Birds Finally in Line for Animal Welfare Act Protections

It only took 20 years, two lawsuits, and prodding from Congress for the US Department of Agriculture to finally propose regulations to extend Animal Welfare Act (AWA) protections to birds not bred for use in research. Such regulations would impose minimum care standards and oversight with respect to bird exhibitors and breeders of birds for the pet trade, where many have been denied basic needs and subjected to mistreatment. We were glad to see that the proposed rule requires enrichment that is essential to their welfare, prohibits the sale of unweaned birds, does not exempt birds used in falconry, and requires anyone with four or more breeding females to be licensed—the same threshold applied to dog and cat breeders. AWI submitted comments endorsing these provisions but also noted the need to make accommodations for flight, restrict public contact, and prohibit the use of tethering as a primary means of containment. Further, because birds are not domesticated like dogs and cats, we argued that they are “wild and exotic” animals, thus necessitating regulation under the AWA of pet stores that sell them.

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