With a year in Congress under his belt, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., is now turning his focus to animal rights issues, including serving in the Congressional Action Protection Caucus. 

Last month, Crist and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., who also serves in the caucus, unveiled a bill reforming the Animal Welfare Act and another on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) handles commercial breeding licenses.

Crist’s and Fitzpatrick’s “Puppy Protection Act” tweaks USDA regulations under the Animal Welfare Act to enact  “stronger standards for veterinary care, housing, breeding practices, and specific standards for socialization and placement of retired breeding dogs” for commercial dog breeders that engage sell dogs to retailers and brokers. 

The two congressmen also brought out the “Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF!) Act” which closes loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act ensures the USDA does not issue commercial breeding licenses to people who have had their licenses suspended or revoked. The proposal would also stop the USDA issues licenses to shell companies with tied to dealers who have lost their licenses. 

Fitzpatrick, the main sponsor of both bills, and Crist, the only cosponsor of both pieces of legislation, showcased their proposals at the end of last week. 

“It’s crucial we stand up for animals—both as individuals and as a society. That means strengthening important regulations under the Animal Welfare Act to meet this goal,” said Fitzpatrick. “As a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I’m committed to ensuring our government is doing its part to promote animal welfare.”

“The Bible teaches us to care for all of God’s creatures, and that includes man’s best friend,” said Crist.“I’m proud to help introduce bipartisan legislation that protects dogs from unprincipled dealers and breeders, providing a voice for the voiceless.”

The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA are supporting the bills. 

“No dog should spend her entire life in a tiny cage, her paws never touching grass, outside and exposed to frigid temperatures and winds, and bred so relentlessly that her body eventually wears out,” said Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “Some puppy mill operators game the system and register their mill under a different name after they are cited for animal welfare violations. These two bills will prevent that trickery and also strengthen the standards of care for hundreds of thousands of dogs on commercial breeding facilities.”

“The bills introduced by Representatives Fitzpatrick and Crist would significantly improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of dogs kept in inhumane conditions by federally licensed commercial breeders,” said Matt Bershadker, the president and CEO of the ASPCA. “These animals often spend their entire lives in filthy, crowded cages stacked on top of one another with no access to adequate veterinary care or regular exercise. Even when a breeder’s license is revoked for violating these notoriously weak federal standards, they too often continue breeding animals by hiding their business under a family member’s name. We thank Representatives Fitzpatrick and Crist for their leadership on these measures to enhance animal welfare enforcement and improve standards of care to reduce cruelty and suffering for dogs in commercial breeding facilities.”

The bills have been sent to the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. So far, there are no Senate counterparts. 

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