USDA raises standards for puppy mill imports

Dog lovers and animal welfare workers are celebrating new federal rules intended to bring an end to what the head of the Humane Society of the United States calls the “appalling abuse” of sick and very young puppies imported into the U.S. from overseas puppy mills.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has finalized changes to the Animal Welfare Act to include regulations that require foreign breeders to meet stronger health and safety standards for their pups.

Under the new rules, the pooches must be at least six months old, vaccinated and in good health.

The rules were approved Friday, just before a flood of young and possibly sick, malnourished and mistreated puppies were expected to hit the U.S. market, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

After the new rules were finalized, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the society, said in a statement:

“With the advent of global commerce — and what we’ve seen in the form of trade with exotic animals, ivory and rhino horn and factory farming — this ban comes just in time to prevent a massive influx of puppy mill dogs from China, eastern Europe and Mexico.”

According to Pacelle, every year thousands of puppies suffer “appalling abuse” when they’re crowded into filthy tubs with little or no food and water, put into the cargo holds of airliners and flown on multi-hour flights to the U.S.

It’s a terrifying and exhausting ordeal for the little dogs. And, according to the society, a large number of those puppies get sick and die.

Pacelle said the new rules are a long-awaited victory for the society and dog lovers:

“It took six years for the USDA to finalize the rule implementing the ban, but today we have a strong outcome on the issue and will finally stem the tide of sick puppies coming into U.S. airports.”

The new rules take effect in 90 days.  They follow another set of restrictions put in place nearly a year ago, which were also intended to protect puppies.

Last September, the USDA set new rules that said organizations that sell puppies over the Internet must adhere to the requirements set forth in the federal  Animal Welfare Act.

The act — signed into law nearly 50 years ago — regulates the treatment of animals, mandates federal licensing and inspection requirements,  establishes standards for transporting animals and sets other rules.

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