U.S. Court of Appeals Rules for Private Breeders

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia handed small, residential breeders of cats and dogs a victory in January when it ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not need to subject them to the same licensing and inspection regimen that it applies to larger commercial breeders.

The Doris Day Animal League and other animal rights groups had sued the USDA arguing that residential breeders should be regulated just like larger commercial breeders under the Animal Welfare Act. A lower court agreed with that claim, but the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that people who breed small numbers of cats and dogs in their homes are more like retail pet stores — which are not regulated under the Animal Welfare Act — rather than large animal wholesalers which are subject to federal oversight.

In its ruling, the Appeals Court wrote,

The [Agriculture] Department has decided to focus on wholesale dealers, where its resources are likely to yield the greatest benefit. This is a reasonable choice, keeping in mind the purpose of the act to promote animal welfare.

The USDA argued that small residential breeders are already sufficiently regulated by state and local authorities, as well as by breed and registry organizations.

The full text of the Appeals Court’s decision can be found on this site here.


Appeals court supports USDA, AKC. American Kennel Club, Press Release, January 15, 2003.

Court rules private dog breeders not subject to federal licensing. Sam Hananel, Associated Press, January 14, 2003.

Leave a Reply