Since 2002, Crowell & Moring, a large Washington, DC-based law firm, has been providing much needed pro bono lobbying services to the Companion Animal Protection Society. After the well-known “Dateline” expose, which CAPS generated, aired in the spring of 2000, we received a call from Jonathan Finn in the Boston area. Finn, who wanted to join CAPS, mentioned that his cousin, Ed Green, Of Counsel at Washington DC-based Crowell & Moring, might be able to assist us in our ongoing efforts to bring about change by USDA with respect to the agency’s inspection of puppy mills. Crowell & Moring accepted CAPS as a pro bono client. We feel very blessed to be working with Mr. Green, a long-time lawyer with significant lobbying experience, and a team of young lawyers.
Here are some of the important issues we will be discussing with USDA officials during meetings in Washington, DC next year:
CAPS is celebrating a major victory – one we have been working toward for many years! We hope that as a result of this victory, USDA’s APHIS/Animal Care, the division that oversees the inspection of thousands of federally licensed dog and cat breeding and brokering facilities, will implement significant changes with respect to enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
In late May, the Office of Inspector General for USDA released a scathing 69-page report for an audit and investigation conducted between 2006 and 2008. This audit and investigation was prompted by a meeting that CAPS and Crowell & Moring attorneys had with OIG officials in May 2006.
As a member of CAPS, you are well aware that the USDA has been very negligent in its enforcement of AWA regulations with respect to commercial dog breeders and brokers. USDA APHIS/Animal Care uses inspectors, including veterinarians, to conduct “unannounced” inspections of federally licensed dog breeders and brokers who supply puppies to the pet shop industry.
CAPS has been investigating the USDA’s failure to enforce the AWA since 1995, and with the assistance of Crowell & Moring, has been lobbying members of Congress for oversight hearings regarding USDA’s lax enforcement of the AWA.
In the last 15 years, CAPS has been to approximately 1,000 puppy mills, most of them USDA licensed, often comparing our findings to those of the USDA inspectors. You can read some of our detailed reports and view photographs and undercover footage on our website under Investigations.
For many years, CAPS has been working hard to ensure that APHIS pursue egregious and repeat violators of the AWA. Many of the recommendations that CAPS has advocated for years are apparently being addressed in the current APHIS initiative – increased program oversight, focused enforcement of federally-licensed facilities with an emphasis on repeat violators, more inspectors and better training for inspectors, consistent and effective inspection guidance and documentation of violations, better transparency, and enhanced stakeholder involvement.
Ongoing investigations of USDA licensed puppy mills are imperative in order to provide evidence of serious violations of the AWA that aren’t being documented by Animal Care inspectors.
Kathy Bauck License Termination
We also plan to discuss the Kathy Bauck case with USDA officials. Based on evidence from a six-week CAPS employment investigation, a jury convicted Bauck, one of the largest USDA licensed dog dealers in the country, of animal cruelty in March 2009. As a result of this conviction, a USDA Judicial Officer denied Bauck’s appeal and terminated her license in December 2009. Bauck appealed this decision to the Eighth District Court of Appeals. The license termination was stayed pending Bauck’s federal court appeal, which was ultimately denied. USDA officially terminated Bauck’s license in August 2010.
It is unfortunate that Bauck was allowed to keep her license during this yearlong process. We tracked her sales during this time through interstate health certificates (most of the stores were in New York and New Jersey). After Bauck’s criminal conviction, Crowell & Moring submitted a petition for rulemaking requesting that AWA regulations be amended to require the automatic revocation of a USDA license upon the conviction in a court of law of a licensee, such as Bauck, for animal cruelty.
Although USDA claims that an automatic termination is a violation of due process, we believe that our petition put pressure on USDA to use the expedited means of a Motion for Summary Judgment to terminate Bauck’s license.
CAPS will continue to keep an eye on Kathy Bauck. Her husband Alan applied for a USDA license using a kennel name. The USDA denied his license, so he has appealed. In addition, Kathy Bauck signed health certificates in May as the agent for a USDA licensed breeder in Minnesota. This breeder was selling to most of Bauck’s pet shop accounts (odd coincidence). CAPS wants to make sure that Bauck doesn’t use other USDA licensed breeders and brokers to sell dogs.
Bauck will still be able to sell dogs on the Internet. The Animal Welfare Act does not cover Internet breeders. However, if proposed legislation in Minnesota requiring state kennel licenses is passed, those convicted of animal cruelty and their business associates will be banned from obtaining a license.
Interstate Health Certificates
Over the years, CAPS has examined thousands of interstate health certificates, mostly to track the shipment of puppy mill dogs from brokers and breeders to pet shops.
Here are the issues and recommendations we plan to discuss with USDA regarding health certificates:
Only USDA licensees should be listed as the consignors (not their relatives, agents, employees, etc); they should be required to list their USDA number.
The USDA number for the breeder of each puppy (if exempt, then their name and address) should be listed on the certificates immediately after each puppy. Since brokers ship most puppies going to pet shops, there is no quick way to ascertain the breeders who sold the puppies listed on the health certificates.
Clarification is greatly needed for pet shops that have dealer licenses. One USDA APHIS official said a pet shop doesn’t need a license to purchase its own dogs, yet another person at APHIS told one of our Minnesota Advisory Board members, they do. Why then do some of these larger pet shops have B (broker) licenses? Others, such as the large Chicago area-based Happiness is Pets chain, the target of CAPS protests, don’t have a federal license, yet they can transport dogs across state lines without any inspections. Why should they be exempt from interstate transportation requirements?
Certain pet shops in Florida aren’t using the interstate health certificates appropriately – for example, the owner of a pet shop chain in the Orlando area is listed as the consignor on interstate health certificates, yet he has the B license under his pet shop name. He never uses a street address, just a town and state (Missouri).
His half-sister, the owner of another well-known Florida pet shop lists her booking agent as the consignor and her pet shop as the consignee. If she is brokering her own dogs, then we can’t trace the source of the puppies (this may be why she has a B license). If someone has a Missouri kennel license and busy within the state, there is no way to track the source of these puppies. We believe that there should be intrastate health certificates for puppies shipped within a state. Both pet shop owners have a Missouri kennel license.
Animal Welfare Act Regulations
The definitions of revocation, termination and cancellation must be clearly defined. We discovered after the USDA terminated Bauck’s license in December 2009, that this termination is good for only two years. USDA informed us that termination is used for licensees who are convicted of animal cruelty, such as Kathy Bauck. However, if USDA conducts the investigation, then they can use a revocation, which is indefinite. When USDA subpoenaed all of the evidence from our Bauck investigation, we thought they were going to conduct their own investigation. Sadly, they did not.
Surgical procedures and euthanasia should be clearly defined and banned under the regulations. Merely saying that USDA follows AVMA guidelines and/or issuing a one-time policy letter isn’t sufficient.
USDA APHIS Inspection Reports
Inventory Sheets should be required for APHIS inspection reports and be published on the APHIS website. We need to know the number of animals at every USDA-licensed facility.
License Renewal Applications
The information on USDA license renewal forms, such as number of animals purchased, number of animals sold, total gross dollars breeders and brokers derived from activities (e.g., sales, booking fees, commissions) should not be redacted from Freedom of Information Act requests