USDA failing to perform on-site inspections
Shockingly, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is intentionally ignoring abuses at puppy mills. On-site inspections are now rarely performed by USDA inspectors. USDA alleges that the rationale for shutting down the inspection process is due to COVID. Yet, with the exception of Animal Welfare enforcement, all other divisions within USDA are continuing to conduct on-site inspections of regulated facilities.   

Fortunately, the Missouri Department of Agriculture is still inspecting puppy mills and citing substandard dog breeders (see article below). If state inspectors can wear protective equipment and take necessary precautions, there is no justification for USDA’s failure to do so. This is just another example of the low priority USDA has assigned to the enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

USDA contends that the inspectors do request FaceTime inspections whereby the breeder can show the inspector the premises via their cell phone. This, of course, allows breeders to hide substandard conditions and sickly dogs.

USDA also alleges that inspectors continue to perform on-site inspections of those facilities that have a history of serious violations. Yet, these inspections are only performed with the permission of the dog breeder. The puppy mill operator is allowed to refuse the inspection if the breeder asserts that they would be susceptible to COVID due to age or to an existing medical condition. The USDA inspector is prohibited, however, from inquiring about such medical condition or requesting proof of such ailment.
USDA inspectors play while dogs in puppy mills continue to suffer.
USDA is also issuing new licenses to puppy mills, research facilities, roadside zoos, and animal exhibitors without an on-site inspection. An applicant only needs to have a phone discussion with a USDA inspector on how they should treat their animals, and in some instances, a “virtual” inspection. USDA then either issues a license or a “variance,” in the absence of a license, allowing the applicant to operate without an on-site inspection of the animals and the living conditions.  

As a result of USDA’s indifference to animal welfare issues, puppy mills and other animal facilities have been unsupervised since March while USDA inspectors continue to remain on the federal payroll with little work to perform.