State and national groups are hailing a ruling that, for the first time, establishes federal oversight of online dog sales.
Tuesday's decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will require such breeders to meet minimum care standards for breeding dogs and the puppies they produce and sell, often sight-unseen by the buyer.
"This rule represents a meaningful effort by the USDA to target problematic, large-scale breeding operations," said Nancy Perry, vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "The ASPCA has witnessed the abhorrent cruelty that often exists behind the pictures of happy puppies posted on a breeder's website, and this rule will crack down on the worst Internet breeders."
Until now, breeders who have sold directly to the public have not been subject to any USDA oversight. As a result, more and more unscrupulous sellers have moved exclusively to the Internet, thus escaping any scrutiny of their facilities and the way they treat their animals, said Lori Greenstone, president of Colorado Voters for Animals.
"You know, of course, that closing down puppy mills is one of the most important goals of our organization and of groups like ours on the local and national level. Well, we are one step closer to that reality, thanks to a long-overdue rule change announced by the USDA," Greenstone said.
The change means that commercial breeders who sell puppies, kittens and other small pets over the Internet will be subject to the same regulations as breeders who sell animals to pet stores.
A federal investigation has shown that conditions in puppy mills are often inhumane, food and water sources are poor and health care is minimal.
While Colorado has commercial breeding operations, the largest with about 300 dogs, it does not have a puppy mill problem on the scale of states such as Iowa and Kansas, according to a Colorado representative of the Humane Society of the United States.
However, the representative believes Colorado is an "outlet state" for sales of dogs from puppy mills due to its reputation as an animal-loving state.
Thanks for reading. If you would like to be notified about upcoming stories, click on the "subscribe" link above this article. It's free!