State regulation of companion animal breeders and dealers

Chart last updated May 2015

During the past few years, the regulation of high-volume dog breeders and dealers has become one of the most prominent issues in animal legislation. Increased media coverage of some of the worst breeding facilities in the country has motivated state legislators to increase regulation and penalties for high-volume breeders.

Animal rights groups have established extensive campaigns to eliminate what are referred to as puppy mills, but have often clashed with breeders, kennels, and pet dealers who fear that over-regulation of their industries will put them out of business. The breeding industry argues that the public pays too much attention to the extreme cases while discounting the number of law-abiding breeders. Many argue that the problem would be better solved by increasing inspections and penalties under existing, less burdensome laws.

In April, 2010, the AVMA adopted its "Model Bill and Regulations to Assure Appropriate Care for Dogs Intended For use as Pets" (PDF) to assist state and local governments in designing effective policies to enforce reasonable welfare standards for breeder and retailer operations. The background and context for this model bill can be found here (PDF).

The majority of states currently provide for some regulation of breeders, kennels, pet dealers, and pet shops. These regulations vary in scope and strength depending on: (1) whether the state requires licensing and inspections; (2) whether the state has established animal care and facility standards; and (3) whether the state has placed limits on the number of breeding dogs that may be kept at a facility.

The following table provides an overview of the state laws identified by AVMA research regulating companion animal breeders and dealers. It includes definitions, prohibitions, and standards of care, licensing and registration requirements, and inspection requirements. The table includes only selective portions of the extensive regulations.

Regulation of Companion Animal Breeders and Dealers​ (PDF)

Source: Staff Research, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department
Contact: State Policy Analyst, AVMA State Legislative and Regulatory Department