Regarding the letter "Dogs raised under 'livestock' conditions" [March 22], dog breeding for retail pet sales began in the 1940s. By the 1960s, standards for dogs were so inhumane that Life magazine compared conditions to a concentration camp, resulting in the 1966 Animal Welfare Act.

Today, advances in animal health and psychology have increased exponentially. Only the lives of commercial breeding dogs haven't improved in 50 years, because they are classified as livestock by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For a brief moment in 1999, these dogs could look forward to a solid resting surface in their cages. However, livestock owners complained, the USDA listened, and the dogs went back to wire-floor rabbit hutches and worse. Grooming and socialization aren't required and veterinary care is minimal. Clearly something is wrong.

The Office of the Inspector General issues audit reports saying that the USDA "cannot guarantee the safe or humane treatment of the animals in its dog program." Why is the USDA allowed to fail the dogs and puppies in its program year after year?

The dogs need a 2015 Animal Welfare Act to upgrade care and conditions. The act must force the USDA to either do a better job or outsource the program to another government agency or nonprofit.

Dogs aren't livestock, they are companion animals. They should not be exempt from laws and other protections afforded the rest of this country's dogs. Only an act of Congress can help.

Barbara Dennihy, Nesconset

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Editor's note: The writer is the New York director of the Companion Animal Protection Society.