A Sheltie Rescue vs. The Animal Welfare Act

I am still trying to understand the mentality that Penny Sanderbeck, (director of Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue), must be operating from, as she continues to staunchly hold onto a dog that is, to me, clearly not hers. What must she be thinking, to keep a sheltie that is wanted… by her breeder of all people? 

Where does Penny gain her steadfast insistence that she should hold a dog many feel she has no right to? 

There are several reasons floating around the internet that her supporters state are the basis for position. One stated by her attorney, is a simple opinion that she has a legal right to Piper since a shelter gave the dog to her. 

That’s outrageous in my opinion, but it proves that there are people in the world that don’t give a rat’s ass what’s right, reasonable or ethical. Especially when a technicality or legality may benefit them in some way.

If the crux of Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue’s argument is such a technical legal point, let’s see if I can find some legal points in Piper’s favor. While Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue has given other “reasons” why Piper has not been returned, I decided to delve into this one first.

Dry, Mind-Numbing Legalese

Understand I am not an attorney, have no legal background. I’m just your ordinary citizen wondering how this nightmare could still be progressing.

I’m not sure anything short of Piper’s sad story dragging on so long, waiting for the court date of Oct 24, 2014 could have motivated me to read local, county, state and federal regulations regarding dog ownership.


Because reading legalese is a nightmare to me. Long, run-on sentences a paragraph long takes forever for me to digest. References sending me thither and yon in order that I don’t miss something takes forever to sort out. It seems to take an eternity to get to the meat of the issue. 

Nevertheless, gathering the information and boiling it down to the basic points was educational. I found for example, that there is no consistency between states, counties or local municipalities when it comes to handling dogs.

POOF! Your Dog Is Gone

I stated in another article on Piper and dog ownership, how owners have merely days to find their dogs before possibly losing them forever to a sheltie rescue. And Ohio's regulation of only a three day hold over holiday weekend seemed the epitome of heartlessness to me.

But each state can put into law anything they want, right?

WAIT! Not so fast!


Let’s take a gander at the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), shall we?

I, like most hobby breeders knew about the AWA and I’m not a fan of additional legislation governing my behavior for a hobby. I see it as a slippery slope to the end of all dog breeding as it gets regulated to death little by little. 

That being said, it is the law, like it or not. So I’m taking the position of that old Middle East saying:

 “Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin”. 

In other words, I may not like the law but I dislike Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue even more for trying to keep Piper from her owner. So I’ll support AWA if it can be used to save Piper.

First a real-l-l-y quick historical summary...

Interestingly, this whole law originated from an incident where a dog named Pepper disappeared from the yard of a family in Pennsylvania. Later it was discovered that Pepper had been stolen by "dog-nappers," and sold to a hospital where the dog was used for an experimental surgical procedure and died.

Due to that incident H.R. 9743 was introduced. The bill required dog and cat dealers, as well as the laboratories that purchased the animals to be licensed and inspected by the USDA. 

Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like I just dipped my toe into the Twilight Zone for a second there. But I digress.

The bill was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 24, 1966

There have been multiple amendments to this legislation over the years.

The USDA and APHIS oversee the AWA and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have primary legislative jurisdiction over the Act.

know the rules

Why Is the AWA Relevant In This Case?

“Congress is permitted to delegate authority to Agencies to issue rules.”

“The declared policy of the Act is to ensure that animals intended for use in research facilities, as pets, or for exhibition purposes are provided humane care and treatment; to assure the humane treatment of animals during transportation; and to prevent the sale of stolen animals.”

“The Act mandates that the Secretary of Agriculture promulgate regulations and standards to govern the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals by dealers, exhibitors, research facilities, carriers, and intermediate handlers.” 

“State means a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, or any other territory or possession of the United States.”

 "Federal oversight is necessary to ensure that AWA regulations are consistently applied across all States."

Plain English Translation: the AWA is considered the minimum standards by which all states (including Ohio!) must adhere for the humane treatment of animals (in this case, a dog) and prevention of sale of stolen animals.

So What Are the AWA Standards?

Ahh, here’s the fun part… (rubbing my hands together in glee)

Shelters hold a dog 5 days minimum

§2.133 Certification for random source dogs and cats page 54: 

“Each of the entities… that acquire any live dog…. Shall before selling them or providing the live dog or cat to a dealer, hold and care for the dog or cat for a period of not less than 5 full days after acquiring the animal, not including the date of acquisition and excluding the time in transit. This holding time shall include at least one Saturday. The provisions of this paragraph apply to

  1. Each pound or shelter owned and operated by a state, county or city;
  2. Each pound or shelter established for the purpose of caring for animals, such as a humane society, or other organization that is under contract with a state county or city that operates as a pound or shelter and that releases animals on a voluntary basis; and
  3. Each research facility licensed by the USDA”

"Additionally, the day of disposition is also excluded from the holding period because it is not a full day".

Plain English Translation: The Franklin County Animal Control should have held Piper five days, excluding the day acquired (Thursday) and excluding the day they gave/sold the sheltie to the dealer, Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue. 

Shall we all count on our fingers now, to see when they should have released her? All together now….

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday! Which means she should not have been  released until sometime Wednesday. That isn’t what happened. Piper was gone Monday before noon. 

Methinks Franklin County, Ohio Animal Control needs to make some apologies and go retrieve the dog they let go illegally.

What do you say?  Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue isn’t a “dealer”, just a little ol’ non-profit rescue saving dogs, so the regulations saying it needed to be a 5 day hold didn’t count? Sorry, I beg to differ. The Federal Register is very clear on this point, even to someone like me.

Definition of dealer 

“Dealer means any person who, in commerce, for compensation or profit, delivers for transportation, or transports, except as a carrier, buys, or sells, or negotiates the purchase or sale of: Any dog or other animal whether alive or dead (including unborn animals, organs, limbs, blood, serum, or other parts) for research, teaching, testing, experimentation, exhibition, or for use as a pet; or any dog for hunting, security, or breeding purposes. This term does not include: A retail pet store, as defined in this section, unless such store sells any animals to a research facility, an exhibitor, or a dealer (wholesale); or any person who does not sell, or negotiate the purchase or sale of any wild or exotic animal, dog, or cat and who derives no more than $500 gross income from the sale of animals other than wild or exotic animals, dogs, or cats, during any calendar year.”

OK, I admit, this was one of those paragraph long, run-on sentences…

Plain English Translation: A dealer is any person who sells any dog for use as a pet. Sheltie Rescues do just that. They sell dogs as pets.

Still not convinced that it includes sheltie rescues?

Comments in the Federal Register regarding Animal Welfare Act definition of “retail pet store”: 

“We consider private rescues and shelters that perform any of the activities listed in the definition of dealer, including transporting or offering animals for compensation, to be dealers. We consider acts of compensation to include any remuneration for the animal, regardless of whether it is for profit or not for profit. Remuneration thus includes, but is not limited to, sales, adoption fees, and donations.”

Plain English Translation: Call it selling, adopting, fees or donations, whatever you wish. If you receive any money for a dog, you my dear, are a dealer.

So, Piper a Champion sheltie is 

  • picked up by Franklin County Animal control, 
  • released before the federally mandated 5 day hold to a dealer by the name of Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue 

And somehow this dealer, this sheltie rescue still thinks they own Piper??

Dealers (Including Sheltie Rescues) Must Hold Acquired Dogs 

There are additional hold times once the dog is acquired by the "dealer" or "rescue".

Part 2, Subpart H:

"Sec. 2.101 Holding period.

(a) Any live dog or cat acquired by a dealer [FN]5[/FN] or exhibitor shall be held by him or her, under his or her supervision and control, for a period of not less than 5 full days, not including the day of acquisition, after acquiring the animal, excluding time in transit:...

(1) That any live dog or cat acquired by a dealer or exhibitor from any private or contract animal pound or shelter shall be held by that dealer or exhibitor under his or her supervision and control for a period of not less than 10 full days, not including the day of acquisition, after acquiring the animal, excluding time in transit;"

Plain English Translation: Once a dog is released from the shelter ON THE SIXTH DAY to a rescue, the rescue is then required to hold the dog another additional time period. If the rescue obtained the dog from a pound or shelter (as Piper was in this case) the rescue must hold the dog an additional 10 days before having the right to sell or consider it theirs. The purpose?? To allow an owner to find their dog and have it returned to them. 

book of regulations and gavel

What To Do?

I’m all for education for the simple exercise but in this case I think there may be something that can actually be done. This information may be of some help to us all.

While even a 5 day hold doesn’t seem like a long time to find your dog, it’s better than what many municipalities have now, so maybe we should start with what is already on the books.

Perhaps bringing the AWA regulations to the attention of your various local legislators and maybe even the Attorney General in cases such as these where a dog has been “disappeared” would change protocol and educate the shelters, at least a little.


"(a) REQUEST.--Whenever the Secretary has reason to believe that any dealer, carrier, exhibitor, or intermediate handler is dealing in stolen animals, or is placing the health of any animal in serious danger in violation of this Act or the regulations or standards promulgated thereunder, the Secretary shall notify the Attorney General, who may apply to the United States district court in which such dealer, carrier, exhibitor, or intermediate handler resides or conducts business for a temporary restraining order or injunction to prevent any such person from operating in violation of this Act or the regulations and standards prescribed under this Act."

So, if you have a need for this information, feel free to print out a PDF version of this page or share the link that got you to this article. Please share in its entirety to anyone that may help in the return of Piper. If, perchance you see errors, let me know so I can correct them ASAP. Like I said, no attorney am I. 

Not So Final Thoughts on the Animal Welfare Act

Before you cheer and start thinking what a great thing the AWA is, remember my warning at the beginning of this research. It’s just the beginning of a foot hold for the Animal Rights extremists. How do I know? The page of the Federal Register that reviewed comments stated towards the end of the document:

Other Comments  

“We received many comments on subjects that are outside the scope of this rulemaking. Several of the comments also requested changes that are also outside the scope of the AWA, among them a ban on the sale of pets, mandatory spaying or neutering and microchipping of all pets sold at retail, regulation of the Internet as a marketing tool for pets, licensing of individuals who buy animals as pets and imposing minimum requirements on those individuals, and titling for animals used in agility competitions.”

*Sigh*, so many battles, so little time…

OK, off to think about the other possible reasons why Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue thinks they are in the right…

Related Pages:

How the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) relates to hobby breeders

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  3. sheltie breeders
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  5. sheltie rescue