St. Petersburg, Florida - The agriculture department has imposed new rules aimed at cracking down on Internet pet sales.
The USDA will now force breeders who sell more than four females to obtain a license at a cost of up to $750. It will also allow buyers to see the animals before purchase and have them inspected by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
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"It's going to help immensely. I mean, not just in shutting down some of these puppy mill activities, but when you shut that down more people come out and do adoptions, animal shelters that are already overcrowded," said Rick Chaboudy with the animal rescue group Suncoast Animal League.
Breeders have been exempt from the same rule as wholesalers by claiming to be retailers. Commercial pet sellers don't follow the same rules because customers can see the pets to make sure they are healthy before buying them.
The rules are meant to put a stop to puppy mills, breeders who often put profits over the safety of animals.
The Agriculture Department estimates that up to 4,640 dog breeders could be affected by the rule, along with about 325 cat breeders, and up to 75 rabbit breeders.