The History of the Animal Welfare Act

The first law protecting animals against cruel or abusive treatment was the Twenty-Eight Hour Law of 1873. This law was intended to insure that livestock being transported to market would be rested and watered at least once every 28 hours during their journey.

In 1965 a Dalmatian named Pepper was taken from her backyard. She was seen being unloaded from the truck of a Pennsylvania animal dealers truck. She was sold to a dog dealer in New York state and then sold again to a hospital that experimented on her and then killed her. In 1966 the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act was passed. The purpose of the law was to regulate dog and cat dealers and the laboratories that purchase from them. The Act was signed by President Johnson.

In 1970 the Animal Welfare Act was enacted. This law, according to the USDA interpretation, covers warm blooded animals used in research, animals in zoos and circuses and marine parks, and to animals sold in the wholesale pet trade. Although it is the subject of disagreement, the USDA contends that the law does not cover retail petstores, game ranchers, cold blooded animals used in research, county fairs or dog shows. Puppymills came into existance after World War I when farmers had lost must of their crop to drought. The farmers simply used the chicken coops and rabbit hutches they already had for the dogs. The terrible conditions in these kennels was partially the reason why the AWA was enacted.

The Animal Welfare Act is enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture. Mike Johanns is the Secretary of Agriculture. Ron DeHaven is the Administrator for Veterinary Services. Chester Gipson is the Deputy Administrator for Animal Care. You can read about the APHIS organization in the USDA by clicking on this link.

If you would like to read the Animal Welfare Act you can download a copy here. You will need Adobe Acrobat. If you would like to read the Regulations that implement the Animal Welfare Act, you can get a copy from these links - AWA Regs 1, AWA Regs 2, AWA Regs 3

If you would like to read the list of kennels that are licensed by the USDA as breeders, you can download a copy of the list here. If you would like to read a list of the kennels that are licensed by the USDA as brokers, you can download a copy of that list here. This is the 2006 list of USDA Breeders and the 2006 list of USDA Brokers.

How does the USDA do as the agency tasked with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act.

Decide for yourself. Here are some facts:

1. The USDA Policy Statement states "Animal Care Investigators are in the best position to determine how to gain compliance at the facilities they inspect. USDA encourages the use of education and other methods of gaining compliance." This is consistent with what HUA representatives were told by Mr. Ron DeHaven (Administrator). He indicated that the USDA prefers to obtain compliance with the regulations by encouraging the kennels to comply rather than issuing citations. Additionally, he said that the Department did not have enough time or money to prosecute citations. Encouragement rather than citations! Is it any wonder that there are so many kennels that are not in compliance. HUA representatives asked to meet with the local USDA inspector and was told that would interfere with his relationship with the kennels owners so he could not meet with us to discuss our concerns. Download copies of the inspections at kennels in Lancaster County by clicking these links LC 1, LC 2, LC 3, LC 4. LC 5, LC 6, LC 7, LC 8, LC 9, LC 10, LC 11, LC 12, LC 13, LC 14, LC 15, LC 16, LC 17, LC 18, LC 19, LC 20, LC 21, LC 22, LC 23, LC 24, LC 25, LC 26, LC 27, LC 28, LC 29, LC 30, LC 31, LC 32, LC 33,

The USDA has recently made some inspection reports available on line. You can read them on their website or download them here. Report 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

One kennel inspection report lists as the only concern "PRIMARY ENCLOSURES. 3.6 a 2 i Primary enclosures must be kept in good repair and maintained so that they have no sharp points or edges that could injure the dogs. The outdoor enclosure housing two Bernese mountain dogs has chewed and bent metal on roof of shelter. The front of shelter has detached and chewed metal edging in both corners. Shelter needs to be repaired or replaced. To be corrected by: 12-1-01 Inventory: 89 dogs & 4 weaned puppies" No other concerns were noted. It appears that there were no citations issued.

These are photos of that kennel.

2. HUA has notified the USDA on many occasions about kennels that were in violation of the regulations and the USDA has failed to take action on every occasion. In two letters HUA outlined to the USDA two kennels that were selling dogs to pet stores which would require them to have a federal license. HUA provided sworn testimony from zoning hearings were the kennel owner testified that he sold to petstores and even gave the names of the pet stores. The USDA investigator visited the kennels and the kennels apparently said they did not "wholesale". It is unclear whether they didn't know what the word "wholesale" meant or they lied to the investigator. What we do know is that in spite of sworn testimony and the names of petstores that purchased the dogs, the USDA investigator walked away.

3. Section 3.2 of the Animal Welfare Regulations says "Indoor housing facilities. (a) Heating, cooling, and temperature. Indoor housing facilities for dogs and cats must be sufficiently heated and cooled when necessary to protect the dogs and cats from temperature or humidity extremes and to provide for their health and well-being. When dogs or cats are present, the ambient temperature in the facility must not fall below 50 deg. F (10 deg. C) for dogs and cats not acclimated to lower temperatures, for those breeds that cannot tolerate lower temperatures without stress or discomfort (such as short-haired breeds), and for sick, aged, young, or infirm dogs and cats, except as approved by the attending veterinarian. Dry bedding, solid resting boards, or other methods of conserving body heat must be provided when temperatures are below 50 deg. F (10 deg. C). The ambient temperature must not fall below 45 deg. F (7.2 deg. C) for more than 4 consecutive hours when dogs or cats are present, and must not rise above 85 deg. F (29.5 deg. C) for more than 4 consecutive hours when dogs or cats are present. The preceding requirements are in addition to, not in place of, all other requirements pertaining to climatic conditions in parts 2 and 3 of this chapter."

The above quoted section of the Animal Welfare Regulations requires that before certain dogs, short hair, older, small etc, can be kept in kennels where the temperatures fall below 50 degrees the kennel owner must obtain a certificate from the vet that states that the dog is acclimated to the temperatures. The USDA has proposed in it's Animal Care Strategic Direction Policy Statement to remove the requirement that the vet provide the statement and allow the kennel owner to make the statement himself. When HUA representatives asked Mr. Ron DeHaven whether USDA personnel asked to see copies of the certifications, he initially said that the regulations did not require such certification. Then when he was informed by another USDA representative that it did, they both acknowledged that the USDA did not ask to see the certifications. So little dogs with short hair were kept in outdoor kennels in the freezing winter and the USDA inspector do not even ask to see the certification from the vet. HUA sent the USDA a copy of the photo below which is a photo from 2.04 of a kennel in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. To our knowledge, the USDA did nothing. We did not receive a response from them and a week later the kennel was moved further from the road so it was not as visible. The little dogs in the kennel are Bichons. There is clearly no heat. Did a vet certify that it was acceptable to keep these little dogs in outdoor kennels when the temperatures were below 20 degrees? Or did the USDA just ignore the regulations. And, we would have to ask about the ethics of any vet that would provide such a certification. Please review the the Compassionate Vet Project to ensure that your vet would never provide services to a commercial kennel.

There are hundreds of kennels across the midwest and in Pennsylvania that do not have heat. Imagine the dachshunds, yorkies, poodles, bichons, chihuahuas, papillons, maltese, bostons and so on curled up in tiny balls desperately trying to keep warm through the miserable winters. The USDA doesn't even ask if the conditions comply with the law.

4. In the past it was the policy that Animal Care personnel conduct "unannounced" inspections at every licensed facility in the country. In 2000 under the direction of the Bush Administration the guidelines were changed to allow inspectors to notify licensees that they are en route to perform an inspection at their facility.

5. From 1989 to the present Agribusiness has been one of the most generous contributors to political campaigns with donations of 249.6 million dollars. 67% went to Republicans and 33% to Democrats. In exchange argibusiness received 180 billion dollars in subsidies. Two Congressmen who were receipts of this largess were Combest and Stenholm from Texas. It's not surprising that when the Farm Bill which included the Puppy Protection Act went to Conference Committee to work out the differences between the House and the Senate versions of the bill, they stripped out the PPA.

6. The USDA awarded a $900,000 dollar loan to the Hunte Corporation in 2001. In 2000 it awarded Hunte a 2.8 million dollar loan. These loans are backed by the US Government as part of the Rural Development Loan Proggram. Taxpayer dollars supporting one of the largest puppy brokers in the world. Given that the USDA has so much money in loans to this company, would a reasonable person expect USDA to investigate them for compliance with the AWA?

7. Section 3.1 of the AWA states: "(d) Water and electric power. The housing facility must have reliable electric power adequate for heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting, and for carrying out other husbandry requirements in accordance with the regulations in this subpart. The housing facility must provide adequate running potable water for the dogs' and cats' drinking needs, for cleaning, and for carrying out other husbandry requirements."

However the USDA manual that is given to the inspectors says

"Power must be available for:

heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, other husbandry requirements

Sources of power must be:

adequate, and reliable

Sources of power include, but are not limited to:

electric, oil/coal, natural gas, wood propane, gasoline, battery, electric generator, wind generator, solar power"

The regulations say that the there must be reliable electric power adequate for heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting but the USDA has changed the regulation by policy (which is against the law) by saying that the power must only be adequate and reliable not electric and then listiing many sources of power. Many kennels in Lancaster Country Pennsylvania use propane to heat the kennels. This has lead to at least four fires in the past couple of years in which all of the dogs have died. Most recently 89 dogs died in a fire at the kennel owned by Daniel Stoltzfus in Salisbury Township. The failure to properly enforce the regulations is endangering the dogs.

Do you think the USDA is the appropriate agency to administer the Animal Welfare Act?

You can email them at

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