Animal Legal Defense Fund Proposes Clarifications to Strengthen Federal Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a petition for rulemaking to the USDA proposing two amendments to the federal Animal Welfare Act.


December 20, 2016

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In 2016, the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a petition for rulemaking to the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposing two amendments to the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the primary law providing protections to captive wildlife.

The first proposed amendment would have tightened requirements for species-specific training for attending veterinarians at exhibition facilities. While the current rule does state that vets need to have received some training, exhibitors have continued to use vets with, for example, sole experience treating cats and dogs, to diagnose and treat primates, exotics, and endangered species.

We proposed requiring at least six months of full-time training or experience with the species being attended. This would ensure animals receive the care they need from qualified veterinarians.

The second proposed rule would have provided a procedure for the USDA to confiscate animals from substandard facilities as part of the process of revoking an AWA license — which animal exhibitors, breeders, and dealers for protected animals must have.

Currently, the USDA has authority to confiscate individual animals who are suffering, but the regulations do not integrate removal of all animals suffering in a substandard facility with enforcement action or license revocation proceedings. The lack of such a procedure leaves many animals suffering for far longer than they should.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund continues to advocate for animals held captive at roadside zoos, pushing for stronger laws and better enforcement of those laws.


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    Bears, lions, and other animals languish in roadside zoos across the country. Animals live in cruel conditions, confined to small cages without the enrichment they need to lead full, happy lives. Protect animals by boycotting roadside zoos.

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