I-Team: U.S. cracks down on 'net pets

September 11, 2013

Online dog sales are growing in Chicago, and with the purchase of puppies just a mouse-click away, there is some relief coming for prospective buyers. It comes in the form of federal standards for internet sellers and inspections of the kennels behind online pet shops.

The U.S. regulations come six months after an I-Team report looked into where these animals come from and whether they are healthy.

"They're charging top dollar, their website is impeccable. They promise you everything," Andy Meucci, an internet dog buyer, said in February.

For $1,800, Andy Meucci of Roselle didn't get the happy healthy puppy he was expecting when he bought his puppy Lily on the internet.

"I brought her home and within two days she started getting lethargic, she wouldn't eat, she started vomiting," said Meucci.

After $7,000 in veterinary bills, Meucci's web-dog is still alive, but he could have benefited from new federal regulations that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will go into effect in 60 days.

Following a vigorous PR campaign by the Humane Society, the new USDA rules would protect online pet customers by allowing them to actually see the animals they are buying before purchase, or dealers must obtain a federal license and be subject to inspections. The rules could affect nearly 5,000 dog breeders.

The new rules, based on legislation co-sponsored by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, are aimed at puppy mills that churn out sick, closely-bred animals under no-money-back policies.

The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act rules cover dog, cat and rabbit breeders with more than more than four breeding females on hand; those that sell online by phone or through the mail would be subject to an annual licensing fee and random inspections.

When animal welfare laws were first put in place more than 40 years ago, windows were something you closed when it rained and apples grew on trees. Your corner pet store won't be required to have a license because buyers can actually see that doggy in the window. That isn't the case when buying over the internet.

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