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USDA to regulate online breeders

You know those Sarah McLaughlin-narrated ads about puppy mills? The ones with the horrific pictures of dogs in unthinkable conditions? I flip the station as quickly as possible (I'm pretty sure everyone does), but her message is a good one.

Unfortunately, if you’ve purchased a dog from a pet store, online retailer or breeder who didn’t give you a tour of a clean and humane facility, there’s a good chance your pup started out life that way, and that his mom and dad are still living there.

It’s heartbreaking, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week took another step to stop it, issuing regulations that will force dog owners who breed more than four female dogs and sell puppies online to apply for federal licenses, holding them to the same standard as large-scale wholesale breeders.

The regulations are in response to a series of inspections by the USDA of breeding facilities in 2010, which found grisly conditions at many breeding facilities, including sick and dying dogs in filthy cages and worse.

The new rules force sellers to either open up their selling location to buyers for inspection, or open up to a federal inspector to obtain a license. The USDA says the rules will affect more than 4,500 dog breeders, 325 cat breeders, and about 75 breeders of domestic rabbits. So-called “hobby breeders” are exempt.

Of course, there are thousands of dogs and cats of every breed, color and age looking for their forever homes through rescues and Humane Society facilities. Food for thought.

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