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Hold Government and Researchers Accountable for Violations of the Animal Welfare Act

Hold Government and Researchers Accountable for Violations of the Animal Welfare Act

Name: Federal Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act

Bill Number: HR 4211

The recent release of animal welfare enforcement data by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has revealed the underreporting of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations, a trend that has been growing in the past few years. While the solution may be for APHIS to be more diligent and stringent in its inspection and enforcement process, animal advocates do not have the authority to require that change, especially as it is a culture within the agency to work with their licensees rather than penalize them for violations of animal welfare.

The Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act has the potential to strongly impact the welfare of animals used for research because of two factors:

1. The bill contains a “citizen suits” provision that would allow any person to bring a civil suit on his own behalf to enjoin any person, including the United States and any other governmental body, who is alleged to be in violation of any provision of the AWA. While individual citizens do not ordinarily have authority to bring a case against a licensee for wrongdoing, a citizen suit gives ordinary people the right to enforce the law even though they have no ownership right to the animals involved.
 
2. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would be required to publish, in a searchable format on a public website, information and reports on all investigations conducted by the USDA, including all documents reporting noncompliance with the AWA. The publication of these documents, in their entirety, would combat the USDA’s growing insistence on confidentiality for all wrongdoers, which hinders the work of animal advocates, including NAVS.
 
While the federal government did approve a measure directing APHIS to return its enforcement activity to their website, the information to date has not been in a format that would aid in identifying mismanagement at individual research facilities. What data is available is not searchable, and there are many redactions or omissions from current records that leave enforcement activities far from transparent.
 
This bill would also amend licensing provisions of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prevent the licensing of or renewal of a license for dealers and exhibitors who have violated local, state or federal laws relating to animals.
 
Passage of this bill would help the issue of transparency in animal research and help to ensure that its provisions are enforced with public oversight of government and other agencies.

 

Call to Actions: 

  1. Please contact your U.S. Representative and urge them to support this important legislation.
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Message

Please support AWA amendments for more accountability and transparency by the government

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to ask your support for HR 4211, the Federal Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act, which would amend licensing provisions of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prevent the licensing of, or renewal of a license for, dealers and exhibitors who have violated local, state or federal laws relating to animals. The bill also sets out specific provisions for the suspension and revocation of licenses for noncompliance with AWA provisions.

Moreover, this bill would allow any person to commence a civil suit on his own behalf to enjoin any person, including the United States and any other governmental body, who is alleged to be in violation of any provision of the AWA. The use of citizen suits has been sparse in U.S. law, but provisions of law affecting animals, like those impacting the environment, require extraordinary measures to ensure that government agencies and licensees of those agencies are following the law. Allowing citizens to bring suit is a lesser expense than paying for the large number of inspectors necessary to ensure compliance across multiple industries affecting millions of animals.

In addition, this bill would require the USDA to publish complete information on investigations by the agency and records of noncompliance that it has been concealing since these records were removed from public access in 2017. While the USDA has recently released new data on enforcement actions by the agency, the information provided is inadequate to gain a full understanding of animal welfare. Moreover, the data provided demonstrates a lack of active enforcement when it comes to activities by licensees under the Animal Welfare Act.

Please give your full support to this legislation so that it can move forward this session. Thank you.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]