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Expert Voices

Arrival of President's New Pooch Highlights Pet Policies Awaiting Action

(Image credit: © Raywoo |

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed first appeared on the blog A Humane Nation, where it ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Let us add our congratulations and best wishes to the newest First Dog, Sunny. Cheers all around.

As the keeper of a new rescue — a six-year-old beagle mix named Lily — I know the joys of having a new pet in one's life. Lily has doubled the number of daily smiles and laughter in my life. Only occasionally are there more exhalations and other signs of exasperation!

The White House announcement that Bo now has a little sister to romp with did not provide detail about Sunny's background, except to say she is 14 months old and was born in Michigan.

As we always say in such circumstances, we hope the Obamas considered adoption or rescue as the first choice in obtaining a pet. We are pleased to learn that the First Family made a donation in Sunny's name to the Washington Humane Society, which shows the family's awareness of and concern for the problem of homeless dogs and cats in our nation.

With Sunny in the limelight, we take the opportunity to express to the President our hope that he will make dogs not just a family priority, but a national policy priority too.

His administration has promulgated two rules that would reduce the suffering of dogs who wind up being sold in retail commerce. One rule would prevent the importation of dogs from puppy mills in foreign countries for sale in the United States until the puppies are at least six months old (part of the administration's regulatory responsibility after The HSUS worked to include a provision banning imports in the 2008 Farm Bill.)

The other would close a loophole by requiring Internet sellers of puppy-mill dogs to be licensed and inspected by the Department of Agriculture, a regulation that came at The HSUS's request in the wake of a searing USDA Office of Inspector General review of deficiencies in federal Animal Welfare Act enforcement efforts.

Both are small steps that can make real differences in the lives of dogs not as fortunate as Bo and Sunny. We've been anxiously awaiting the final rules, and they've been a long time in coming. It's time for the White House to make these policies law. No more delays.

For those not familiar with the economics of dogs, remember that puppy mills are the primary source of dogs sold in pet stores and online, and also a source of great misery for those animals. A far better alternative for those who want a pet is to find a responsible breeder or, better yet, visit a rescue or shelter— where dogs of specific breeds or mixed-breeds, as well as dogs with special qualities — are waiting for a home.

Pacelle's most recent Op-Ed was American Running of the Bulls Not Much of a Thrill. This article was adapted from Sun(ny) Should Shine Light on Federal Dog Policies, which first appeared on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.

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