The Companion Animal Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) opposes a trial filed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) which claims that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has abandoned its responsibility to hold animal breeders accountable for cruelty to animals.
Robert Likins, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Companion Animal Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), said the lawsuit, which says the USDA is not properly enforcing the Animal protection act (AWA), is unfounded.
“We at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, on behalf of the entire community responsible for pet care, appreciate and agree with the ASPCA’s assertion that animal welfare should to be at the forefront of all APHIS animal care efforts, ”Likins told PPN. “However, we strongly disagree with the ASPCA’s call for an all-or-nothing punitive approach to regulatory oversight. USDA’s focus on collaboration and education in conjunction with the app to promote compliance with [AWA] is the right way to improve animal welfare, and the ASPCA lawsuit is baseless. “
The AWA, which is administered by the USDA Animal Care, a unit of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), is a federal law that establishes requirements regarding the transportation, sale and handling of certain animals, and includes restrictions on the importation of live dogs for resale, bans on engaging in animal fights, and provisions to prevent the theft of domestic animals.
The USDA reported that in recent years it has broadened its approach to promote adherence to the AWA using “collaborative, results-based methods.” However, the ASPCA takes issue with the USDA’s approach. In a recent statement, the organization said various USDA policies direct inspectors to “ignore violations” in certain circumstances.
“If a violation is” minor, “it is an” opportune time “, not a violation,” ASPCA officials said in a statement. “If a violation is found during a ‘courtesy visit’, it is not reported. As a result, the number of reported infringements has dropped significantly in recent years. “
Likins, on the other hand, said courtesy visits were created to give regulated facilities the ability to ask for help on compliance issues or feedback on strategies and best practices to resolve issues.
“The ASPCA is pushing for citations for any observed problems, giving pastoralists seeking to improve their practices no opportunity to seek help,” Likins said. “Courtesy visits should encourage trust and information sharing for improved animal care, not alienation and fear of punishment.”
Yet the ASPCA questions the resulting decline in USDA-reported violations since the implementation of the most recent policies.
“Prior to adopting these policies, USDA inspectors recorded nearly 2,000 violations each year,” the ASPCA said. “In 2018, after these policies were formalized, the number of infractions cited in inspection reports fell to 280, and in 2020 the number fell further to just over 150.”
The decrease in infractions, however, is not necessarily a bad indication, according to Jim Seidewand, president of Pet World Inc., a pet store in Rochester, NY, and secretary of the PIJAC board of directors. In fact, it may in fact be evidence of improved animal care conditions as expected, Seidewand told PPN.
“If the goal is to improve animal care, it may rather be proof that the process is working given all the new pressures on breeders to meet higher standards,” Seidewand added. “We should follow up if individual cases weren’t prosecuted, but not blame the whole system just on the basis of declining violations. “
In the seven years of declining citations cited by the ASPCA, the landscape has changed dramatically in ways that may have resulted in fewer violations, Seidewand said. For example, laws have been passed in many states requiring stores like Pet World to submit inspection reports to potential buyers.
“This put immediate pressure on the kennels to improve and be violation free,” Seidewand said. “In addition, some states have banned sourcing from pastoralists for direct violations or more than two or three indirect violations. Our own standards were now even stricter as we had to show the reports. Breeders had blank records or were improving[d] or they couldn’t sell us puppies.
The increase in state-level standards also eliminated marginal breeders who could not bring the facilities to new, higher requirements, such as replacing two-tier kennel buildings with single-tier kennels, and the continued public scrutiny of stores selling puppies has caused it to improve even more to avoid criticism, according to Seidewand.
“It means using only the best breeders and those are the ones who have survived,” Seidewand said.
As for “learning moment” type ratings on reports, they were introduced as a good way to provide advice on how to improve in situations that do not call for an actual violation affecting the performance. animal health and care, Seidewand said.
“Some of these have already been flagged as violations because there was no other place to note them,” Seidewand added. “If our goal is to take better care of the animals, why would we discourage this type of advice on where the farmer can improve? “
Overall, Likins said the ASPCA lawsuit uses highly prejudicial language while attacking three areas of USDA’s current AWA practices: its customer service approach, response to breeders dealing with animals in care a veterinarian and courtesy visits.
Likins covered each area in detail:
- Customer Service: “USDA has taken a customer service approach in recent years, recognizing that results-oriented collaborative methods will help improve compliance, encourage adoption of best practices, and extend the impact of the work of agency, ”Likins said. “The ASPCA rejects this approach, and instead of acknowledging that this could be the reason for the significant decrease in citations of violations in recent years, they instead accuse the agency of” unlawful denial of its obligation. ” “
- Veterinary Care: “The ASPCA also proclaims that a breeder who has an animal treated by a veterinarian for illness or injury should be punished with a citation, rather than praised for ensuring the animal receives professional care. Likins said. “It’s like arresting parents for visiting a pediatrician to sprain their child’s cough or ankle during treatment on a playground – it makes no sense to punish breeders. for taking care of their animals. “
- Courtesy visits: “Offering the possibility of courtesy visits does not in any way indicate that the agency is shirking its responsibilities, and they themselves state:” We will always use our power of execution when the methods of collaboration do not. are not appropriate or effective ”. “
“The ASPCA recklessly paints all commercial breeders with the same broad brush, calling them ‘puppy mills’ in an attempt to gain public support,” Likins added. “For the community responsible for the care of pets, including responsible commercial breeders, animal care and welfare is always the top priority, and the best way to move forward and improve practices. of care is cooperation and education, supported by enforcement and punishment if necessary. “