The USDA has proposed a revision of regulations implementing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to redefine "retail pet store." The proposed rule would expand the number and type of animal breeding and husbandry facilities subject to licensure, inspection and recordkeeping under AWA. While the rule appears to be focused on pet breeders, farmers and ranchers could also be impacted.

As it is written, if a farmer or breeder sells even one animal as a "pet" in a situation where the buyer does not come to their home, farm or place of business, they must become USDA licensed. A farmer selling an animal for purposes such as 4-H projects could potentially come under the impact of the rule.

In addition to the requirement that dealers obtain a USDA license – with annual costs between $30 and $750 – licensed dealers are also subject to regulatory requirements for standards of care and unannounced warrantless inspections by APHIS personnel.

APHIS is authorized to seek civil monetary penalties for violations of animal care standards of up to $10,000 per day, per animal. Under certain circumstances, APHIS may also seize animals or work with state and local authorities to seize animals.

While livestock used for food production are not included in this rule, it potentially does present an opportunity for APHIS inspectors to gain access to agricultural operations, which is unprecedented.


The Animal Agriculture Alliance encourages farmers and ranchers to educate themselves on the issue and take action.

Comments on this proposed rule have been extended by USDA until Aug. 15. Click here to comment. PD

—From Animal Agriculture Alliance news release