Reforming Rubber Stamp of Commercial Animal Licenses

AWI President Cathy Liss joined Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and other animal welfare advocates in August at DuPage County Animal Services in Wheaton, Illinois, as Krishnamoorthi announced the introduction of legislation designed to protect animals from unscrupulous dealers and exhibitors and close loopholes in the US Department of Agriculture licensing process.

The Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act (HR 4211) would end the USDA’s practice of automatically renewing exhibitor and dealer licenses even when licensees have long histories of failing to comply with the very modest care standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The bill would require animal dealers, breeders, and exhibitors—including large-scale commercial dog breeders, traveling circuses, roadside zoos, animal acts, marine mammal facilities, and others—to renew their licenses annually, with each renewal contingent on passing an unannounced inspection by the USDA. Businesses determined to be noncompliant with the AWA, or that have repeatedly violated the AWA or local, state, or other federal laws related to animals, would be denied licenses. Further, multiple animal welfare violations could result in license revocation, in which case the business would also be barred from receiving a license under another business name or business partner.

The bill empowers citizens to file lawsuits to enforce the AWA, similar to provisions in federal environmental laws. The USDA would also be required to publish all inspection reports, enforcement records, and animal inventories online without redactions, as it did prior to February 2017 when the Trump administration ordered that these and other documents be removed from public view.

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