Showsight October 2022


T o err is human. But in just about any endeavor, minor errors or the opportunity to ask questions of an expert also provide a valuable opportunity to learn. So-called “teachable moments” are typically related to experience and defined as the moment at which a person is most able to learn. These moments provide the opportunity for a person to improve outcomes and performance, or learn an important lesson that empha- sizes positive overall outcomes over minor negatives or errors made on the path to success. The general principle of teachable moments is widely recognized among a range of environments from child rearing to scientific research, education, and even to criminal justice. For years, teachable moments have been part of USDA APHIS Animal Care Division’s approach to correcting minor, non-welfare -related issues among Ani- mal Welfare Act (AWA) licensees. They are an opportunity to educate and assist USDA licensed breeders in improving their operations, animal care, and overall welfare outcomes. Today, teachable moments and educational opportunities are more important than ever because US demand for pet puppies vastly outstrips sup- ply. (The US Pet Productions Association estimates demand at more than eight million puppies per year.) For new or future pet breeder licensees, there are few resources other than the American Kennel Club and USDA to learn the science and art of canine breeding and animal husbandry in a hands-on environment. Sadly, few “experts” in canine welfare outside the USDA or traditional breeding organizations have much, if any, hands-on experience in canine breeding. Until recently, USDA’s Animal Care Division of APHIS, which oversees implementation of the AWA rules pertaining to professional or high-volume breeding operations (defined to include anyone who maintains more than four intact females and sells one offspring sight unseen), have provided programs and outreach to assist breeders on practical matters; assistance on improving welfare and operations; and in-person teachable moments to assist licensees in improving operations that improve compliance and positively impact canine welfare. Now, some anti-breeder groups, including PETA, HSUS and ASPCA, are attempting to stop this. These groups typically have little animal breeding or husbandry experience and often misinterpret education or teachable moments as undermining welfare. The fact is, educational and outreach programs do the very opposite. Implementa- tion of educational programs and teachable moments has enabled 96 percent of USDA pet breeder licensees to achieve compliance with AWA regulations. The most recent effort in this area is language (specifically, Section 755) in the Fiscal Year 2023 Agricultural Appropriations bill that was recently passed by the U.S. House (a Senate version has yet to be marked up). It contains language that would prohibit funding to implement any activities related to: (a) The per- mitting of non-recording of observed violations of the AWA or its regulations on official inspection reports; or (b) The prioritizing of education or collaborative approaches to violations or noncompliance ahead of enforcement under the AWA.


“Implementation of educational programs and teachable moments has enabled 96 percent of USDA pet breeder licensees to achieve compliance with AWA regulations.”


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