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breeder: dayna bell





  issue > commercial breeders > licensing

USDA-licensed breeders represent only some breeders in Minnesota. See link below for a list of USDA licensees.

USDA: Animal Welfare License and Registration List

The numbers listed in chart (on above link) fluctuate as existing breeders may:

• switch their "class" of licensing (from A to B to A)

• new breeders may apply, increasing the total number

• breeders may drop their license and choose to only sell directly to consumers where the animal is "seen" before sold; therefore, not requiring a USDA license 


NOTE: The USDA created a rule change to the Animal Welfare Act that changed the definition of "retail pet store." This change went into effect in November 2013.

Prior to this rule change, only breeders with four or more intact females and who sold wholesale (to brokers/pet stores, not directly to consumers) were required to be licensed by the federal government through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This rule change closed the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act — by now requiring that breeders and other businesses that sell certain animals through retail (i.e., the Internet, by phone, by mail — "sight unseen") obtain a USDA license and get inspected. Learn more at: AWA > licensing


Ranking and cancellations

Every year the USDA issues a report that reports how many Class A (dog/cat breeders) and Class B (dog/cat dealers) USDA licensees exist in each state. 

Based on numbers of licenses in previous years, the industry is in decline.* Many licensees have cancelled their USDA license. This may be due to a variety of reasons, including a weaker economy, closing the business due to health or other reasons, the passage of state breeder laws requiring higher standards, increased public awareness and pressure, etc. (Some breeders dropped their USDA license to sell through the Internet which, prior to the rule change explained above, did not require a USDA license.)

* Indiana is the only State where the number of USDA licenses is increasing. From 108  Class A and B dog/cat breeders/dealers (in 2011) to 117 (in 2012) to 129 (in 2013).

List below ranks the top 15 states with the most USDA Class A and Class B licensees as of 2013. (There are additional states with USDA licensees.) Rank varies each year, but Missouri has remained the top "puppy mill" state.

1. Missouri - 678

2. Iowa - 248

3. Oklahoma - 205

4. Kansas - 195

5. Ohio - 149

6. Arkansas - 146

7. Indiana - 129

8. Nebraska - 74

9. South Dakota - 62

10. Texas - 58

11. Minnesota - 36

12. Pennsylvania - 34

13. New York - 32

14. Wisconsin - 28

15. Illinois - 25

Please be aware when reviewing the above: In previous years, Minnesota was tied with South Dakota as #10 for the most number of Class A breeders. Between 2006 and 2011, over 60% of USDA-licensed dog/cat breeders (Class A) and dog/cat brokers (Class B) in Minnesota dropped their USDA license. As stated above, while a few of these licensees may have gone out of business, many chose to cancel or not re-new this license and instead sold directly to consumers on websites or directly from the kennel. This means these breeders/dealers were not regulated at all. This is one reason why the USDA changed the definition of "retail pet store" so as to include Internet and phone sales. (See AWA licensing.) The State of Minnesota does not regulate dog/cat breeders.


Estimate of industry size

In 2007 the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) conducted a five-month investigation to determine the number of breeders and breeding conditions in the State of Virginia. They found that “only 16 of Virginia’s more than 900 commercial puppy dealers hold federal licenses. Many of the rest…violate federal law when they sell their puppies to pet stores.” [Associated Press, Nov. 2, 2007, Humane Society: Virginia is for puppy mills]

No investigation has yet been conducted to determine the depth and breadth of the dog and cat breeding industry in Minnesota. The dog and cat breeding industry in Minnesota is not regulated by the state; therefore, no licensing exists in Minnesota.


USDA-licensed facilities in Minnesota

There are multiple facilities in Minnesota licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture. (See descriptions below.) Not all of these facilities breed dogs and cats. In 2013, there were about 36 USDA-licensed breeders (Class A) and brokers (Class B) in Minnesota who breed/broker dogs and cats. For complete list, see link at top of page. As of 2015, the number of USDA-licensed dog and cat breeders and brokers in Minnesota dropped to about 28.

Note: The number of breeders/dealers on this list changes each year.

Below is an abbreviated definition of the following categories. For specific definitions and explanations, see links below (on USDA-APHIS website).


These are breeders of dogs and cats (as well as other certain types of animals) who sell wholesale. The USDA designates this group as ‘Class A’.

These are brokers — this category can breed their own dogs/cats and can also buy/broker certain animals from other breeders and then sell wholesale. The USDA designates this group as ‘Class B’.

This group shows or uses the animals for entertainment, such as circuses, zoos, etc.. The USDA designates this group as ‘Class C.’

This group transports the animals.

Research facilities
These are research facilities, such as universities, medical facilities or businesses.


USDA-APHIS website

Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act (includes defitions and descripitions of regulated busiensses).


Further licensing information

For additional information about USDA licensing and a discussion of legislation pertaining to wholesale vs. retail sales, go to: Animal Welfare Act - licensing



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