Animal Wellness Action Secures Major Funding for Enforcement of Federal Animal Protection Laws and Key Priorities


Provisions, if secured in final spending package, will combat animal fighting, soring and other abuses

by Marty Irby & Penny Eastman

While the 117th Congress got off to a raucous and violent start with the January 6th riot at the Capitol, and with COVID-19 still a pandemic, there's one thing that both humans and animals alike can count on: Congressional appropriations, the annual spending bills required to be enacted each year in some form to continue funding the operations of the federal government. Numerous programs are included that provide us a tremendous opportunity to fund enforcement programs and to spend money in smart ways to protect animals.

Each year, we work with hundreds of Congressional offices to submit requests to appropriators for the provisions and funding we're advocating for. In many instances, appropriators have instinctively adopted the provisions we support, and in some instances, we've had to work diligently in a relentless pursuit to pass committee and floor amendments to secure more obscure or controversial funding from Congress.

In 2019, Animal Wellness Action (AWA) led the charge on a $2 million House floor amendment that passed in roll call vote designed to provide the resources to the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) for creation of an Animal Cruelty Crimes Unit (ACCU) that would enforce existing laws on the books like the Horse Protection Act of 1970, the federal animal fighting law, and the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act we worked to get signed into law that same year. We also successfully passed a $1 million House floor amendment to fund similar enforcement work at the Dept. of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General (OIG), and an amendment to defund inspections for and effectively ban the import of trophies from hunts in numerous countries where wildlife is endangered or scarce.

We followed up in 2020 with a $1 million amendment that passed by a voice vote for the DOJ's ACCU, a $1 million amendment for the OIG funding, a $750,000 amendment for funding of a new OIG report on USDA's Horse Protection Program, and an $11 million amendment originally conceived by AWA to direct the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to more effectively implement proven and safe birth control in wild horse herds living on federal lands – effectively eliminating the BLM's justification for the cruel mass helicopter roundups of tens of thousands of animals that have led to public alarm and concern this year.

We started working earlier than usual on appropriations this year and were fortunate to secure nearly every provision we've been seeking in the House's base bill. We added a new strategy after learning of the exaggerated risk assessment on rabies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that forbids dogs from coming in to the U.S. 113 countries, and promoted $3 million in funding for the CDC to reopen and streamline the inspection and reporting process. That amendment passed the House in August by a voice vote with not a single Member of the House dissenting.

With the release of the U.S. Senate's spending bills for Fiscal Year 2022 last week – most of the cards are now on the table for public viewing, and we've provided a breakdown of the provisions we've lobbied hard to secure.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA)

Language to maintain the de facto ban on horse slaughter in the United States through defunding the inspection of horse slaughter plants has continued to gain favor, with both the House and Senate bills containing the defund language that keeps horse meat off the table.

Both House and Senate bills also provide $3 million for the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act's shelter program that directs the Secretary of Agriculture to continue coordinating with other federal agencies to efficiently implement the grant program for providing emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals.

In sync with our amendments in 2019 and 2020 both the House and Senate have acknowledged concern with illegal animal fighting activity and provided language encouraging USDA's OIG to increase its efforts to combat this illegal activity and language that encourages the OIG to audit and investigate USDA enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act, and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to help improve compliance with these important laws. The appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service also called on the agency to crack down on illegal shipments of fighting birds.

And as always, AWA has made funding for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) to end soring a very high priority and worked with leaders in the Tennessee Walking Horse breed to secure $3.04 million in HPA funding in the House spending bill and $2.4 million in the Senate version. That's a record-breaking amount of funding that had never been above $705,000 annually until AWA started pressing for more funding when we opened shop in 2018, and well above the $2 million provided for 2021 and $1 million provided for in 2020, a steady increase each year. And $300,000 for USDA to "begin utilizing swabbing for prohibited substances and other science-based inspection methods, radiology, and other objective measures as part of its horse soring inspection protocol." A request made by Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Ron Estes, R-Kansas, Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Hal Rogers, R-Ky., John Rose, R-Tenn., and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., at the urging of AWA and leaders in the walking horse breed.

U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ)

Most everyone involved at AWA is well aware of the great lengths we've gone to in order to stamp our animal fighting in the U.S. for good as AWA president Wayne Pacelle's work on the issue dates back to the 1990's, and AWA secured the enactment of a ban on cockfighting in the U.S. territories that took effect in 2019. Both House and Senate spending bills for DOJ contain language pressing for "vigorous enforcement of the Federal animal fighting statutes" and "other laws related to animal welfare crime."

There's also language directing the DOJ to explore the possibility of creating the Animal Cruelty Crimes Unit our 2019 and 2020 House floor amendments sought to achieve thanks to the leadership of the Senate Subcommittee's leaders, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas.

U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Right in line with the AWA-conceived PZP amendment we ran in the House last year, both the House and Senate appropriations packages now contain include $11 million for "research on reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control and its administration;" $11 million to "enter cooperative efforts with other Federal partners to significantly progress research on reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control and its administration." This important funding will help prevent the birth of foals who would be subject tomass roundups with helicopter chases by the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program staff and contractors who we've seen treat the roundups like their own private rodeos this year. Both Cohen, and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada have been tireless champions for the implementation of PZP.

But unfortunately, once again – we see the "Path Forward" brought to fruition by the Humane Society of the U.S., Humane Society Legislative Fund, ASPCA, American Farm Bureau, and National Cattlemen's Beef Association still on a path for continued execution in 2022. This program is vacuuming up horses from the West and is a disgraceful use of federal dollars.

House and Senate spending bills for DOI also clearly state that "none of the funds made available by this Act may be used to issue a permit for the import of a sport-hunted trophy of an elephant or lion taken in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, or Zambia," effectively preventing these imports that our 2019 House floor amendment sought to lock out. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., continues to be a tremendous leader on this issue in the House.

DOI spending for FY22 also includes a recommendation for $45 million "for programs to protect great apes in Central Africa and Indonesia, including forest habitat conservation and support for law enforcement to prevent poaching, of which $7.5 million shall be provided to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by direct transfer, which is in addition to other funds provided for USFWS in the act."

While these provisions are just a few of the many included in the federal spending bills released, they are funding strategies that AWA's lobbying team worked diligently to secure, and we will keep pressing forward to ensure their finalization in the year-end spending package that'll likely marry the differences between the House and Senate versions in December.

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