Proposed Budget Increase For Animal Welfare Act Enforcement

The Humane Society of The United States (HSUS), the nation's largest animal protection organization with more than seven million members and constituents, applauded President Clinton Monday, February 7, for proposing an increase of $5 million in funding for enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in fiscal year 2001. This proposal, if approved by Congress during the annual appropriations process, will boost funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Care unit to $15 million (a 50 percent increase over the current level). Last fall, Congress approved a $1 million increase for the Animal Care unit, the first increase in almost a decade.

"The funding proposed by President Clinton is a significant step toward assuring that conditions for millions of animals meet standards set by the government," said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president at The HSUS. "This is welcome news for animals at more than 10,000 sites across the country, whose welfare has been jeopardized by chronic budget shortfalls."

Under the AWA, which was first enacted in 1966, Animal Care inspectors are responsible for ensuring humane conditions at a broad range of facilities including laboratories, puppy mills, zoos, circuses and airlines. Inadequate funding has led to a deficit in the number of inspectors to handle a heavy workload nationwide. There were only 64 inspectors last year (down from 88 in 1992) and the number of annual inspections declined 40 percent over the past decade. Many facilities are not inspected for years at a time. Of those that are visited, 45 percent are found to be out of compliance with AWA regulations.

"Lax enforcement invites inhumane treatment of animals and public safety risks, including disease transmission and escape by exotic animals," Pacelle noted. "To prevent animal abuse before it occurs, inspectors must have a strong, frequent presence at all facilities, not just those already known to have serious problems."

A unique coalition consisting of animal protection groups and entities regulated by the AWA, such as biomedical researchers and zoos, has joined forces to push for increased funding of AWA enforcement. Pacelle credited this coalition of more than 400 organizations with presenting a united front that captured the attention of the Administration.

"We hope Congress will follow suit," said Pacelle. "The public expects the Animal Welfare Act to be rigorously enforced, and these funds will help fulfill that responsibility." Congress is expected to begin deliberations on the Agriculture Appropriations bill in the spring and conclude action before the next federal fiscal year begins on October 1, 2000.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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