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New federal regulations would be tougher on animal abusers
08252017 Licensing
More than 350 animals were confiscated from a Habersham County property in April. New federal regulations out for public comment would mean animal abusers could more easily be stripped of their federal animal breeding licenses. - photo by Erin Smith

Animal abusers could more easily be stripped of their federal animal breeding licenses with new regulations that went out for public comment this week.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this week that changes are coming to national licensing rules within the 1966 Animal Welfare Act to require more inspections before a license is issued and ensure swifter punishments for people who don’t meet standards.

“As a trained veterinarian, humane standards of care for animals are close to my heart and central to my love and concern for our four-legged friends,” Perdue said in the Wednesday announcement.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues almost 6,000 licenses every year to people who commercially breed, sell or display animals. The regulations also apply to “dealers, research facilities, exhibitors, operators of auction sales, and carriers and intermediate handlers.”

The regulations also cover kennels and similar businesses.

Federal regulators are proposing to eliminate annual renewal fees paid by license-holders and instead require applicants to prove they’re meeting requirements when they apply for a new license every three to five years.

Annual license fees can be as little as $10 for small businesses or more than $700 for large shops. Hall County has five active animal kennel licenses and no active pet sales licenses, according to Susan Rector, director of the county’s business license department.

Current regulations don’t require license-holders to alert the USDA that they’ve changed the type or number of animals they’re handling or whether they’ve made significant changes to their facilities when reapplying.

New regulations would not only require animal handlers to disclose all of this, but whether they’ve been convicted of any animal cruelty charges “or other violations of federal, state or local laws or regulations pertaining to animals,” the regulations state.

The new rules also would limit applicants to two strikes, down from three, if their facilities or practices don’t meet USDA standards during inspections before their application is rejected or forfeited.

The regulations also “expressly restrict individuals and businesses whose licenses have been suspended or revoked from working for other regulated entities, and prevent individuals with histories of noncompliance (or orders suspending or revoking a license) from applying for new licenses through different individuals or business names.”

Americans can comment on the regulations online or send written comments to Docket No. APHIS-2017-0062, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

The USDA will accept comments through Oct. 23.

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