US Spending Package Includes Multiple Wins for Animals, but Insufficient Funding for Major Welfare and Conservation Priorities

photo by RT Images
photo by RT Images

Washington, DCThe Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 4366) signed into law Saturday includes several important victories for animals, but falls short in a number of key areas, such as enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA). The $460 billion spending package (H.R. 4366) funds the Department of the Interior, the US Department of Agriculture, and other federal agencies through the end of the 2024 fiscal year on September 30. It includes the following provisions:

Wildlife Services
H.R. 4366 prohibits the USDA’s Wildlife Services program from using chemical poison devices such as M-44 “cyanide bombs” or sodium fluoroacetate (Compound 1080). These lethal predator control devices cause immense suffering and are indiscriminate, victimizing not only target animals but also endangered species and family pets. M-44s have injured several people and pose a grave danger to children. Many humane and cost-effective wildlife management methods exist as alternatives to chemical poisons.

Endangered Marine Mammals 
During negotiations, riders were attached to Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bills that would have threatened the survival and recovery of two of the most endangered whales on Earth, the North Atlantic right whale and Rice’s whale. The most dangerous of these would have blocked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from finalizing a vessel speed rule to protect North Atlantic right whales and stymied future efforts to protect Rice’s whales from vessel strikes. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and dozens of environmental and animal welfare organizations worked with animal protection champions in Congress to ensure that the final package was stripped of these riders. 

Captive Marine Mammal Regulations
The bill notes that the USDA’s standards for the handling, care, treatment, and transportation of marine mammals in captivity are outdated. It directs the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to prioritize finalization of a humane and science-based rule to modernize its marine mammal regulations and to report on its progress within 90 days. 

Endangered Species Act
The ESA has been desperately underfunded for years, despite overwhelming evidence that the planet is facing a global extinction crisis. The US Fish and Wildlife Service needs at least an additional $553 million to begin addressing a backlog of more than 300 species awaiting protection decisions, among other priorities. Instead, the Consolidated Spending Act decreased funding by $8 million for ESA implementation. However, thanks to enormous pressure from wildlife advocates, a number of anti-ESA riders were stripped from the final agreement.

The bill continues to block the operation of horse slaughter facilities on US soil.

It earmarks $11 million for the administration of proven humane fertility control methods to keep wild horses and burros in their natural habitats with their herds, and protects wild equines from lethal control methods and from being destroyed for commercial purposes.

For the first time, Congress included language directing the Bureau of Land Management to consider alternatives to brutal helicopter roundups to remove wild horses from the range. Language was also included urging the National Park Service to maintain wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The NPS is considering removal of this historic herd — the only wild horses in North Dakota — despite opposition from lawmakers and the public.

H.R. 4366 allocates $3.5 million for HPA enforcement to combat abuses associated with horse soring — a 17% decrease from the previous fiscal year. This funding cut comes at an inopportune time, as the USDA appears poised to finalize long-awaited HPA regulations that would overhaul the current failed system of industry self-policing.

Congress expressed concern about the mounting evidence that fur farms are potential vectors for zoonotic diseases, including COVID-19 and avian influenza. Lawmakers also noted a lack of USDA oversight of disease transmission on fur farms, and urged the department to make data from its annual mink survey public to help clarify public health risks and inform policy decisions. 

Other Farmed Animals
The bill directs the USDA to work with producers to develop disaster preparedness plans to prevent farmed animal suffering and death during extreme weather events.

It ensures training in humane handling regulations for all Food Safety and Inspection Service inspection personnel and continued public access to quarterly reports of humane handling activities. It also directs the USDA to report on instances in which poultry slaughter facilities fail to comply with directives aimed at preventing animal mistreatment and adulteration of food.

Finally, it directs the USDA to report to Congress on barriers to enforcement of the Twenty-Eight Hour Law — the only federal law aimed at providing basic protections for farmed animals being transported across the United States.

Companion Animals
H.R. 4366 provides $3 million for grants to provide sheltering, fostering, and additional services for domestic violence survivors with companion animals under the Protecting Animals With Shelter (PAWS) program. 

Animal Welfare Act Enforcement
Congress asked APHIS to step up enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act against exhibitors, researchers, breeders, and dealers who repeatedly violate the law. This includes conducting consistent, thorough, unannounced inspections on a regular basis, documenting each violation or attempt to block inspector access, and requiring that violations and compliance failures be shared with relevant local, state, and federal agencies.

The spending package directs the “FDA to efficiently and expeditiously utilize existing funds to reduce animal testing and advance alternative methods in a measurable and impactful way.” 

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
(202) 446-2128, [email protected]

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere: in agriculture, in commerce, in our communities, in research, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.