[To understand a bit about ARBA shows, see the trailer for the movie Rabbit Fever here: http://www.rabbitfever.com/trailer/ ]
Rabbits and cavies are often sold at sanctioned ARBA shows.
This has many advantages for both buyer and the seller: It's a safe environment with many people around; it doesn't bring strangers to the breeder's home to endanger their family, possessions and animals; and it doesn't compromise herd biosecurity.
Most importantly, it allows the buyer an opportunity to get expert second opinions on the health and quality of the animal. Other breeders and judges routinely look over rabbits/cavies for potential buyers. It's common to see multiple breeders and/or judges helping a buyer make a purchasing decision at a show. It's also quite common for someone who lives a long distance away or can't make it to the show to ask a trusted friend to inspect and choose animals for them. This would no longer be allowed if the new USDA rule passes, unless the seller was USDA licensed.
(Remember, the AWA standards for licensed breeders require that animals be raised in a sterile environment with restrictions designed for laboratories and large commercial facilities--impossible for hobby breeders or family farms to meet, and preventing animals from being raised in a typical home/family environment.)
An unhealthy or poorly cared for rabbit/cavy is readily apparent by examining the animal itself; with a careful and knowledgeable inspection one does not need to see where they were raised. Most breeders also guarantee the health of the rabbit for at least a few days after purchase. Since the show world is a very small and tight-knit community, simply asking around about a breeder's reputation will quickly tell you who to buy from or avoid.
This rule would remove a very important safeguard for buyers.
Please allow consumers to choose shows, competitions and other offsite ways to buy animals, without forcing USDA licensing. We do not need a nanny government to protect us from the freedom to make our own informed purchasing decisions. We're perfectly capable of thinking for ourselves.
This is the comment we submitted today.
Animal Welfare; Retail Pet Stores and Licensing Exemptions
Document ID: APHIS-2011-0003-0001
Your Comment Tracking Number: 8105dab3
Submit your comment to APHIS here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=APHIS-2011-0003-0001
Don't forget to also contact your congressional representatives!