Changes To The Animal Welfare Act That May Affect You

By Fred Fanning

In September 2013 the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) released the final version of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). “The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and its corresponding regulations, regulate the transportation, purchase, sale, housing, care, handling and treatment of animals intended for use in research, in animal exhibitions, or as pets. This AWA was enacted to ensure the humane care and treatment of animals intended for these purposes” (Part 1, 2018).

The AWA protects warm-blooded animals intended as pets and includes dogs and many other warm-blooded animals. The AWA does not cover farm animals raised for the agricultural purposes. The act defines a “dealer as any person who buys or sells any dog, or negotiates the purchase or sale of any dog, for use as pets, for research or teaching purposes, or sells dogs wholesale for hunting, security or breeding” (Part 1, 2018). Dealers may require a license to breed and sell dogs. Types of Licenses include:

  • USDA Class A – Commercial breeders
  • USDA Class B – Brokers, and operators of an auction sale
  • USDA Class C – Exhibitors

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) website (2012) titled USDA/APHIS Finalizes Rule Impacting Pet Breeders “the rule changes include:

  • Increase the “retail pet store” exemption to include those maintaining four or fewer breeding females.
  • Brought internet-based pet breeders and sellers under the AWA
  • Recognizes any “sight-unseen” sale a protected activity, making the seller subject to USDA licensure and regulation.
  • Hobby/Fancy Breeders are required to use the operational standards designed for commercial-type facilities to keep their dogs.”

The Canine Chronicle (2018) provided a better explanation that said since the new rules increased the hobby breeder exemption from three to four breeding females that a person may maintain on their premises and from which they may sell offspring as pets, either at retail or wholesale, without being subject to USDA regulation. To avoid licensing the buyer must see the puppy in person before the purchase. This viewing can be done at a third location away from your home. If you have fewer than five breeding females and allow buyers to see the puppy in person before purchase, then this rule does not apply to you. If you own more than four “breeding females” and sell the offspring as pets and sell all your dogs in a face-to-face transaction, the new rules don’t apply to you either. A face-to-face transaction includes one where the seller and buyer are physically present, and the buyer has the opportunity to observe the animal before taking custody of it.

The new rules also changed the “definition of a dealer subject to USDA licensing and regulation includes any dog… for research, testing, experimentation, exhibition*, or for use as a pet, or any dog sold at the wholesale level for hunting, security or breeding purposes“. The rule seems to indicate that if you are selling a dog as a breeding prospect, to maintain bloodlines, or for hunting, working, or security, you would be exempt. If you are selling the dog as a pet, you would not be exempt” (Canine Chronicles, 2018). It is vital that the seller be able to demonstrate their purpose in selling the dog at the time of sale.

Most important for you to know is that if you have four or fewer breeding females on your premises, and you sell the pups which were born and raised on the same premises you should be exempt from licensure. I hope this short article has familiarized you with the changes in the AWA. Now you need to determine what that means to your breeding activities.


USDA/APHIS Finalizes Rule Impacting Pet Breeders .., (accessed July 05, 2018).

Breeders Stay Informed – USDA/APHIS Regulations FAQ .., (accessed July 05, 2018).

Part 1: Introduction To Aphis Animal Care And The .., (accessed July 05, 2018).