|Courtesy Google Images|
Businesses that sell pets over the internet (sight unseen) will be subject to licensing and inspection under the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) as the USDA revised the 40 year old definition of "retail store".
As "retail stores" are not covered under the AWA and the definition of "retail store" was put in place before the internet was invented, a huge gap was created whereby sales of animals over the internet, or "sight unseen" were unregulated as they were exempt from oversight under the AWA and invisible to state and local law enforcement. Naturally, sick, injured and genetically inferior animals were being sold to naive buyers across the country with no checks and balances and no minimum care standards. This situation was not good for the consumer but far worse for the pets.
The USDA restored the definition of "retail pet store" to its original intent which is "a place of business or residence at which the seller, buyer and the animal available for sale are physically present so that the buyer may personally observe the animal and help ensure its health prior to purchasing or taking custody of it" thereby eliminating the "retail pet store" exemption for internet and other "sight unseen" businesses.
As such, these "sight unseen" vendors will now have to be licensed and inspected by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to ensure the pets they sell to the public receive minimum standards of care and other requirements proscribed by the AWA.
There are a host of exemptions and other changes in this set of revisions - but - the focus and impetus for this change was the overwhelming number of sick animals coming from larger scale breeders into homes with absolutely no oversight but plenty of heartbreak.