Monday, June 26, 2023

The Senate Committee on Appropriations acted on a raft of animal welfare measures late last week, building on the House committee’s earlier work and helping set the stage for positive results in the final package. In a few areas—specifically directing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to phase out cosmetics testing on animals, providing increased funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Act enforcement and urging better enforcement of the federal law against “soring” of horses—the Senate version is stronger than the House version, and we’re really pleased about that.

The measures were approved as part of the Fiscal Year 2024 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which advanced by a bipartisan vote of 28-0.

One critical outcome was the continued inclusion of an annual defund provision to prevent horse slaughter in the U.S. We’re going to need that block on funding every year until we’re successful in securing a permanent ban on horse slaughter through appropriate legislation. On this and other gains, we benefitted from the strong leadership of the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee’s chair, Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and ranking member John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

We were happy to see the Committee’s language encouraging the FDA to make expeditious and efficient use of funds allocated toward the development and implementation of non-animal methods in research, testing and education. Appropriators, like more and more Americans, prefer to see taxpayer funds used to advance cutting edge technology to advance medical and scientific progress, not outdated animal tests. This language and many other provisions included in the Senate package were requested by a bipartisan set of 45 Senators, led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

With respect to animal testing for cosmetics and the FDA’s increased authority to regulate the substantiation of cosmetic products’ safety under the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022, the Committee reiterated its position: Animal testing should not be used for the purposes of safety testing on cosmetic products and should be phased out. It's worth noting that Canada has just passed a law to end new animal testing for cosmetics, leaving the United States as the only country in North America that hasn’t done so.

For the Horse Protection Act, the Committee approved funding of $4,096,000 for enforcement of the current federal law against horse soring, maintaining the FY23 level commitment, which the House had cut by $1 million. The Committee also urged Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to issue a new Horse Protection Act rule and expedite approval of strong regulations to end this cruel practice.

It was disappointing news if not unexpected that the Committee included no funding for Protecting Animals with Shelter (PAWS) grants to provide transitional sheltering options for domestic violence survivors fleeing with pets. Unfortunately, there is agency confusion on the continued need for this crucial program although applications have consistently outstripped available funds. The House version of this bill also failed to include funding for the first time since the program was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, but we’ll continue to advocate for it as the appropriations process moves along.

As for the approved funding commitments, we’ll do our best to make sure they survive a full Senate vote and are in the final deal. That’s part of the promise we make to you as a supporter and friend of our work.  And that’s why we rise in the morning to carry on our legislative and regulatory campaigns, every working day in the nation’s capital, year in and year out. Thank you.