April 2023 Pet Advocacy Network Pulse Newsletter

In This Issue:

New USDA Regulations Impact Bird Breeders and Distributors

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued new regulations and licensing requirements for bird breeders and distributors on February 21, 2023. Pet Advocacy Network has been working for over two years to engage stakeholders and ensure that the USDA heard from experts whose businesses involving birds would be impacted by the proposed changes. 

The new regulations direct that the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will now oversee inspecting and licensing pet bird breeders, distributors, and transporters. Standards have been added to the “Blue Book” of regulations, resulting in a balance of regulations that allow inspectors to assess animal care conditions effectively without going into microscopic detail. 

The phrase “pet bird” is problematic because APHIS has not yet finalized the list of species in that category. The new oversight system is likely to cause some uncertainty as inspectors and licensees connect, and breeders come into compliance. According to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, bird ownership has increased in recent years. A lack of available birds could impede this trend and have a negative effect on demand for bird food and products. 

Breeders, wholesalers, and shippers affected by the new rules can apply for licenses immediately. To accomplish this, APHIS has staggered the implementation of these measures and made relevant materials available online. The compliance deadline is August 21, 2023, for those holding a USDA license, and February 21, 2024, for those not currently licensed. 

The Pet Advocacy Network and the Bird Enjoyment and Advantage Koalition (BEAK) encourage retailers and manufacturers who work with impacted bird breeders to reach out and support them as they navigate these new regulations. 

If you have any questions or wish to get further involved, contact us at Pet Advocacy Network and one of our staff members will be happy to assist you. 

Proposed Florida Regulations Threaten Aquaculture and Pet Trade

For over a year, the Pet Advocacy Network has been taking part in monthly meetings with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as a part of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) representing the greater pet trade. Potential regulatory or rule changes governing nonnative fish and wildlife that could potentially impact the pet sector are discussed during the meetings.  

Prior to the February meeting of the FWC Commissioners, FWC staff and TAG members had reached a collective understanding of direction and the intended end goal. However, during the meeting it became clear that the Commissioners were looking to create a whitelist like what was attempted in Michigan several years ago, with a key difference—the process itself.  

When Michigan compiled their list, they spent a year working with experts to create a draft. Florida only gave sector experts a few weeks to provide a draft to staff. The Pet Advocacy Network collaborated with our members and TAG members to help compile a list, while at the same time meeting with the FWC to emphasize that a whitelist approach was ill-advised, and that the deadline for this first draft was unfeasible.   

Leading pet sector experts have been meeting monthly to collaborate on proposed rule changes that would protect Florida’s delicate ecosystem while also ensuring the longevity of the state’s larger pet sector. FWC could tap into this knowledge to inform development of a science-based, reasonable approach, rather than asking for input to a hastily-compiled list. This whitelist approach failed in other states, including Michigan, who abandoned it in favor of working with industry experts to move in a different direction.  

During the latest TAG meeting on April 4-5, our staff expressed concerns about the whitelist approach and how it came to be. At the meeting, FWC staff unveiled two highly restrictive and cumbersome “interpretations” of the Commissioners’ directive.  Interpretation #1 would impose a lengthy evaluation for any new species that could potentially be in the trade. Interpretation #2 is even more concerning as it would almost immediately shut down the aquaculture industry in Florida and cause ripple effects across the country, affecting the entire trade. This interpretation would restrict the importation of any unevaluated nonnative fish and wildlife species and would not authorize the importation of any unevaluated species until the FWC determines whether the species poses an acceptable level of risk to Florida. 

We are taking this issue seriously and actively pushing back against these proposals while advocating for our members’ interests. Our staff will continue to participate in the monthly TAG meetings and provide comments in person at the next Commissioners’ meeting in Miami in May. Contact Senior Director of Government Affairs Alyssa Miller-Hurley or Director of Government Affairs Ashley Brinkman to discuss the current situation in Florida.