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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Animal Welfare Act: Background and Selected Legislation

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development

In 1966, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act (P.L. 89-54) to prevent pets from being stolen for sale to research laboratories, and to regulate the humane care and handling of dogs, cats, and other laboratory animals. The law was amended in 1970 (P.L. 91-579), changing the name to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Congress periodically has amended the act to strengthen enforcement, expand coverage to more animals and activities, or curtail practices viewed as cruel, among other things. A 1976 amendment added Section 26 to the AWA, making illegal several activities that contributed to animal fighting. Farm animals are not covered by the AWA, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

In the 110
th Congress, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007 (H.R. 137; P.L. 110-22) was enacted. The bill amended Section 26 of the AWA to strengthen provisions against animal fighting. The AWA was amended again in 2008 when provisions were included in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246). These provisions ban the importation of puppies under six months of age for resale, tighten prohibitions on dog and other animal fighting activity, and increase penalties for violation of the act.

Other AWA bills introduced in the 110
th Congress included the Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 1280/S. 714) to restrict where research facilities could obtain their dogs and cats; Haley’s Act (H.R. 1947) to make it unlawful for animal exhibitors and dealers (but not accredited zoos) to allow direct contact between the public and big cats such as lions and tigers; the Animal Protection and Accountability Improvement Act (H.R. 2193), to prohibit the use of animals in marketing medical devices and products; and the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (H.R. 6949/S. 3519), to require an AWA license from USDA of dog breeders who raise more than 50 dogs in a 12-month period and sell directly to the public.

In the 111
th Congress, two of the bills were reintroduced: the Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 3907/S. 1834); and the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (H.R. 5434/S. 3424). Both bills were referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, where they saw no further action.

Date of Report: January 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: RS22493
Price: $29.95

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