Pet Animal Welfare Statue (P.A.W.S.)
Congressman Jim Gerlach introduced legislation in the 109th Congress calling for regulation of breeders who deal in the large-scale, direct distribution of pets. Called the Pet Animal Welfare Statue, or P.A.W.S for short, Congressman Gerlach's legislation targets the the unregulated breeders who too often operate facilities that are far-below the acceptable standard of care for pets.
“This is a horrendous situation that has gone unresolved for far too long,” Congressman Jim Gerlach said. “These large-scale breeders and distributors need to abide by the same safety standards and levels of decency that other breeders abide by. This is a tremendous problem in Pennsylvania, and I’m hopeful that this legislation will see a speedy approval process in the House and in the Senate where Sen. Rick Santorum has introduced identical legislation.”
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) contains provisions that distinguish between those who sell at retail and those who sell at wholesale, regulating only those who sell at wholesale. In the past this regulatory construct was sufficient because large commercial breeders and dealers could only sell their animals by selling them wholesale, which meant they were subject to the AWA. Commercial retailers at that time were small and subject to consumer scrutiny because consumers could inspect the premises when they purchased the dog or cat.
The advent of the Internet and mass marketing techniques however has changed forever the consumers’ ability to “know” what he or she is actually purchasing from a large scale operation. The absence of regulatory oversight has allowed too many of these large direct sellers to operate facilities that are far below the acceptable standard of care for pets.
Congressman Gerlach’s legislation would address this problem by regulating these large commercial direct sale operations. P.A.W.S. would:
• require a United States Department of Agriculture license for breeders who breed seven or more litters of dogs or cats a year;
• regulate dealers, including those operating through the Internet, who sell more than 25 dogs or cats a year;
• regulate anyone who imports dogs or cats, including retail pet stores, the exception being individuals who import the animals for their own use and enjoyment;
• force retail pet stores to make source records available to the Secretary of the USDA upon request, giving the USDA the ability to identify entities that should be licensed;
• extend the temporary suspension period from 21 to 60 days so the USDA has more time to act;
• provide the USDA Secretary with the authority to seek injunctions in the United States District Court to have USDA attorneys represent the Secretary in court; and,
• Give the USDA Secretary the authority to seek an injunction for entities that should be licensed but are not – currently the Secretary can only seek an injunction if the entity is dealing in stolen animals or is placing the health of animals in serious danger.
“This legislation is about placing the proper restrictions and regulations on an industry that is now seriously lacking,” Rep. Gerlach said. “This is not about hindering or regulating those individuals – hobbyists and pet owners – who have and treat their pets with respect. This is about the individuals and companies in this business whose only motivation is profit and not the fair and humane treatment of animals.”
PAWS legislation discussed in Chester County