USDA changes rules for buying and selling animals

GREENSBORO, N.C.  — The U.S. Department of Agriculture changed its definition of “retail pet store,” and that may change the way you buy or sell animals in the future.

A “retail pet store” is now considered only to be a location where a potential customer can come and see an animal and examine its living conditions. Before this, websites were able to sell dogs without potential customers seeing the dog ahead of time.

This will make things tougher on some breeders, who have been able sell online and ship direct to customers. They’ll now have to arrange a pickup for every pet they sell.

The American Kennel Club called the change “too broad” and said it had the potential to put honest, responsible breeders out of business.

Marsha Williams, the director of the Guilford County Animal Shelter, said she believed it would help protect animals.

“Some of these online breeders — not all of them — will tell you you’re getting a certain breed, a certain sex, a certain age, and then once they ship it to you it’s not what you thought you were purchasing,” Williams said. “And it may not be in good health.”

Williams mentioned a law enforcement action where animal control and sheriff’s deputies raided a breeder’s property after customers complained they hadn’t gotten what they’d asked for. She said the rule change would prevent that from happening in the future.

The rule change goes into effect in 60 days. Reptiles and other cold-blooded animals are not included. Brick and mortar pet stores with online sales are not affected. Rescue shelters and munipcal shelters are also not affected.

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