A dog auction is a marketplace where breeders go to sell off their unwanted breeding and unsellable “stock.” In the past, rescuers found themselves at these auctions, waiting until they were over to buy the unsold dogs for pennies on the dollar. Nowadays, the dynamic has shifted. Many rescuers are at the dog auctions spending thousands of dollars per dog in order to fulfill breed specific demands.
The rescues are often funded through crowd funding online campaigns such as Go Fund Me. The purpose behind raising the funds is to send rescuers to auction to save dogs from being cycled through the puppy mill industry, and while this is being accomplished, it is being done by putting large sums of money into the pockets of breeders and allowing them to buy new dogs to cycle through. The main issue behind the way these rescue groups are functioning is the lack of regulation and oversight over animal rescue groups. And animal advocates claim that breeders are taking advantage of this new system and holding dogs at their establishments for longer periods of time to make more money at auction than they would make in pet stores.
There is no federal or state legislation addressing the operation of dog auctions. The Animal Welfare Act deals with licensing, inspections, and recordkeeping at the federal level. The AWA is carried out by the USDA, but is limited in resources and does not have provisions regarding the actual time auctions are taking place. Some states have laws that mention auctions, but they are not uniform, resources are limited, and enforcement is lax.
There has also been a recent trend on the local level and in two states to enact bans on pet stores that prohibit them from selling pets obtained from anywhere but humane societies, animal shelters, and animal rescue organizations. These bans were well-intentioned but came with an unforeseen result. Adopters still wanted specialty breeds and so rescue groups popped up specializing in specific breeds. Since there is not a plethora of each breed needing to be rescued, these rescues have found themselves at dog auctions spending thousands of dollars to fulfill adoption requests.
There have been a few suggestions at both the federal and state level to deal with this new phenomenon. A federal bill that has yet to pass would require a humane rehoming of retired breeding dogs instead of selling them at auction. There is also an argument for more federal oversight of rescue groups. The pet store bans also need to be reworked if they are going to be effective. They need to be more specific and be able to circumvent to current loopholes. Lastly, advocacy groups argue that the spending the rescue groups are doing at auction should be regulated.