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USDA/APHIS - Breeder Licensing Rules Changes - Comments and Information. print email

USDA Request for comment – what does it mean for STCA Breeders and Rescue.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published a proposed rule change that would expand the USDA licensing requirements for dog breeders. The intent of the change is to update regulations in light of the changes in how dogs are sold in the age of the internet and to make sure breeders are either licensed or publically accountable. 

In the old rules, breeders that sold directly to the purchaser were exempt from licensing because it was assumed that prospective owners would physically visit and see the breeding operation.  This means the breeders were ‘publically policed’, problem breeders would be ‘found out’ by visiting customers.  Large commercial breeders sold through a pet store and were required to be licensed.  

Note: Every effort has been made to make this information accurate and complete – however, it may be revised at any time and does not constitute legal advice - nor is it an official STCA statement.

With the internet, more customers are purchasing pets directly from the breeder, but without visiting the breeding facility, so the ‘public policing’ aspect is gone. In addition, a commercial breeder who sells directly (via the internet) instead of through a pet store, is not required to be licensed – so they are neither licensed or visited by the public. 

The intent of the proposed rule changes is to fix that so that direct-sales commercial breeders will be required to be licensed while maintaining the exemption for small, dedicated purebred breeders.

However, as proposed, the rule changes goes beyond the desired scope:

  • It will likely require licensing of small, dedicated breeders, such as STCA breeders, even those recognized by the AKC as Breeders of Merit.  This is because the rules are not based on quantity or quality of breeding, but simply on the sales process and the number of “breeding females” that may be present (even if not actively bred). 
  • These changes will also impact Rescue in a significant and likely negative way.

It is important that the USDA hear from quality purebred breeders and rescue to get appropriate changesmade so these rules achieve the intent behind the rules and avoid negative unintended consequences.
Comments must be received at USDA by July 16, 2012.
Comments can be submitted at: 


 or at:


Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS,

Station 3A–03.8,

4700 River Road Unit 118,

Riverdale, MD 20737–1238


Here are some aspects of the rules that are problematic and must be addressed.

  • Physical visit rule.  Each and every sale must include a physical visit by the purchaser to the breeder’s site. 
    • Even one case where the purchaser does not physically visit the breeder’s facility will trigger a requirement for a license.
    • Rescue: this will mean every and every placement requires a visit to the foster home.
    • Requiring physical visit for each and every sale is overreaching.
  • Four Breeding Bitches rule.  If you have more than 4 breed(able) bitches, you will require a license.
    • Breeding bitches is not defined. If a litter of puppies includes females, and you keep some past 6 months, they will likely be considered ‘breeding bitches’- even if they are just awaiting homes.
    • Co-ownership is not addressed. If you co-own a bitch that resides at another location – she may be counted in your “four.”
    • Rescue: this means that breeders cannot be involved in fostering rescue does in any way. If they do so – they will loose their exemption because they are placing/selling a dog they did not breed.
  • Every dog you sell must be bred by you or you must be licensed.
    • What if you receive a “pay-back” puppy and sell it. Since you did not breed it, you will require a license.
    • Rescue: Breeders must not be involved in rescue fostering.

For those wanting more information- the examples on the following pages provide more detail.  Watch the STCA website for more information on this.

More Detail.

The following explains, in more detail, just some of the impacts of the new rules as proposed.  Proposed or example responses and rule changes are being worked on by numerous organizations and will be provided later.

Important note:  The proposed USDA Rules refer to a “Retail Pet Stores”.  STCA Breeders may think “I’m not a retail pet store, so I don’t care”.  That is incorrect.  For the purpose of the old and new rules, you are a retail pet store and you want to remain one because retail pet stores are exempt from licensing.  These rule changes may make it so you are not a retail pet store, thus you must have a license.

As proposed – the rules will impact STCA Breeders in at least the following ways.

  1. If you have more than 4 “Breeding Bitches” present, you will be required to get a license.
    • The definition of breeding bitches is unclear, but probably any intact female 6 months or older will be counted, even if you have no intention of breeding them.
    • Example: You have a litter of puppies with 4 females and, for whatever reason, keep them till age 6 months (maybe for show evaluation, maybe because you have not found an appropriate home).  Assuming you have their mother, you are over 4 and must be licensed.  Even if you never intend to breed the puppies and are in the process of selling them,
      • The 6 month old puppies will be counted as breeding bitches and you will be required to get a license.
    • Example: You have a female you want to show in conformation. After Championship, you plan on placing the bitch.
      • She will be considered one of the “Breeding Bitches” in your kennel and you will be required to get a license.
    • Example: You maintain co-ownership of a puppy you place, so you can show them to championship.
      • She may be considered one of the “Breeding Bitches” in your kennel and you will be required to get a license.
  2. Co-ownership is not clearly considered:
    • What if you co-own an intact female.  Will that co-owned female be considered a “Breeding bitch” on you site for the purposes of this rule?   The rule does not consider this.
    • Example:  You have 4 intact females in your You co-own another that is located in another home. 
      •  Do you need a license?  Which owner is the bitch counted for.
  3. Physical Visit Rules.  The new rules require that the purchaser of each and every puppy/dog physically visit the breeding facility either prior to purchase or when they pick up the puppy.
    • The intent of this rule is to assure somebody (the purchasing public in this case) sees the breeding facility. However, requiring each and every purchase to include a site visit is overreaching.
    • Example: Perhaps a repeat buyer who lives a distance away, somebody who has purchased a puppy from you before, wants another puppy. They may (often do) trust the breeder to pick an appropriate puppy and send the puppy or meet them
      • If the purchaser does not physically visit your home, even in one case, you will be required to get a license.
    • Example:  Perhaps a purchaser trusts a neighboring friend or breeder to pick out the puppy for them – and does not
      • Since the actual purchaser does not visit (only the friend does), you will be required to get a license.
    • Example: Perhaps the purchaser lives a long ways away and you meet at a central location with multiple puppies and they pick out the one they want.
      • Because the purchaser did not visit your house, you will be required to get a license – even though they saw multiple puppies.
  4. The new rules require you breed every dog you sell
    • Many breeders receive “pay back puppies” in lieu of stud fees. They did not breed that puppy, so if they sell it they are selling a puppy they did not breed.  
    • In addition, in this case, the purchaser may visit your facility, but they are not visiting the breeding facility.
      • Because you did not breed the puppy and the purchaser did not visit the breeder, you may be required to get a license.
    • What about the ‘breeder’ of the payback puppy.
      • If you did not visit their home when you picked up the puppy (even though you probably have very high confidence in them), they may be required to get a license.

Note: The STCA recommends that you visit the breeder when you purchase a puppy.  So, in concept, the STCA is in line with the rules.  However, the ‘each and every time’ aspect of the rule is too extreme and will have unintended consequences.

Rescue impact

In addition to impacting small, quality, breeders, the new rules will impact Rescue Organizations in a significant way. Indeed – it may put rescue out of business.

APHIS was quite clear in the “Stakeholders Conference Call” on the need to regulate rescue. 
Rescue will likely not get an exemption!

  1. Breeder site visit requirement – Rescue Impact.
    • Rescue often utilizes local members of an organization to meet and to a home visit for a potential new home for a rescued dog. They approve the home and the rescue is shipped to the new home.  The “purchaser” never visits the foster home and certainly not the breeder.
      • To avoid being required to get a license, rescues would need to insure that each and every adopter/purchaser visits the foster home or shelter where the dog has been housed. If the purchaser did not, the foster home would require a license.
      • This requirement may cause many foster homes to drop out.
  2. Selling a dog you did not breed – Rescue Impact
    • Any breeder who is exempt under the “4 breeding females or less” cannot foster rescues in any way because of the requirement that every dog places/sold must be raised on their premises and out of one of their bitches.
    • This factor alone may be the death knell of rescues done by breed clubs.