Dog and Cat Clubs Tell Uncle Sam to Scat
(CN) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture illegally and arbitrarily is requiring "tens of thousands of dog and cat breeders" to get licenses and submit to unannounced inspections and the costs of complying with "new structural and sanitation standards," dozens of dog and cat clubs claim in court.
Forty dog clubs - and two cat clubs - led by the Associated Dog Clubs of New York State, sued the USDA in District of Columbia Federal Court.
More cats than dogs are kept as pets in the United States, according to the Humane Society: 95.6 million cats and 83.3 million dogs.
Forty-seven percent of U.S. households have at least one dog, and 46 percent have at least one cat, according to the Humane Society.
Why 40 of the 42 plaintiff clubs are dog breeders, and only two represent cats, is a poser. Possibly it's because dogs and dog owners are clubbier than cats and cat people.
Whatever the reason, the clubs challenge "The Retail Pet Store Rule," 9 CFR Parts 1-3, which took effect on Nov. 18. The regulation was promulgated under the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2131 et seq.
The rule originally was aimed at large breeders who sell over the Internet, but was expanded to include all breeders, including "small-scale breeders," i.e., the members of the plaintiff clubs, "without any support for doing do," according to the complaint.
According to the dog clubs' lawsuit: "The Rule radically changes, without justification, 47 years of USDA's regulatory oversight of retail pet stores. Specifically, the Rule redefines 'retail pet store' to potentially require tens of thousands of dog and cat breeders throughout the United States, including members of plaintiffs, to obtain licenses, to subject their residences to unannounced, on-site inspections, to incur substantial costs to comply with new structural and sanitation standards, to risk the health and lives of their dogs and cats from exposure to the deadly Parvovirus, Panleukopenia, and other diseases, and to place their personal safety at risk by opening their residences to strangers."
The clubs claim that when Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act in 1966, it "specifically exempted retail pet stores" from the Act's licensing and inspection requirements.
"Although Congress has amended the AWA several times since its passage, Congress has not changed or narrowed the AWA's exemption of retail pet stores," the complaint states. "By promulgating a regulation instead of seeking a statutory solution in Congress, the USDA has circumvented congressional intent. Moreover, the Rule's redefinition of 'retail pet store' is inconsistent with the required record that was developed to justify the Rule."
The USDA estimated that the rule would affect 2,600 to 4,640 breeders, the dog clubs say - an estimate that is way off base.
"In fact, as was noted in the comments, the Rule potentially affects tens of thousands of breeders, including the almost 19,000 members of the 42 plaintiffs, located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Significantly, the clubs and registries comprised by plaintiffs represent less than 1 percent of the dog and cat clubs and registries in the United States, yet the cumulative number of plaintiff members alone is four times the maximum number of breeders that APHIS [the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] estimated would be potentially affected."
The dog clubs want the rule declared invalid and enjoined as arbitrary and capricious, inconsistent with the AWA, exceeding the jurisdiction of the USDA, and a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.
The clubs are represented by Philip Hecht.
The Humane Society criticized the lawsuit in a statement, and said it plans to "intervene in the lawsuit and join the government in defending the common-sense regulation."
The Humane Society said that the rule was enacted to crack down on "large-scale puppy mills." The statement said that the rule "closed the regulatory loophole" that let puppy mills sells abused dogs online without oversight.
The Humane Society statement did not address the dog clubs' objection that the rule indiscriminately affects back-yard breeders.
Here are the plaintiffs: Associated Dog Clubs of New York State, Inc; Australian Shepherd Club of America; American Dog Breeders Association, Inc.; Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders; California Federation of Dog Clubs; Albany Kennel Club, Inc.; Albany Obedience Club, Inc.; Allpurrs Cattery; American Fox Terrier Club; American Pomeranian Club; American Russell Terrier Club; Belgian Sheepdog Club of America; Cat Fanciers Legislative Group; Charlottesville-Albemarle Kennel Club; Chattanooga Kennel Club;; Chihuahua Club of America; Cleveland Collie Club; Colonial Newfoundland Club; Columbia Poodle Club of Oregon and Southwest Washington; Dachshund Club of Greater Buffalo; Dachshund Fanciers of Central Virginia; Eagle Rock Kennel Club, Inc.; Erie Canal Schipperke Club; Goldendoodle Association of North America;; Huron Valley Australian Shepherd Association; International Bengal Cat Society; International Shiloh Shepherd Dog Club; Kennel Club of Palm Springs; Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of America; Minuteman Samoyed Club, Inc.; Mississippi Canine Coalition, Inc.; Northland Newfoundland Club; Potomac Bassett Hound Club; Saratoga (NY) Kennel Club, Inc.; Schenectady Dog Training Club; Shawangunk Kennel Club, Inc.; Shetland Sheepdog Club of Western New York; Society for the Perpetuation of Desert Bred Salukis; Syracuse Obedience Training Club; Tri Valley Shetland Sheepdog Club of Northwest Los Angeles; Weimaraner Club of the Washington DC Area; and the Working Australian Shepherd Club of Upstate New York.