Congressman Charlie Crist (D-FL) joined fellow members of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Glenn 'G.T.' Thompson (R-PA), in introducing bipartisan legislation promoting the welfare and improving living conditions of commercially-bred dogs. The Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act (HR 1002) would protect dogs from unscrupulous breeders by amending the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit issuance of licenses to canine dealers who are connected to animal abuse. Specifically, the WOOF Act seeks to bar the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from licensing individuals or shell companies closely acquainted with dealers who have previously had their licenses suspended or revoked. Reps. Crist and Fitzpatrick led on the WOOF Act (HR 4691) in the 115th Congress.
"Proud to join with Rep. Fitzpatrick again on the bipartisan WOOF Act, closing existing loopholes to better protect puppies and dogs from abuse," said Congressman Crist. "We must care for all of God's creatures, working together to promote animal welfare."
"As a society, it is crucial that we protect the welfare of animals. That means strengthening important regulations under the Animal Welfare Act to protect dogs from abuse and neglect," said Congressman Fitzpatrick. "I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation with Representatives Crist, Thompson and McGovern to protect a species which serves as an invaluable partner in law enforcement, our military, and as service animals."
"Licensed dog breeders need to know there are real consequences for animal abuse and violations of the Animal Welfare Act," said Congressman McGovern. "Right now, breeders who are found in violation can just create a shell company or transfer their license to a family member, putting the health and safety of animals at risk. I'm proud to join this bipartisan group to give teeth to our animal welfare laws and hold unscrupulous dog breeders accountable."
"Too often unscrupulous individuals are abusing animals and making a profit," Congressman Thompson said. "This bill will strengthen protections and ensure canine dealers who have been charged with abuse will not be able to continue working in the industry. We must protect dogs from dishonest and abusive individuals who have no place working with animals. I thank my colleagues for their commitment to this cause."
The USDA regulates federally licensed commercial dog breeders that sell dogs wholesale to retail pet stores and commercial brokers, or directly to consumers over the Internet under the Animal Welfare Act. While the Animal Welfare Act is meant to ensure dogs in federally licensed facilities are treated humanely, the current regulations fall far short. The WOOF Act prohibits those who have violated the Animal Welfare Act from using loopholes to continue selling animals commercially.
The WOOF Act will not impact family pets, livestock, or hobbyist breeders.
What They're Saying About the WOOF Act:
"Last year, USDA licensed breeders sold at least 1 million puppies to families searching for a beloved pet. Consumers should be able to trust that these breeders have met minimum standards of care under the Animal Welfare Act, but many have been cited for severe violations," said Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "Just as we wouldn't continue to license a driver who repeatedly threatened the lives of pedestrians or other drivers, we shouldn't license a breeder who repeatedly endangers the animals in their care. We applaud Representatives Fitzpatrick, Crist, Thompson, and McGovern for reintroducing the WOOF Act to hold USDA licensees accountable."
"The WOOF Act will help will help ensure that breeders found in violation of the Animal Welfare Act will no longer be able to continue business as usual," said Richard Patch, vice president of federal affairs for the ASPCA. "Dogs in federally licensed facilities often spend their entire lives in filthy, crowded cages stacked on top of one another with no access to adequate veterinary care or regular exercise. Even when a breeder's license is revoked for violating the notoriously weak federal standards, they can continue breeding animals by hiding their business under a family member's name. We thank Representatives Fitzpatrick, Crist, Thompson and McGovern for their continued leadership on the WOOF Act and call upon USDA to ensure the thorough and proper enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act."
"Dog dealers who have had their licenses suspended or revoked may enlist others to engage in deception in order to continue to abuse animals for profit," said Nancy Blaney, Director of Government Affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute. "Thanks to Reps. Fitzpatrick, Crist, Thompson, and McGovern, dealers who are shut down will stay shut down."