Government Agency Demonstrates Once Again How It Supports Puppy Mills

October 5, 2014 2 comments

On Friday, I was alerted to this Action Alert from the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS):

PLEASE ASK USDA TO ENFORCE THE ANIMAL WELFARE ACT
September 30, 2014 – In a stunning setback in their efforts to increase enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA),  USDA has suddenly reversed course and decided to, once again, tolerate substandard conditions at puppy mills.
Dr. Chester Gipson, USDA’s chief of enforcement for the AWA, recently told animal advocates that the USDA needs “to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores” and citing violations is an impediment to such sales…..
Shockingly, USDA has made the decision to help substandard breeders circumvent these ordinances and to continue to sell puppies in spite of continuing violations.

Sad Looking Chocolate LabI found myself at complete odds. The idealistic activist side of me wanted to scream in outrage at what appears to be a setback in the fight against puppy mills, while the veteran, and somewhat jaded, side of me could only sigh and shake my head in resignation.

If you have any knowledge, understanding or experience with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), then you know this is simply par for the course for them. I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say they are probably one of the worst agencies in the federal government.

Whether it be the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and for inspecting puppy mills, or the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, the USDA seems to excel in their inability to perform their job.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General issued their latest audit (one of many) of APHIS and their performance as it came to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act with commercial breeders. The results, while not surprising, were damning.

They found the following deficiencies:

  •  The Enforcement Process Was Ineffective Against Problematic Dealers -The agency believed compliance could be enforced through education and cooperation and thus took little or no enforcement action against most commercial dog and cat breeders
  • Inspectors Did Not Cite or Document Violations Properly To Support Enforcement Actions – inspectors did not correctly report all repeat or direct violations and did not take pictures or document properly. As a result, some problematic puppy mill dealers were inspected less frequently and in many cases got off easily.
  • APHIS’ New Penalty Worksheet Calculated Minimal Penalties. Although APHIS previously agreed to revise its penalty worksheet to produce “significantly higher” penalties for violators of AWA, the agency continued to assess minimal penalties that did not deter violators. In other words, puppy millers received minimal penalties a majority of the time.
  • APHIS Misused Guidelines to Lower Penalties for AWA Violators – Inspectors misused its guidelines so that violators would be penalized more lightly than warranted, even for repeat offenders with serious violations.
  • Some Large Breeders Circumvented AWA by Selling Animals Over the Internet. (This was recently changed, but given their past history, I doubt it will be enforced or treated any differently than today.)
  • Did Not Adequately Establish Payment Plans for Stipulations – Payment plans for violators were not adequately established so they rarely paid, and if they failed to pay, there was no process in place to follow up. (What a joke.)
Puppy mill kennelsI would like to say this is an aberration, a one-time deal, but that is not the case. Past audits from 2005, 1995 and 1992, showed similar inadequacies and violations.  The USDA excels in their inability and unwillingness to enforce current law. It is what they do best.And it doesn’t just apply to puppy mills.
Take a look at the Office of Inspector General’s report from May 2013 on the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as it related to swine slaughter facilities (Reminder: FSIS is the public health agency responsible for ensuring food safety as it relates to the commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products.):
  • Enforcement Policies Do Not Deter Repeat Violators
  • Some Inspectors Performed Insufficient Post-Mortem and Sanitation Inspections
  • Swine HIMP Pilot Program Lacks Sufficient Oversight (HIMP = HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) for swine.
  • FSIS Could Not Always Ensure Humane Handling at Swine Slaughter Plants

Or look at the Office of Inspector General’s report on Verifying Credentials of Veterinarians Employed or Accredited by USDA or the Office of Inspector General’s report on FSIS and their E. Coli testing on boxed beef or numerous other reports related to APHIS or FSIS.

PugYes. The USDA’s supervision of animals  (in puppy mills and/or other animal facilities) is a complete and utter failure and has been for a very long time. Maybe that is why I am not surprised by this most recent setback. The truth is this is not a setback at all. It is simply a new iteration of what they have always done – let the violators go free, unchecked, with little chance of ever having to face charges for their violations. Same dance, different dance hall.  If anyone thinks the USDA or APHIS is going to start enforcing the law now, then they are sadly mistaken. They haven’t been doing so for years.

I don’t discourage from contacting Secretary Tom Vilsack, as CAPS requests, just that you not expect much from this agency. This is just the same dance in a different dance hall.

You can contact Secretary Tom Vilsack at AgSec@usda.gov or leave a message at (202) 720-3631.

Maybe the best plan of attack is to take the middle guy out and just take the fight to your own local town and city governments. The more you support ordinances and laws that outlaw the sale of pets in pet stores in your community the less power the USDA has to influence anything. Let’s take the fight where it is most effective. Lead the charge locally and eliminate the need for the USDA at all.

Black and White Sunday #100 – She’s all legs

October 4, 2014 6 comments

Girl's got legs. #dogpark

Taken on an iPhone and enhanced in Flickr.

Legs

Enhanced in Camera 360.

My thanks to our hosts for this blog hop Dachshund Nola and Sugar The Golden Retriever.

Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.

 

Favorite Video Friday – Your Best Friend

October 2, 2014 5 comments

I’m just going to admit it. It’s been a very rough week. We have had to say goodbye to so many this week – Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Lorie Huston, and now Cleo from Grouch Puppy.

Lots of tears have been shed, stories told and tributes made. It doesn’t take away the pain of their absence, but it does help us to know we are not alone in our grief. How fitting that animals should figure so prominently these lives. Our pets often help us in our most difficult times, don’t they?

This week was a good reminder that we are not an island in this world. Someone will always love us and miss us, whether that be our dogs, our cats, or our humans. We are not invisible, even when we may feel like it.

This week I chose to re-share a video I shared before. I thought it a perfect end to the week. Not sad, but touching. I hope you will like seeing it again.

Happy Friday everyone.

Wordless Wednesday #207 – Grief and Loss

September 30, 2014 2 comments

grief 4

Photo credit: Yukari Yu (modified in Camera 360)

My dog wears me out

September 28, 2014 19 comments

Salivating with anticipation.I think I must be getting old. My dog is six years old and he’s wearing me out. Still.

When I adopted Jasper at nine months old, I knew he was going to be busy. I knew that he was going to require lots of training and time and energy. And, I gave it to him.

We went to the dog park every day – 2 hours a day on average. We attended training at our local shelter. We played ball for hours in the yard. He got bully sticks in the evening to keep him busy.

When he turned three, I introduced new tricks and searching for treats in the yard. I bought games that he had to use his brain to solve (sometimes those actually did wear him out!).

At four and five, I taught him more tricks and challenged him to figure out more difficult ones. I bought more dog puzzles, harder ones. He loved them. He solved them all. I need more.Jasper action shot

I started coming up with puzzles of my own. I placed a treat in a Kong and placed it inside a sock and put that inside a box. He solved that one too.

I took him to nose work class this summer and he excelled. He loved it.

More recently I have been hiding treats in strategic locations in the yard – under things, in things, around plants, on leaves, in tree bark. He finds them all. He loves the game so much that he begs me to do it again. Sometimes he won’t come inside because he wants to keep looking for them. He beats all the other dogs to most of the treats too.

I’m not saying I’m ready for him to slow down like an old dog. Not yet. Not ever really. But sometimes I wish for a day of relaxation. A day where he just sneaks off to his dog bed and sleeps for an hour or two.

Silly busy dog. Jasper.
Happy Saturday everyone!

Black and White Sunday #99 – A Paw in the Water

September 27, 2014 19 comments

upload

My thanks to our hosts for this blog hop Dachshund Nola and Sugar The Golden Retriever.

Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.

 

Favorite Video Friday – A truck. A beach. A dog.

September 25, 2014 4 comments

This weekend is supposed to be our summer reprise; 80’s every day and lots of sun. As you can imagine, I can hardly wait. I am not anywhere near ready for the cold and snow that will soon be coming our way.

Summer seemed to pass us by this year. If it made a stop here in Minnesota, it was a brief one, and only long enough to be leave a lingering scent of its perfume in the air. It says something when your tomatoes start turning red just a week before October. Something was definitely off this year.

I plan to savor these last few days of summer by taking the dogs to the dog beach along the Mississippi River. Let them splash and play and chase and get their snouts wet. That is what summer is all about,

I suspect that our upcoming trip to the beach had something to do with my video selection this week. The dog in this video has a lot of Jasper in him. If he had the chance, I think Jasper would chase a motorized truck too. Instead, he will be chasing waves.

And, I think that’s good enough.

May you all have a lovely weekend.

Happy Friday!

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