The violence at the Capitol on January 6th and the ongoing disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic guaranteed that the work of the 117th Congress, starting in early 2021, would be far from smooth or collegial. But like “death and taxes,” 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 federal government. Numerous programs are included that provide us with an opportunity to benefit animal welfare and the voiceless we all care so deeply about.
For the first time in some years, the Congress passed a new “omnibus” appropriations bill this month (to have effect at least until September 30th), not one that just renewed and slightly tweaked the prior year’s spending levels.
Each year, we work from office to office—all 535 of them in Congress—to submit requests to appropriators for the provisions and funding we’re advocating for. In many instances, appropriators embrace the provisions we advocate, but in others, we’ve had to use all of our lobbying know-how to convince lawmakers that more spending on animal welfare is better for the nation.
With the recent enactment of the Fiscal Year 2022 and the provisions made final, we’ve provided a breakdown of the provisions we’ve lobbied hard to secure.
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Horse Slaughter. Language to maintain the ban on domestic slaughter of horses for human consumption was renewed. It’s achieved by Congress forbidding the USDA from spending even a dollar to inspect any horse-slaughter plant. Without food safety inspections, the horse meat could not be sold.
Domestic violence and animal cruelty. Both House and Senate bills also provide $3 million for the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act’s shelter program, which 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.
Animal Fighting. 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 which 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. We are still working to see that the USDA’s Office of Inspector General gets more funds for work to break up animal cruelty syndicates.
Horse soring. 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 just over $3 million in HPA funding for FY 2022. 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 in 2021 and the $1 million provided for in 2020—a steady increase each year. Also secured: $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-Kan., 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.
Animal Testing. The FY22 spending bills also commend the FDA for the formation of its Alternative Methods Working Group to foster the advancement and regulatory acceptance of new research technologies that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the development of drugs and other FDA-regulated products and reduce and replace testing on dogs and other animals. FDA continues to falsely claim that alternative methods are very rare and cannot substantially replace animal testing. The agency operates under a statutory mandate to conduct animal tests for all of its pre-clinical work for new drug development protocols. This year’s spending bill directs FDA to deliver a report on the results of that program to the Congress within one year of enactment of the legislation.
U.S. Dept. of Justice
Animal Fighting. Most everyone involved at AWA is well aware of the great lengths we’ve gone to in order to stamp out animal fighting in the U.S. for good, as AWA president Wayne Pacelle’s work on the issue dates back to the 1990s. 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, which our 2019 and 2020 House floor amendments sought to achieve. We extend thanks to the Senate Subcommittee’s leaders, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., for leading the charge on this important issue.
U.S. Dept. of Interior and Bureau of Land Management
Humane Wild Horse and Burro Management. Right in line with the AWA-conceived fertility control amendment promoted and secured 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” and $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 to roundup with mass 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 Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., have been tireless champions for the implementation of PZP.
But unfortunately, once again we see that other animal-welfare organizations have provided political support to ranching interests and the BLM to secure millions more in federal dollars for roundups and removals of tens of thousands of wild horses and burros—consistent with their support for the highly flawed “Path Forward” verbal agreement between the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau and the Humane Society of the U.S., Humane Society Legislative Fund and ASPCA. You can draw a straight line from that vague, unwritten agreement to massive increases in spending for roundups and removals of our majestic wild horses and burros. This program is vacuuming up horses from the West and subverting the original purposes of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act of 1971.
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 they remain a priority of the Congressional agenda now and going forward.
Marty Irby is the executive director and Penny Eastman is the deputy director of federal affairs at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. Both are seasoned lobbyists who previously worked in various positions in the U.S. Congress.