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Chicago Animal Welfare Group Applauds New Puppy Mill Regulations

A puppy mill. (File Photo Credit: Humane Society of the United States)

A puppy mill. (File Photo Credit: Humane Society of the United States)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A local group that’s been working to put puppy mills out of business applauds a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to impose restrictions on breeders who sell dogs on the Internet.

“This is fantastic,” says Cari Meyers, the president and founder of “The Puppy Mill Project,” based in Chicago.

Her group has been lobbying hard for regulations like the ones announced on Tuesday because of the explosion of unscrupulous, online pet breeders, many of whom operate so-called puppy mills, where dogs are raised in substandard, unhealthy and abusive conditions.

“These people will put a picture of a darling puppy on the internet, however you don’t know if you’re going to get the same puppy. You know more about a car when you buy a car.”

USDA inspectors found dirty, bug-infested conditions at many breeding facilities and cited numerous reports of buyers who received animals who were sick or dying. The new rules would require that people who sell pets on the internet, by phone or by mail order no longer do it sight unseen.

The USDA says the idea behind the new regulations is that either government inspectors or buyers will now see the animals with their own eyes before they are sold or purchased. Meyers says up until now, that’s been a major flaw with the Animal Welfare Act.

“There’s this loophole in the act that exempted internet sellers from any type of regulations. Prior to today, you could go on the internet and you can sell anything. You could sell a six headed dog.”

Now these people are going to come under the same scrutiny as other breeders. They’re going to have to answer to somebody. Somebody’s going to be minding the store, which has never happened before.”

Meyers is concerned about whether the USDA will have enough resources and inspectors to keep breeders honest. That’s been a problem in the past, she says, with enforcement of other animal welfare laws.

Not every animal group likes the new regulations. The American Kennel Club says it’s disappointed with the USDA’s action and calls the new regulations overly broad. In a statement, AKC says it shares the USDA’s concern about unscrupulous and substandard puppy sellers but is worried about the impact the tougher regulations will have on small, hobby breeders and others who are playing by the rules.

The USDA says those “hobby breeders” will continue to be exempt from the department’s regulations. Licenses for everyone else will cost $750 and USDA says complying with the new rules should only be expensive for breeders who are not already providing animals with basic needs, shelter and proper care.