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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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). The AWA is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. 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,

In the 110th 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 110th 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 111th 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.

The 112th Congress has reintroduced two bills and introduced several new bills. The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act was reintroduced as H.R. 835 and referred to the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry. The Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 2256/S. 707) was also reintroduced and referred to the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act (S. 1947) was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. The bill would impose criminal penalties for attendance at animal fighting exhibitions. This prohibition on attendance was also added to the Senate farm bill (Section 12213, S. 3240). The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 3359) would amend the AWA to prohibit the exhibition of an exotic or wild animal in any animal act if, during the previous 15 days, such animal was traveling in a mobile housing facility. Another bill, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 (H.R. 1513/S. 810), was also reintroduced in the 112th Congress. The bill would prohibit conducting invasive research on great apes (e.g., chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, orangutan, gibbon) and provide a retirement sanctuary for the nearly 1,000 great apes still used for research in the United States. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Health of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In the Senate, the bill was ordered to be reported out of the Committee on Environment and Public Works with an amendment favorably.

Date of Report: August 17, 2012
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS22493
Price: $29.95

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