Federal government cracking down on 2,000 online dog sellers

SEATTLE -- The federal government is cracking down on 2,000 online dog sellers after a KOMO 4 Problem Solvers investigation uncovered a loophole that allows suspected puppy mills to avoid inspection.

Jeanette Bergman typifies why the USDA is closing what's often called a giant internet loophole. She avoids federal inspections and licensing because instead of selling her dogs to pet stores, she sells online directly to buyers. Sometimes she meets buyers in a McDonald's parking lot.

Buyers never get to inspect her kennels down this road, or the poor conditions that have been chronicled in police photos.

Years before, authorities raided her operation and sent her to jail.

"So the purchaser has no opportunity to see the living conditions of the mother and the other breeding animal," said Wayne Pacelle, president of Humane Society of the United States. "And that's really what KOMO 4 has exposed."

Pacelle has worked for decades to update the law which was written well before internet dog sales exploded. The Humane Society of the United States was the lead in pushing for the same level of inspection for Internet dog sellers that pet store breeders must meet.

"Most of the operations that we are raiding are these puppy Internet sellers because there's no eyes on them -- there's no federal oversight," Pacelle said. "These folks are cutting corners left and right and really producing terrible outcomes for the dogs."

The Humane Society and others say if you want to prevent poor conditions inside so-called puppy mills, adopt you dog instead from a shelter or well-known rescue group.