Tell the USDA to stop rubber-stamping Animal Welfare Act licenses

Update: This action is now closed. The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s comments are available upon request.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering changes to the way it grants Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licenses, and now you have the opportunity to weigh in on the issue. The current licensing program makes it incredibly easy for facilities that are violating the AWA to remain licensed.

Currently, the USDA does not consider a licensee’s history of violations or noncompliance with the AWA when licenses are up for renewal. In fact, it will reissue the license even if presented with compelling evidence that the facility is violating the law.

When initially applying for a breeder, dealer, or exhibitor license, an individual must demonstrate compliance with the AWA. The USDA performs an inspection, then issues or withholds depending on whether the licensee complies with the AWA. Each year licensees must reapply to continue the license, and the USDA rubber-stamps approval. The USDA does not look for AWA compliance when it reissues the license.

Breeders requiring licenses include puppy mills, those who breed animals for use in laboratory experiments, and those breeding any other regulated animals.

Dealers requiring licenses include those selling animals to laboratories for testing, animal auctioneers, and those selling animal parts—like their blood or serum.

Exhibitors requiring licenses include roadside zoos, petting zoos, marine animal parks, and circuses that use animals.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund strongly opposes the rubber-stamp license policy and has challenged it in court. We will submit comments to the USDA urging changes to the policy that will better protect animals and uphold the AWA.