The USDA APHIS regulations and the ACFA regulations for veterinarian care are identical in everything except for some minor bookkeeping differences. To save space, I’m only duplicating the text from the Missouri Department of Agriculture ACFA regulations.
(8) Attending Veterinarian and Adequate Veterinary Care.
(A) Each licensee shall have an attending veterinarian who shall provide adequate veterinary care to animals covered under the rules in 2 CSR 30-9.
1. Each licensee shall employ an attending veterinarian under formal arrangements. In the case of a part-time attending veterinarian or consultant arrangements, the formal arrangements shall include a written program of veterinary care and regularly scheduled visits to the premises of the licensee. Boarding kennels in large metropolitan areas, where twenty-four (24) hour emergency veterinary clinics are in operation, and rotation of veterinary practitioners is essential for good will and referral services, may be exempted from the requirement of a formal arrangement if approved by the state veterinarian. This exemption must be requested in writing, and will be approved only on an individual basis.
2. Each licensee shall assure that the attending veterinarian has appropriate authority to ensure the provision of adequate veterinary care and to oversee the adequacy of other aspects of animal care and use.
(B) Each licensee shall establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care that include:
1. The availability of appropriate facilities, personnel, equipment and services to comply with the provisions in 2 CSR 30-9;
2. The use of appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries, and the availability of emergency, weekend and holiday care;
3. Individual health records shall be maintained on all animals above the age of eight (8) weeks or that have been weaned or that have been treated with a medical procedure, whichever occurs first. Litter health records may be kept on litters when littermates are treated with the same medication or procedure. Health records (or a copy) may accompany all animals upon the transfer of ownership;
4. Daily observation of all animals to assess their health and well-being. Provided, however, that daily observation of animals may be accomplished by someone other than the attending veterinarian; and provided further, that a mechanism of direct and frequent communication is required so that timely and accurate information on problems of animal health, behavior and well-being is conveyed to the attending veterinarian;
5. Adequate training and guidance to personnel involved in the care and use of animals. The employer must be certain his/her employees can perform at the level required by these rules; and
6. Adequate pre-procedural and postprocedural care in accordance with established veterinary medical and nursing procedures.
(C) If the state veterinarian or his/her designee finds that an animal or group of animals is suffering from a contagious, communicable or infectious disease or exposure to a disease, a quarantine to the premises may be issued until the animals are
1. Recovered and no longer capable of transmitting the disease;
3. Humanely euthanized and properly disposed of;
4. Tested, vaccinated or otherwise treated;
5. Otherwise released by the state veterinarian.
A. Animals under quarantine shall not be removed from the premises without written consent of the state veterinarian, nor shall any other animals be allowed to enter the premises.
B. A quarantine issued by the state veterinarian shall remain in effect until released in writing by the state veterinarian.
(D) Animals with obvious signs of disease or injury shall not be sold (except on the advice of the attending veterinarian and with the knowledge and consent of the purchaser), abandoned or disposed of in an inhumane manner.
(E) A person licensed or registered under the ACFA shall not knowingly sell or ship a diseased animal, except on the advice of their attending veterinarian and with the knowledge and consent of the purchaser.
The Proposition B, Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act provision on veterinarian care states the following:
”Necessary veterinary care” means, at minimum, examination at least once yearly by a licensed veterinarian; prompt treatment of any illness or injury by a licensed veterinarian; and, where needed, humane euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian using lawful techniques deemed “Acceptable” by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
There’s actually quite a bit of text in the sections related to veterinarian care with existing laws. Everything is covered except for one thing: there’s nothing in any of the sections that states a veterinarian has to actually examine and treat the dogs.
The veterinarian can develop a plan, can visit the site annually, can work with the people, even train the people, but there’s nothing in either the APHIS or the ACFA regulations that requires a dog to actually be seen by a veterinarian.
Notice the section detailing daily observation:
Daily observation of all animals to assess their health and well-being. Provided, however, that daily observation of animals may be accomplished by someone other than the attending veterinarian; and provided further, that a mechanism of direct and frequent communication is required so that timely and accurate information on problems of animal health, behavior and well-being is conveyed to the attending veterinarian;
The requirement is that the breeder is supposed to observe the animal and “communicate” observations to a veterinarian. However, there is no mechanism included in the requirements that ensures that if the dog is sick or has been injured that the veterinarian has to come out and examine and treat the dog. All that’s required is the breeder “communicate” with the vet.
The most egregious violations I’ve read in the USDA APHIA inspection reports were the notes by inspectors of sick and injured dogs that had no treatment by a vet.
At the single deck building, there are two Pugs that have previously had surgery on their right eyes. Now the left eyes are bulging and have a dark crusty coating on the surface of the eye. Also in this building, there is a black Pug that has bulging in both eyes. There is a dark crusty coating over both eyes. At the shed, the black long haired Dachshund has had an injury to the eyelid of its left eye. The skin around the eye is swollen and appears to be torn on the upper lid. There is also white, greenish discharge around this tear. The injuries of these four dogs may be painful, possibly infected, and can lead to other health issues. These animals require evaluation by an attending veterinarian and appropriate treatment. During the inspection, the licensee made an appointment with the attending veterinarian to bring the dogs to the clinic later in the day.
Breeder customer #: 4625
It wasn’t until prompted by the inspector that the breeder made an appointment to bring the dogs into the vet. Even then, if the breeder had so chosen, they could have phoned symptoms into the vet and received instructions as to care—there’s nothing in the regulations that states the vet must attend to these dogs, directly. Yet these are not minor injuries.
This breeder is also one of the largest in the state, with an inventory of 562 adult dogs in 2009. The breeder’s record with Pet Shop Puppies demonstrates that health issues have followed the puppies from the breeder. From the records, it’s about a 50/50 chance if the puppies will end up being sick or not. Yet one of the kennel owners is currently the president of the Professional Pet Association in Missouri (from MIssourians for the Protection of Dogs)—you have to assume she is supposed to know what she’s doing when it comes to caring for dogs.
There’s an additional relevant, anecdotal note about this breeder, from a web site set up to close a pet store that bought puppies from this breeder and others:
I stopped in the Pampered Pets store there and noticed that they had a Scottish Terrier for sale. I inquired about her, not out of interest to purchase her, but simply because I was curious. The store associate told me that she was half-price because the breeder had “accidentally” docked her tail. I was concerned about this — how does one accidentally cut off a dog’s tail? I asked the associate, and he told me that the breeder’s daughter had grabbed the “wrong dog.”
There is nothing in either the APHIS or ACFA regulations that would prohibit the breeders from doing their own tail dockings…or debarking or other surgical procedures on their dogs.
There are four West Highland Terrier dogs in 1 pen, 3 dogs in the next pen that have feces that are loose, non-formed, yellow to whiteish-grey color and mucoid in appearance, bright red muccous(sic) was also present. There was also the appearance of a red-tinged substance in feces and muccous.
A 7 year old, male Yorkshire Terrier (ID …) was noted to be shivering (temperature was 53 degrees), thin with ribs, hips and vertebrae easily palpable. He also had an obvious waist tuck. Feces was stuck to the hair around the anal area.
A female Dachshund (ID …) was very thin, with ribs, vertebrae and hip bones easily seen and palpable. She also had a very obvious waist and abdominal tuck.
A Shih Tzu male had a thick, muccous-type green discharge around both eyes.
A dog was limping holding the rear left foot up. Upon removal of the dog, a hole (about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in diameter) was actively bleeding. The right front foot had a wound with pink tissue that “licensee indicated he was putting ointment on”.
A male Boston Terrier was thin, with bony vertebrae, ribs, and hip bones easily seen and palpable. There was hair loss on the back of the legs.
A male Boston Terrier was thin with ribs and vertebrae easily seen and palpable. There was a wound behind the right ear and numerous sores on the legs, skin, and inner ear. Hair coat was dull and splotchy.
A Pekingese had thick, muccous-type green discharge around and in both eyes. There appeared to be small, approximately 1/8 inch in diameter circular lesion in the left eye.
These dogs are not under special veterinary care provisions. They have not been evaluated by the attending veterinarian with a proper diagnoses and treatment program. These dogs must be evaluated by the attending veterinarian within the next 72 hours for a complete physical examination and treatment administered as appropriate. Any sick or injured animal must be examined by a licensed veterinarian and health records must be maintained.
APHIS customer #: 4411
I picked this inspection specifically for a couple of reasons, and not just because of the number of obviously sick and injured dogs. Note that in the last part of the inspection, the inspector stated that any sick or injured animals must be examined by a licensed veterinarians. The section of the APHIS regulation the inspector quoted as justification for the directive was the following:
(b) Each dealer or exhibitor shall establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care that include:
(1) The availability of appropriate facilities, personnel, equipment, and services to comply with the provisions of this subchapter;
(2) The use of appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries, and the availability of emergency, weekend, and holiday care;
The text dances around the topic but doesn’t come out and actually say: a qualified veterinarian must directly examine the injured or sick dog.
Proposition B did add this explicitly stated regulation. However, this regulation was struck in both HB 131 and SB 113—bills pending in the Missouri Legislature to remove all of the key Proposition B provisions.
Another reason I decided on this inspection is that it lists both Missouri Department of Agriculture and USDA inspector names. Does this mean that the inspectors inspect at the same time? Or does this mean that one or the other does the inspection and the other just copies the work? From the existing audits of the Missouri Department of Agriculture procedures, it would seem that the Missouri inspectors have been accepting the USDA inspections as Missouri inspections.
Though understandable considering the staffing challenges the Department faces, this is counter to existing procedures and regulations. More importantly, with two inspections a year, problems are more likely to be spotted more quickly than if only one inspection happens in a year. In addition, different inspectors at different times should ensure more comprehensive coverage.
Also note in the inspection that this item is actually a repeat from a previous inspection, including the severity and number of violations; yet in the follow up, all is supposedly in compliance. However, we don’t have any record that the dogs were actually seen, or if the problems noted elsewhere in the inspection report were actually fixed. Were the dogs seen by a vet and cared for? Or were the dogs just euthanized? And who exactly did do the follow up?
The gaps in existing procedures and regulations, especially regarding veterinarian care, are significant enough to undermine the effectiveness of both the regulations, and the inspections.
I could continue listing inspection results from far too many breeders, but I’ll end with one that had caught my eye early on. Unlike the other breeders listed here, who are still actively licensed with the USDA, the following breeder did have her license either cancelled or revoked in December:
(from inspection dated September 3, 2009)
A female Yorkie, had an embedded collar around the neck. The areas of the embedded collar are red, swollen, and open in some areas. This dog needs to be seen by a veterinarian to remove the embedded collar. The licensee must record all findings and treatments for the inspector to review upon next inspection.
This item was also non compliant on 7 Aug 08
APHIS customer #: 4454
The dates say it all, yet the breeder continued to be licensed by the USDA until December of 2010.
Some may disagree with my interpretation of APHIS and ACFA regulations. They may believe that within the text there is an understood provision that sick or injured dogs must be directly treated by a qualified veterinarian. If this is so, then Proposition B only restates what is contained in APHIS and ACFA.
However, if my interpretation is correct, then Proposition B states what we must consider to be a necessary: sick or injured dogs need to be seen by a vet. End of story.