Ag Appropriation Bills Address Animal Welfare

The House appropriations committee and the full Senate have approved spending bills for the US Department of Agriculture, and both include important provisions for animal welfare. The House bill expresses Congress’s concern about the mounting evidence that fur farms are “potential vectors for zoonotic diseases,” including COVID-19 and bird flu, and about the “lack of directives from USDA to mitigate disease transmission to, from, and within such farms.” The committee urges the National Agricultural Statistics Service to “make public the data collected in its annual mink survey” in order to better assess public health risks. The House bill also increases funding to strengthen the USDA’s “oversight of imported dogs … to better protect animal and public health.” 

The Senate passed its agriculture appropriations bill as part of a three-bill appropriations “minibus” that includes funding for the Protecting Animals With Shelter grant program to assist domestic violence survivors and their pets, and a directive to the Department of Veterans Affairs not to conduct any research involving dogs, cats, or nonhuman primates unless the secretary of veterans affairs “approves such research specifically and in writing pursuant to” certain criteria.

Both the House and Senate agriculture appropriations bills provide funding for Horse Protection Act enforcement and continue to prohibit the USDA from expending funds to inspect horses destined for food, thereby effectively preventing the slaughter of horses for consumption in the United States. Both bills also address lax Animal Welfare Act enforcement. The House committee report that accompanied the bill encourages the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to “use its full enforcement capabilities under the AWA against chronic violators of the AWA.” The Senate report goes further, directing the agency to reform its licensing and enforcement procedures and improve its inspection of licensees and documentation of noncompliances. 

The full House defeated its bill, so it will need to be brought back to the floor for another vote. As of this writing, all appropriations bills are a long way from getting signed into law.

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