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AKC urges USDA to make important changes to AWA

New York, NY - The American Kennel Club (AKC) is urging the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make important enhancements to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that will improve the enforcement of the AWA and the overall welfare of purebred dogs.

In a letter to USDA Secretary Ann Veneman the AKC urged the USDA to:

· Close a loophole in the small breeder exemption in current regulations.

The small breeder exemption exempts persons from licensing requirements if they maintain three or fewer breeding females. However, some individuals have argued that they are not required to be licensed even when they keep more than three breeding females on the premises so long as any single member of the household does not own more than three. This practice is not in keeping with the intent of the act and regulations should be clarified to apply to the premises, regardless of ownership.

· Strengthen the authority of the USDA to deny licenses to unsuitable applicants.

USDA should be allowed to deny a license application to a person who has violated any federal, state, or local law or regulations relating to animal cruelty, neglect, or welfare OR who would be operating in circumvention of those laws OR who has provided false information to any government agency. USDA also needs explicit authority to deny a license application or renewal during the period when an applicant's license is under suspension.

· Make it harder for dealers to operate illegally.

USDA should prohibit Class B Dealers-persons who buy and sell dogs they have not bred and raised-from knowingly obtaining dogs from persons who are required to be licensed and are not licensed. The agency should also require Class B dealers who obtain dogs from persons who are exempt from the licensing requirements of AWA regulations to obtain a certification from that person stating the basis on which they are exempt.

"These simple changes will dramatically improve enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act
and prevent unscrupulous dealers from manipulating the system," said Noreen Baxter,
AKC's Vice President of Public Education and Canine Legislation. "The AKC looks
forward to working closely with the USDA to implement these changes that we believe will
ultimately protect the welfare of all dogs as well as the dog-purchasing public."