How to Protect Yourself as a Dog Owner & Breeder

On the day before Christmas Eve, a dog owner was arrested for illegally breeding dogs in Waukegan, Illinois.  This was a single litter of purebred Old English Bulldogges, whelped in a family home, with excellent care by the family.  The pups were vetted at their six-week check up and the breeder had deposits from evaluated buyers for all but one of the pups.  Due to an over zealous re-homing group and cooperating policewoman, the pups were seized.  The next few weeks were chronicled daily in thousands of Facebook comments.  The pups are now back home and the town will be re-writing their animal ordinance. Animal Legal Resources  Chicago Tribune

In the aftermath of that episode and other petrifying events that have been exploding in the news lately, some people have requested guidelines on how to protect ourselves from motiveless seizures, dog thefts, and shelters rehoming owned escaped dogs.

As a breeder and/or owner:
•    Make sure that all your dogs are chipped or tattooed.  While this isn’t fool proof, an up-to-date address connected to a microchip or tattoo can be used as one proof of ownership.
•    Know your buyer.  In the Waukegan case, the Bulldogge owner advertised on Craig’s list.  If you don’t know your buyer personally, ask for references. 
•    Know your local town ordinances. While in the Bulldogge instance, the ordinance was so vague and so buried within the town ordinances that they would not have known they were required to have a license.  However, most towns have a section for animal related ordinances that are fairly well defined.  Look closely at them to make sure you are within the law for dog limits as well as breeding dogs.
•    When Animal Control comes to your house - know your rights.  Here are two excellent articles on what to do if Animal Control does appear at your doorstep.  It is becoming more common that a re-homing group may attempt to intimidate a dog owner into believing they have police powers.  Ask for identification and follow the advice of Evan Ginsberg (Waiting for Fido; The Dog Man Cometh) and George Eigenhauser (Busted? What to Do When Animal Control Comes Knocking).  (Note, both of these articles are here: GSDCA Legislation)
•    Obey the law.  This may appear to be common sense, however, countless dog breeders hope to remain hidden because of onerous breeding regulations or limit laws.  That works until it doesn’t and with well-defined ordinances, there is no ‘ignorance of the law, ‘ protection.  If you don’t like the law, work to change it.  Envious exhibitors, disgruntled neighbors often learn about dog ordinances and then “you’re it.”  HSUS and other animal rights groups are now offering rewards and complaints can be anonymous.

Escaped dogs:
Dogs escape all the time.  A gate left open, a digger, a fence jumper, or even more frightening, we are hearing more and more of dogs of all sizes being stolen for resale.  What's next?

•    Have recent photos of your dog(s) readily available.  Have photos from all sides and views.
•    Again, your dog should have a microchip or tattoo and the information should be up to date.
•    Check all shelters and rehoming groups within a large area.  Dogs are picked up by well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people driving by and are taken to a shelter that may be in another town.
•    When visiting the shelters, ask to see the dogs, don’t just accept the word of the staff.  In a recent incident, the dog was an intact young male and the shelter had the dog listed as a neutered 5 year-old.
•    Check daily.  Sometimes a person will pick up a dog and take it to their house, then decide to turn it in to a re-homing group or a shelter, or the dog may be wandering for a few days before being picked up as a stray.
•    Put flyers everywhere, post on all groups and Facebook and ask your friends to share widely.  State city and town on your message with a photo of the dog.
•    If your dog's chip or tattoo is listed with a registry service like Home Again or AKC Reunite -- notify them that your dog is missing so that they can send out an alert.  This is a service that you've already paid for, so take advantage of it.
•    If your dog came to you from a re-homing organization, be sure to notify them that the dog is missing.  A group recently refused to return the owner’s dog because, while he checked all the right places, he didn’t inform the group from which he got the dog.

Not all seizures are because of abusive conditions, although that seems to be the first thought in the minds of those who read about them. You may not think it could happen to you, but it has happened to some wonderful dog owners.  The seizures are not always for large dog kennels.  If your dogs are seized:

•    Have the articles mentioned above (Ginsberg, Eigenhauser) memorized and by your front door.
•    Do not sign your dogs away in order to avoid arrest.  There are unscrupulous groups out there, and, sometimes, unprincipled Animal Control employees that will try to intimidate the dog owner.  They will suggest that if you sign your dogs over to them, there won’t be any other consequences.  The types of intimidation have run the gamut from telling dog owners that they will incur thousands of dollars while the animal are in their care to threatening arrest.
•    Call your lawyer immediately and follow his/her advice.  Don’t say anything without getting advice first.  Follow it rigorously.
•    Have lots of dated photos of your home or kennels.  Have a video taken frequently.  Have proof of your good standards of care readily available.
•    If your lawyer agrees, go viral.  Get your friends and neighbors to support you with true facts and get the information out, let the world know that the seizure was uncalled for and have photos to prove it.

?    Facebook  - start two groups, a closed group and a secret group (for strategizing).  Get a close friend to increase members and to monitor and update -- keep it very active.
?    Media – if there are news media about the seizure, get your friends to comment and support you with their true facts of your excellent care of your dogs.  Have them share with their friends and create a large support group.

Be part of the solution:
Some of us are out there constantly fighting those who would take away our animal options.  There needs to be so many more people helping to shoulder the burden.  You can all help by educating yourself.  Then move out of your comfort zone and get active.  Check the following websites and join us in saving our freedom to choose our paths with animals.


Sheila Kessler, Animal Legal Resources LLC Partner Animal Legal Resources has been outstanding in the courtroom battling for her clients’ animals.  Sheila has joined with others animal warriors to form a corporation, Pipers Legacy, that will work to assist in the recovery of lost or stolen pets.  More information on this new and much needed resource will be available in the coming weeks!

Piper’s Legacy Mission Statement:
"To prevent the theft and loss of domestic pets and to provide assistance and services in the recovery and return of lost or stolen pets to their owners by providing community outreach and educational services, free and low cost microchip clinics, provide assistance to needy individuals with legal fees, shelter recovery fees, transportation costs or other expenses necessary to recover pets."

How do the recent government rules and regulations affect GSDCA members?

USDA Rule on Imported Dogs

In 2008, Congress passed an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act that required APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) to promulgate regulations to restrict imported dogs under 6 months old.  As written, the APHIS Import Dog Regulations cover any dog imported into the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, from foreign countries and U.S. territories, which are intended for resale.  It stipulates that they must be 6 months old or older.  This does NOT affect those dogs brought in for one’s personal use.  It DOES include those dogs brought in for resale by rehoming groups.  It does NOT cover dogs brought into the U.S. for research or veterinary medical care.

These regulations, unlike the revised Pet Store Regulations, are straightforward and fairly easy to understand.  Any dog that is imported in the U.S. with the intention of being resold, whether by a broker, or from a rehoming organization, must be 6 months old, be up to date on rabies vaccination and possess a current health certificate.  Kevin Shea, APHIS Administrator, writes on the introduction to the final rule, “This rule implements new requirements in the Animal Welfare Act to insure dogs imported for resale are healthy and vaccinated.”

The final rule may be viewed here:

The AWA amendments were originally were developed for individuals traveling abroad with their pets.  It became apparent in the 2000s that these regulations were being misused by the pet industry and rehoming groups for the mass importation of dogs.

An excellent article on the history of the road to 2014 Dog Import Rule is Patti Strand’s article on the NAIA website, ( “NAIA Applauds USDA Rule Protecting Pets and People! USDA Finalizes Sensible Regulations to Prevent the Importation of Sick and Dangerous Dogs for Resale” where she writes:
“Without these new regulations, the US would become the dumping ground for the world’s stray dogs. In 2006, the CDC estimated that 297,000 were imported into the US, about 199,000 of them smuggled across the Mexican border.  Until the finalization of this regulation, and the tightening of confinement agreements there was little in place to stop dogs from entering.”

Updated CDC Rabies Requirements on Imported Dogs:

CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) on July 10, 2014, effective August 11, 2014, issued Issuance and Enforcement Guidance for Dog Confinement Agreements  “This guidance describes the factors that HHS/CDC will consider in deciding whether to issue a dog confinement agreement or deny entry of a dog being imported into the United States that has not been adequately vaccinated against rabies.”

However, all dogs imported into the U.S. must have a Rabies vaccination with the exception of those animals arriving from Rabies Free countries (please see list below).  Those dogs that have never had a rabies shot (pups) must have had the vaccination 30 days prior to import.  Pups must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age, so the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the U.S. is 4 months old. Very limited approval will be given to dogs without the Rabies vaccination requirements.  That permission must be granted PRIOR to arrival in the U.S. and on a case-by-case basis.  Dogs without the required advance permission might be returned to the country of origin at owner’s expense.

Certain dogs may be imported without rabies vaccinations under limited conditions.

•Dogs that are imported from a rabies free country in which they have lived for at least 6 months: List at the site:
•Dogs are imported for scientific research in which the rabies vaccination would interfere with the study.
•Dogs who are planned for importing and are unable to provide a valid rabies vaccination certificate upon arrival in the United States should contact CDC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible in advance of the dogs’ planned arrival.  Confinement agreements may be approved on a limited and case-by-case basis.  Dogs that are not adequately vaccinated might be denied entry to the United States and returned to the country of origin at their owners’ expense.

These new CDC Rabies vaccination requirements probably means that breeders or puppy buyers will be looking to those Rabies-free countries more closely for new breeding stock or for their new pup.  It also means that those importing dogs should be extremely careful that their health certificates are completely approved by CDC, both as to country of origin and to details.

Canada and CDC’s Rabies Requirements:

Canada’s CKC is communicating with CDC to establish exceptions to the new requirements for CKC members.  Mr. Lance Novak, Executive Director, CKC, in an update to the members, appears confident that an understanding can be reached for CKC members exporting Canadian born pups to the U.S.


After APHIS published the revised regulations for dog breeders, there were hundreds of comments in social media, Yahoo lists and blogs, questioning whether APHIS staff understood the many nuances involved in breeding dogs that most of us do.  What almost everybody could agree on, and there was much more that they couldn’t, was that was that the staff at APHIS needed to know more about non-commercial and hobby breeders.

APHIS listened: they hired Julian Prager, who is eminently qualified, to translate not only non-commercial breeders' unique situations but also the needs of those who rehome.

APHIS subsequently developed the position of Canine Program Advisor in mid July 2014.  Julian Prager, who was hired to fill that position, is a Bulldog breeder and exhibitor, Counselor for the Bulldog Club of America, is a licensed attorney in NY, and is the Legislative Chairman for the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs.  He has held several Commissioner-level positions in NYC government and was General Counsel and Executive Director of New York City Animal Care and Control. He is also a legal analyst and advisor for NAIA.

Julian announced his APHIS appointment to AKC Delegates at the September 8 Delegates' meeting Legislative Committee.  Here are excerpts from his announcement to an AKC Legislative Liaisons List:

“Small hobby and show breeders have all been concerned about the implications of the revision to the “Retail Pet Store Rule" by APHIS and the implication for that group. APHIS has heard your concerns.  At last year’s NAIA conference, the APHIS Deputy Administrator met with about 20 of us after the session to discuss our concerns and issues.  He committed to work with us to work to resolve these issues.”

“I will be providing APHIS staff with technical guidance on dog issues, assist in training their field staff, participate in developing program information material, conduct outreach and education and, most significantly, work on developing related policies and rules.”

Julian has requested comments and feedback for “assistance in developing clear rules and meaningful exemptions for activities which have a minimal effect on interstate commerce.” He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I hope that you will share your concerns with him.

Finally, I continue to ask the GSDCA Board to finalize what was passed several years ago and to appoint a Legislative Chair and Committee.  In today’s climate, not having a Legislative Committee is a dangerous oversight, which will eventually catch up to our dismay, as all oversights eventually do.