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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Animal Welfare Act: Background and Selected Animal Welfare 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 113
th Congress, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (H.R. 847/S. 395) was reintroduced and referred to the House Agriculture and Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committees. The bill would require an AWA license from USDA for dog breeders who raise more than 50 dogs in a 12-month period and sell directly to the public. Also reintroduced is the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act (H.R. 366). This bill would impose criminal penalties for attendance at animal fighting exhibitions. This prohibition on attendance was also added to the 2012 Senate farm bill (§12213, S. 3240). Amendments to the Horse Protection Act (H.R. 1518) would modify the existing inspection system to detect soring and increase penalties for violations.

The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act of 2013 was also introduced in both the House (H.R. 366) and Senate (S. 666) n the 113
th Congress. The bill would prohibit attendance at animal fighting events. Provisions in both the House (H.R. 1947) and Senate (S. 954) farm bills would also prohibit attendance at animal fighting events.

In the 112
th Congress, two previously introduced bills were reintroduced, and several new bills were introduced. The Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act (H.R. 385) was reintroduced. The Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 2256/S. 707) was also reintroduced and referred to the same subcommittee. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act (S. 1947) was introduced. The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 3359) would have amended 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. H.Res. 736 expressed disapproval of using gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals. 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 have prohibited conducting invasive research on great apes (e.g., chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, orangutan, gibbon) and provided a retirement sanctuary for the nearly 1,000 great apes still used for research in the United States. No further action was taken on any of these bills.

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.

Date of Report: June 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RS22493
Price: $29.95

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