By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
The Senate Committee on Appropriations today released a package of 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021, and it is a mixed bag for animals.
The House has already approved its appropriations bills, which fund federal government agencies, and they include significant protections for animals, including funding to address wildlife trafficking, slaughterhouse kill speeds, horse soring and slaughter, animal testing alternatives and wildlife markets, and to help chimpanzees, right whales and farm animals. While the Senate version includes some strong reforms on wild horses and burros, phasing out the use of dogs in testing, and funding for marine mammal conservation efforts, among many others, it also includes calls for an increased focus on the use of nonhuman primates and farm animals, particularly pigs, in testing, and would make the roads less safe for people and animals, among other concerns. It also leaves out key provisions included in the House bill, including defunding language to effectively prevent horse slaughter in the United States for human consumption.
The two chambers must now reach an agreement on their respective versions by December 11 to avoid a government shutdown, and we’ll be working to make sure that we get the best possible outcomes for animals.
Here’s a rundown of some of the top provisions for animals in the Senate:
- Humane management of wild horses and burros by giving the Bureau of Land Management an additional $15 million to implement a non-lethal management program. The Senate package also renews necessary protections to ensure that healthy horses under the care of the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service are not sent to slaughter for human consumption.
- More funding for marine mammal conservation efforts to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales; to sustain the Marine Mammal Commission, the independent agency tasked with oversight on any federal action impacting marine mammals; and fund the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue assistance grant program that supports the country’s marine mammal stranding response network.
- Phasing out dog testing by directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce the use of dogs in research.
- Oversight of online dog sales. The committee, concerned about dog dealers who are selling dogs over the Internet without the necessary Animal Welfare Act (AWA) license, is requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture conduct robust oversight and enforcement of a 2013 rule on Internet sales.
- Renewing the prohibition on licensing Class B dealers, which would prevents the USDA from using funds to license “Class B random source” dealers, notorious for acquiring cats and dogs for research through fraudulent means including pet theft.
- Expanding the ban on dog and cat meat by urging the USDA to move forward with an international agreement to ban the trade of dog and cat meat worldwide.
- Encouraging implementation of non-animal testing methods by the Food and Drug Administration for new drugs.
- Requiring transparency from the USDA by directing it to comply with the FY20 requirement to post on its website inspection reports and enforcement records under the AWA and the Horse Protection Act.
- Promoting research into plant-based protein alternatives by the USDA.
- Cracking down on animal fighting with funds for enforcement by the USDA’s Inspector General.
- Increasing investments to protect wildlife around the world, such as through the USAID biodiversity programs that help protect some of the largest, most at-risk natural landscapes and wildlife. The Senate package also maintains funding for the Multinational Species Conservation Fund and for federal international security assistance, Global Environment Facility projects, and Department of Interior conservation and enforcement activities to combat wildlife trafficking.
- Focusing on protecting people and animals from zoonotic diseases and exploitation by encouraging prioritization of activities to address zoonotic disease spillover, including in wildlife markets in Africa and Asia, and commissioning a U.S. Government Accountability Office study on this urgent issue.
Unfortunately, the package includes some provisions that would impact animals negatively. These include:
- Calls for increased animal testing, specifically an increased focus on the use of nonhuman primates and farm animals, particularly pigs, for use as research models for biomedical testing.
- Making the National Institutes of Health’s policy on post-research adoption of research animals voluntary.
- Making roads less safe for people and animals by exempting livestock haulers from the electronic logging device rule, which will lead to greater truck driver fatigue and resulting crashes that endanger everyone on the road and the animals being hauled. Longer trips without rest periods also facilitate the spread of diseases and pathogens like influenza and salmonella.
The Senate bills did not include some key pro-animal provisions that were approved by the House, including:
- Preventing government spending on horse slaughter inspections: The Senate package does not contain “defund” language that has been enacted nearly every year since 2005.
- Restricting trophy hunting: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is not prohibited from allowing the import of lion or elephant trophies from Zambia, Zimbabwe or Tanzania, where the populations of these animals have declined to unsustainable levels. Senate report language also omits the House’s concern and directives relating to the FWS’s failure to reevaluate their trophy import permitting scheme as required under the enacted FY20 appropriations package.
- Requiring facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, such as puppy mills and roadside zoos, to have emergency response plans for the animals in their care: The Senate language does not require AWA facilities to have disaster plans in place. USDA required this in a final rule issued in 2012, but then indefinitely delayed its implementation in 2013. The House bill directs the USDA to lift the stay on its final rule.
- Retiring research chimpanzees to Chimp Haven: Recognizing the clear animal welfare benefits of retiring former research chimps to sanctuary, the House made it clear that government supported and owned surplus chimps are required to be transferred and retired to the federal sanctuary, Chimp Haven, as mandated under the CHIMP Act. The Senate language could be read to suggest that NIH may continue violating that mandate by keeping surplus chimps in the laboratory setting at Alamogordo Primate Facility until they die.
- Making key funding increases to help pets and horses: While the Senate bill sustains funding for two key programs—PAWS grants that provide shelter options for domestic violence survivors with pets and enforcement of the federal law against horse soring—it doesn’t increase funding as the House bill does.
As the Senate and House negotiate these bills over the next few weeks, we’ll urge Congress to include all possible protections for animals from both the House and Senate versions, and to keep out the more harmful provisions. Animal protection is not a partisan issue, most Americans support funding the commonsense reforms wholeheartedly, and they want their lawmakers to do the same.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.