom of Information Act and is instructing its inspectors to falsify federal documents in order to hide substandard conditions at puppy mills.

Summary of USDA’s Criminal Malfeasance

  1. Aiding and abetting substandard dog breeders in circumventing state and municipal laws.

           Seven states, along with numerous municipalities (including New York City), have enacted laws that prohibit pet stores from purchasing puppies from any dog breeder who has a certain number of direct and indirect non-compliant items on their inspection reports. These statutes have greatly inhibited the ability of inhumane breeders to sell their dogs.

           In response to complaints from the scofflaws in the industry concerning these state and local laws, USDA announced a few years ago that its inspectors would no longer cite many non-compliant items on inspection reports but would instead refer to them as “teachable moments.” Since that time, USDA has enacted additional policies that are intended to cover-up conditions at substandard breeders’ facilities and allow them to circumvent state and local laws.

           USDA has defended these policies by claiming that the Agency needs to limit the number of non-compliant items on inspection reports; the argument given is that “we need to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores…[and] citing violations is an impediment to such sales.” This raises the issue of whether the federal government should engage in the practice of aiding and abetting AWA violators in circumvention of state and local statutes.

  2. Forcing USDA inspectors to falsify federal documents (inspection reports) and to conceal material facts both of which are violations of 18. U. S. C. § 1001.

           Currently, when a USDA inspector utilizes the “teachable moment” policy, or ignores violations in accord with self-reporting or other recently changed policies, the inspector makes the following notation on the official inspection report: “No non-compliant items.” Then the inspector documents, either on a separate “teachable moment” document, or in his/her field notes, the specific non-compliant items discovered during the inspection.

           Federal law (18. U. S. C § 1001) specifies that it is a crime to falsify a federal document or conceal any material fact. A criminal offense is therefore being committed every time a USDA inspector documents on a federal inspection report that there are “no non-compliant items” at a breeding facility when that inspector knows full well that there is at least one non-compliant item at the facility, and in fact, makes a written record of such non-compliance either on a separate USDA document (“teachable moment” form) or in his/her field notes.

           The purpose of the “teachable moment” policy, the “self-inspection” policy, and other recently adopted USDA policies is to provide misleading and false information to state and local government officials and to the public. A government official who knowingly makes use of false documents or makes any “false representation” is also in violation of 18. U. S. C. § 1001 – a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

  3. Violating provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

           USDA is refusing to provide copies of inspection reports of dog breeding facilities, and when they do comply with a request for such a report, USDA blackens out the entire report. These redactions completely obscure the findings of USDA inspectors and are a deliberate FOIA violation, the Department’s sole purpose being to protect inhumane puppy mills. USDA is in effect denying state officials, municipal authorities, and animal advocates the ability to ascertain whether any violations are occurring at dog breeding facilities.

           This is another effort – and the most ruthlessly effective to date – to help substandard breeders circumvent state and local laws. These redactions render such state and local laws meaningless, since state officials have no way to determine the conditions at dog breeding facilities that sell dogs to pet stores within their jurisdictions. USDA justifies its redactions by arguing that Exemption 6 of FOIA permits the government to withhold “personnel and medical files and similar files” when their disclosure “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Inspection reports of conditions at dog breeding facilities are in no way similar to “personnel and medical files.”



Tiny blue paw print bullet point   What You Can Do: Speak Out for the Animals!

Puppy mill mama       Dogs don't vote, so it is vital that YOU be their voice. The reason that USDA is relaxing their efforts is a simple one: Pressure is being exerted on them by puppy- millers and other agricultural interest groups. It is crucial that we drownout the voices of the puppy- millers and make sure our government officials know both that we care about animals and that we vote! Let them know that you will not tolerate the government turning a blind eye to cruelty.

       Please contact U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue! Please tell Secretary Perdue to stop covering up abuses at puppy mills and conspiring with the dog breeding industry to circumvent state and local laws. Make Secretary Perdue aware of the fact that his Agency is committing gross malfeasance and criminal acts in furtherance of its practice of aiding and abetting cruel dog breeders. Insist that Secretary Perdue direct inspectors to stop falsifying federal documents and to stop concealing material facts in order to hide substandard conditions at puppy mills from public scrutiny.

 pawprint bullet point   Phone: (202) 720-3631   pawprint bullet point   email    pawprint bullet point

       Then contact USDA'S Deputy Administrator of Animal Care Bernadette Juarez. Deputy Administrator Juarez is the person responsible for USDA's efforts to cover up abuses in order to keep the public in the dark about neglect at puppy mills. Ms. Juarez believes that she is helping the industry by covering up for inhumane breeders. Please tell Ms. Juarez that if she sincerely wants to improve the image of the dog breeding industry, she needs to rid the industry of the bad breeders. Let her know that aiding and abetting bad breeders not only hurts the animals but blemishes the image of the entire industry.

 pawprint bullet point   Phone: (301) 851-2735   pawprint bullet point   email    pawprint bullet point

       We also need you to reach out to your federal legislators. It is crucially important that our lawmakers press federal agriculture department personnel to perform their official duties and effectively enforce the animal welfare laws that have been passed by the U.S. Congress. To find your elected officials, please click here: To find your US Senator, please click here.

       Your phone calls, emails, and letters to public officials assuredly DO make a difference. Please don't let the animals down!

[Editor's Note: We know that feelings run high when talking about animal abuse in puppy mills. As always, we urge you PLEASE to be respectful and courteous! Name-calling, and rude or abusive letters will hurt, rather than help, our cause. ]



 pawprint bullet point   Additional info on USDA/ Animal Welfare Act:



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Articles ©2018 , The Alliance Speaks, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation,. Reprinted with Permission.
Teddy Photo © Copyright, 2007, Carol Sumbry; Midwest Italian Greyhound Rescue. Used by Permission.

Mill Photos © Copyright F. Menish. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
Thorp Photos Copyright 2007, by the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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