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

Posted on August 24, 2017

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.

Will you join us to urge the USDA to uphold the law and protect animals?

The 60-day comment window is now open. Read over our guidelines below, then register your formal comment.

To comment, go here and look for the blue “COMMENT NOW!” button.

Tips for Commenting:

  • Keep your comments concise and to the point.
  • Share your passion! But remember to keep it clean and stay calm. Using vulgar language, “shouting” with all-caps text, or making personal attacks encourages reviewers to disregard your comment.
  • If you have a level of expertise in a relevant field (lawyer, scientist, etc.) be sure to mention that in your comments.
  • It’s best to write your own comments, which have more impact than a form letter or petition.

Sample comments to personalize:

I urge the USDA to stop rubber-stamping AWA license renewals. It is well-established that licensees frequently fall out of compliance with the law after their initial inspection. Granting a license renewal without performing a new inspection or reviewing a licensee’s violation history enables facilities to continue unlawful behavior, putting animals in danger and misleading the public.  

Rubber-stamping permit applications circumvents the purpose of the Animal Welfare Act.

Make your comments before the window closes on October 24, 2017.


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