USDA cracks down on Internet pet sales; regulations to force online breeders to apply for licenses

WASHINGTON - The Agriculture Department is cracking down on dog breeders who sell puppies over the Internet with new regulations that will force them to apply for licenses.

The rules announced Tuesday subject dog owners who breed more than four females and sell the puppies online, by mail or over the phone to the same oversight faced by wholesale animal breeders.

Many online breeders have skirted federal oversight by classifying themselves as retail pet stores, which are exempt from licensing requirements. Commercial pet stores aren't required to have licenses because buyers can see the animals before they buy them and decide whether they appear healthy. But that's not the case when buying over the Internet.

The idea, says USDA's Kevin Shea, is that either inspectors or the buyers see the animals. 

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