Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin, Fall 1998, Vol. 9, no. 1-2 *************************

APHIS Regulatory Update

Regulation of Pocket Pets

Federal Register: January 21, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 13), Page 3017], DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 9 CFR Parts 1, 2, and 3, Docket No. 97-024-1, RIN 0579-AA89

SUMMARY: This document gives notice that we are now regulating under the Animal Welfare Act the handling, care, and treatment at retail pet stores of small mammals commonly referred to as “pocket pets'' and requiring any retail pet store that sells pocket pets to be licensed as a dealer under the Animal Welfare Act. This action is necessary because the Animal Welfare Act regulations require regulation of all persons who sell exotic or wild animals for research, exhibition, or for use as a pet, and we consider pocket pets to be exotic or wild animals for this purpose.

For Further Information Contact: Bettye K. Walters, D.V.M., Staff Veterinarian, Animal Care, APHIS, USDA, 4700 River Road Unit 84, Riverdale, MD 20737-1234, (301) 734-7833.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Animal Welfare Act (AWA)(7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq.) authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate standards and other requirements governing the humane handling, housing, care, treatment, and transportation of certain animals by dealers and other regulated businesses. The Secretary of Agriculture has delegated the responsibility for enforcing the AWA to the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Regulations established under the AWA are contained in 9 CFR parts 1, 2, and 3. APHIS regulates animal dealers by issuing them annual licenses and conducting unannounced inspections of their premises to check for compliance with the AWA standards and regulations.

In recent years, several species of small, generally nondangerous mammals, including hedgehogs, degus, spiny mice, prairie dogs, flying squirrels, and jerboas, have increasingly been sold at retail pet stores in the United States. These and other small mammalian species are collectively and commonly referred to as “pocket pets.” However, none of these species, some of which are native to the United States and others of which are native to foreign countries, have been domesticated as pets in the United States in the sense that dogs, cats, and other common pet-type animals have been domesticated. Therefore, APHIS considers pocket pets to be exotic or wild animals under the AWA regulations, and any retail pet store that sells a pocket pet is subject to AWA regulation.

Several years ago, some retail pet stores across the United States started selling limited numbers of pocket pets on a sporadic basis. In general, retail pet stores are exempt from AWA regulation unless they sell animals to a research facility, an exhibitor, or a dealer. Our policy was not to regulate the retail pet stores that were selling pocket pets because the effort needed to identify and regulate these stores did not appear to be a prudent use of our AWA enforcement resources. However, we continued to reevaluate this policy as the popularity of pocket pets grew among U.S. consumers. Because many retail pet stores are now selling pocket pets on a regular basis, we now believe that it is feasible and necessary to identify and regulate these stores.

Therefore, we are giving notice that, in order to ensure the humane care and treatment of pocket pets in the commercial pet trade, we are now regulating the handling, care, treatment, and transportation provided to such animals by retail pet stores and requiring that retail pet stores dealing in these animals be licensed under the AWA. The AWA licensing requirements for animal dealers are specified in 9 CFR part 2, subpart A, and the care standards for pocket pets are covered in 9 CFR part 3, subpart F. For information about becoming licensed as a dealer under the AWA, contact Bettye K. Walters, D.V.M., Staff Veterinarian, Animal Care, APHIS, USDA, 4700 River Road Unit 84, Riverdale, MD 20737-1234, (301) 734-7833.

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USDA Amends Animal Welfare Act Wire Flooring Requirements

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 1998—The U.S. Department of Agriculture is amending regulations for the humane treatment of dogs and cats by requiring that wire floors in primary enclosures for dogs and cats be constructed of coated wire if the wire is less than a certain diameter.

“We believe that coating wire floors made of small-diameter wire will improve comfort for dogs and cats and will help eliminate foot injuries,” said W. Ron DeHaven, acting deputy administrator for animal care with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a part of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area.

USDA is amending the Animal Welfare Act regulations so that, if the wire floor of dog and cat primary enclosures is constructed of wire equal to or less than 1/8 of an inch in diameter, the wire must be coated with a material such as plastic or fiberglass.  USDA will also require that any wire floor, coated or not coated, used for dog and cat primary enclosures be constructed so that the floor does not bend or sag between the supports.

Notice of this action was published  in the Jan. 20 Federal Register.  For further information or a copy of Docket No. 95-100-2, contact: Stephen Smith, animal health technician, Animal Care, APHIS, USDA, 4700 River Road Unit 84, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1234, phone: (301) 734-4972.

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USDA Amends Animal Welfare Act Temperature Regulations

WASHINGTON, March 3, 1998—The U.S. Department of Agriculture amended the Animal Welfare Act regulations today, revising certain requirements pertaining to climatic conditions for animals protected under the law.

“Too many times animals have suffered because of climatic conditions not consistent with their health and well--being,” said Michael V. Dunn, USDA's assistant secretary for marketing and regulatory programs.  “We are going to put a stop to that with these changes.”

The amendments clarify the current climatic conditions allowed for dogs and cats in indoor, sheltered, and mobile housing facilities; in primary conveyances used for transportattion; and in animal holding areas of airport terminal facilities.  USDA will also require that any animal covered by the AWA not be exposed to combinations of time, temperature, and humidity that would adversely affect the animal's health and well-being.  The responsible party must take into account the animal's health status, age, breed, and other pertinent factors.

“The amended regulations mandate that when climatic conditions present a threat to an animal, appropriate measures be taken to alleviate the impact of those conditions.  To not do so would be a violation,” Dunn added.

For further information contact Stephen Smith, staff animal health technician, AC, APHIS, Suite 6D02, 4700 River Road Unit 84, Riverdale, MD. 20737-1234, (301) 734-7833, or e-mail ace@aphis.usda.gov.

This action was published in the March 4 Federal Register and becomes effective on April 3.

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USDA Amends Animal Welfare Act Regulations, Adding Swim-with-the-Dolphin Requirements

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 1998—The U.S. Department of Agriculture is amending the Animal Welfare Act regulations to establish standards for “swim-with-the-dolphin” interaction programs.

“These new regulations will help us ensure the safety and well--being of marine mammals used in swim-with-the--dolphin programs,” said Michael V. Dunn, assistant secretary for marketing and regulatory programs.  “Until now, there have been no program-specific regulations.  We believe it is in the best interests of the animals to add such regulations.”

The new regulations will address several issues including handling, space requirements, and training.

The effective date of the amendments is Oct. 5 and they will be published in the Sept. 4 Federal Register.  APHIS documents published in the Federal Register, and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS rules, are available on the Internet at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ppd/rad/webrepor.html

For more information on this final rule (Docket No. 93-076-10) contact Barbara Kohn, senior staff veterinarian, Animal Care, APHIS, 4700 River Road, Unit 84, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1228, (301) 734-7833.

NOTE: USDA news releases, program announcements, and media advisories are available on the Internet.  Access the APHIS Home Page by pointing your web browser to http://www.aphis.usda.gov and clicking on “ http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/press/press.html APHIS Press Releases.” Also, anyone with an e-mail address can sign up to receive APHIS press releases automatically.  Send an e-mail message to majordomo@info.aphis.usda.gov and leave the subject blank.  In the message, type subscribe press_releases


This article appeared in the Animal Welfare Information Center Bulletin, Volume 9, Number 1/2, Fall 1998

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