Alliance Files Lawsuit Against USDA
USDA describing animal welfare violations as "teachable moments" and refusing to cite breeders if they admit to violations
The Alliance announced today that it has filed a federal lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in response to its refusal to enforce the Animal Welfare Act by employing deceptive practices such as the “teachable moments” rule and “self-reporting” rule.

"Instead of addressing animal abuse in the industry and enforcing measures to ensure the health and welfare of dogs in commercial breeding operations, the USDA has chosen to hide the industry’s wrong-doings,” said Alliance’s Executive Director Bob Baker. “Since 2014, USDA has been instructing inspectors to conceal violations at puppy mills from the public by disguising the violations as ‘teachable moments’. More recently, USDA adopted the ‘self-reporting’ rule instructing inspectors not to divulge violations if the breeder admits to violating the Act. These subversive schemes allow problematic dog breeders and puppy mills to evade federal law and engage in animal cruelty.”

The Alliance, along with laboratory watchdog Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN), is initiating legal action against USDA in an effort to eliminate the “teachable moments” rule and “self-reporting” rule, which they claim are procedurally defective. "While these rules are problematic for animals," explains Vanessa Shakib, Co-Director of Advancing Laws for Animals, "they were also improperly issued without the opportunity for public notice and comment, in violation of federal law."

“The intent of the Animal Welfare Act is to protect animals and consumers. It is not meant to hide the misdeeds of dog breeders,” Baker said. “Unfortunately, the USDA has been aiding and abetting cruel puppy mills for years and is doing so in an effort to create a false narrative surrounding the commercial dog breeding business for the purpose of protecting the economic interest of substandard dog breeders.”

The Animal Welfare Act is the only federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by commercial dog breeders and dealers. It sets minimum standards of care for animals confined in commercial dog breeding operations more commonly known as puppy mills, as well as dogs bred for research purposes.
If an operator of a puppy mill confesses to violating the law, USDA won't report it
The complaint filed in the District of Columbia states the following:

  • The USDA adopted the “teachable moments” and “self-reporting” rules despite criticism and reprimand from the USDA Office of Inspector General.

  • The USDA adopted the “teachable moments” and “self-reporting” rules without public notice.

  • The USDA adopted the “teachable moments” and “self-reporting” rules without allowing or considering public comment.

  • The USDA undermines the Animal Welfare Act through the adoption of the “teachable moments” and “self-reporting” rules.

  • The USDA’s “teachable moments” and “self-reporting” rules allow problematic breeders and puppy mills to circumvent the Animal Welfare Act.

  • The USDA’s “teachable moments” and “self-reporting” rules allow dog breeders in violation of the Animal Welfare Act to avoid the consequences of animal cruelty and neglect.

The Alliance is represented by Advancing Law for Animals and Barrella Law. The petition is available for download here