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Public Statements

Setting the Record Straight on PAWS

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, on May 26, 2005, I introduced with my colleague Senator Durbin the Pet Animal Welfare Statute of 2005, or PAWS. PAWS amends the Animal Welfare Act to strengthen the Secretary of Agriculture's authority to deal with the problems of substandard animal dealers.

I want to make clear to our colleagues and the public that we believe the vast majority of animal dealers are conscientious persons who make every effort to treat their animals humanely and to comply with the law. But, unfortunately, there are some animal dealers who do not care properly for their animals and who seek to profit at the expense of the animals and the public. They exploit the weaknesses and loopholes in the current law to evade or ignore basic standards for the care and condition of animals. These substandard dealers give the entire pet industry a black eye, all the while preying upon the public. It is these unscrupulous animal dealers at which PAWS is targeted.

PAWS strengthens the Secretary of Agriculture's authority to deal with substandard animal dealers by making four important improvements to the Animal Welfare Act. First, it will bring under coverage of the Animal Welfare Act high volume dealers who are in every respect like those dealers currently regulated, but are evading regulation because they sell animals exclusively at retail. PAWS will continue to exempt real retail pet stores, and will add a new exemption for small dealers and hobby and show breeders. Second, PAWS will help the Secretary of Agriculture identify persons not complying with the law by requiring those who acquire animals for resale to keep records of the source from whom the animals are acquired and make these records available to the Secretary upon request. Third, PAWS will create an incentive for dealers to quickly correct serious problems by giving the Secretary authority to temporarily suspend dealers' licenses for up to 60 days if a violation is placing the health of an animal in imminent danger. Finally, PAWS will strengthen the authority of the Secretary to obtain injunctions to shut down dealers who fail to comply with the law.

The marketplace for animals has changed dramatically since the 1970s when the current animal dealer provisions of the act were written. At that time only retail pet stores and small hobby and show breeders sold pet animals, so regulating wholesale sellers and exempting persons who sold animals at retail and were regulated by the market made some sense. With the advent of the internet, mass national marketing channels, and mass importation of puppies for resale, there are a large number of unregulated dealers who are in every respect identical to the dealers regulated by the act, except that they evade regulation by selling exclusively at retail. By regulating these high volume retail sellers, we will assure that they meet the same standards for the humane care and treatment of animals that breeders and brokers selling at wholesale have been meeting for 30 years.

PAWS defines the term ``retail pet store'' so that only real retail pet stores are exempt, where customers can see the animals and the conditions where they are kept. PAWS also adds a specific exemption for small dealers and hobby and show breeders. Only persons who sell more than 25 dogs per year would be regulated. In addition, breeders who sell dogs and cats from fewer than 7 litters a year bred or raised on their own premises, or fewer than 25 dogs and cats per year bred or raised on their own premises, which ever is greater, would be exempt. For example, if an irish setter breeder has 6 litters that average 6 puppies each for a total of 36 puppies, they can sell them without being regulated. If a toy breeder has 10 litters that average only 2 puppies each for a total of 20 puppies, they can sell them without being regulated. These breeders could also sell 25 or fewer other dogs a year not bred or raised on their own premises such as stud puppies or puppies from coownerships, without being regulated. I firmly believe that the sport and hobby of breeding and raising dogs and cats should not be a federally regulated activity. PAWS will, for the first time, put an explicit exemption into the Animal Welfare Act to protect small hobby and show breeders from regulation.

Some persons who sell dogs for hunting purposes have expressed a concern that PAWS will bring them under regulation. The current Animal Welfare Act already covers persons who sell hunting dogs, and has for almost 30 years. They are regulated on the same basis as those who sell dogs for pets. PAWS will continue to regulate sellers of hunting dogs on the same basis as those who sell dogs as pets. Only high volume sellers who exceed the exemptions set forth in PAWS will be subject to regulation.

Some rescue and shelter organizations have expressed concern that because they often charge an adoption fee to those who adopt the dogs they place, these organizations will fall within the definition of ``dealers'' in PAWS and be regulated. True rescue and shelter organizations who do not sell dogs or cats in commerce, for profit, will not be brought under regulation by PAWS, whether or not they are formally incorporated as not for profit organizations.

Some high volume dealers in cats and dogs who will be brought under coverage of the Animal Welfare Act by PAWS, but who are still small enough that they breed and raise dogs or cats in essentially a residential environment, have expressed concern that they will be forced to build kennels and catteries and will no longer be able to raise animals in a residential environment. There is nothing in PAWS, or in the current Animal Welfare Act, that precludes persons from breeding and raising animals in a residential setting, provided the animals are properly housed and cared for. In implementing PAWS, the Secretary of Agriculture will have to assure that the animal care regulations take into account breeders and dealers who conduct their operations in a residential setting.

I want to make clear that PAWS is a very different piece of legislation than the bills that Senator Durbin and I have introduced in previous Congresses. PAWS does not require or justify creating any new animal care standards, like our previous legislation did. It focuses only on bringing under regulation high volume commercial dealers currently evading regulation and on strengthening the Secretary of Agriculture's ability to identify and bring into compliance high volume dealers who are not in compliance with existing law or, as a last resort, shut them down.

Senator Durbin and I in the Senate, along with our colleagues Representatives GERLACH and FARR who have introduced PAWS in the House of Representatives, consulted with a broad array of animal interest and animal welfare groups in creating PAWS. We believe that the enactment of PAWS will be a major milestone in the history of animal protection in the United States. We are delighted that it has brought together animal interest groups and animal welfare groups that in the past have often been on opposite sides of animal legislation, including our own past bills. Having said that, no legislation is perfect when introduced. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition and General Legislation, which has jurisdiction over PAWS, I intend to convene a hearing and mark-up of PAWS shortly after the August recess to make technical corrections, and to clarify some of the bill's language to better reflect our intentions as set forth in this statement.

PAWS is not intended to restrict breeding or impose a hardship on rescue and shelter organizations. PAWS specifically recognizes the importance of protecting small breeders and the noncommercial purebred dog and cat fancy from Federal regulation. My family and I purchased our beloved German shepherd dog Schatzie from a small breeder. We and Schatzie raised a litter of puppies in our own home last year, and fully understand the hard work and commitment that it requires. I also know that most commercial breeders are dedicated to their profession and to their animals. I believe that PAWS will protect small hobby and show breeders and the vast majority of compliant commercial breeders as well as the public from those breeders and brokers who evade or fail to comply with the law. And, most importantly, it will protect the animals themselves. I urge my colleagues and all those in the animal welfare community to join us in this effort.

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