Positive Provisions for Animals in 2021 Spending Bill

The lights were just about to be turned out on 2020 when Congress finally wrapped up its spending bill for the 2021 fiscal year, which had begun on October 1. Thanks to the hard work of the many members of Congress who support animal welfare, the $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations bill included a substantial number of important provisions benefiting animals, such as the following: 

  • The US Department of Agriculture must ensure that Animal Welfare Act (AWA) inspectors document each instance of noncompliance and that online dealers who sell animals to consumers sight unseen are licensed and inspected.
  • The USDA must lift the stay on a rule requiring facilities regulated by the AWA to have plans for the care of their animals in the event of an emergency.
  • The USDA must work with livestock producers who wish to voluntarily develop disaster plans in order to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
  • The Food Safety and Inspection Service must ensure that all inspection personnel receive training in the agency’s humane handling regulations. 
  • The USDA is prevented from licensing dealers who sell dogs and cats acquired from random sources for use in experiments.
photo by Emmanuel Najera
photo by Emmanuel Najera
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs must submit a plan by the end of 2021 for reducing or eliminating the use of dogs, cats, and nonhuman primates in the department’s research by 2025, and the Food and Drug Administration is encouraged to use nonanimal testing methods on new drugs.
  • A program that helps fund shelter and transitional housing services for survivors of domestic violence and their companion animals received $2.5 million—an increase over fiscal year 2020. 
  • The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which ends the dangerous reliance on performance-enhancing drugs, was incorporated into the bill. 
  • The USDA received more than $2 million to enforce the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and curb soring of Tennessee walking horses, and was urged to audit HPA enforcement and end its failed system of industry self-policing.
  • Congress extended the ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States by blocking the use of federal funds to inspect domestic horse slaughter plants and horsemeat.
  • The bill protects wild horses and burros under the authority of the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service from being destroyed for commercial purposes, such as sales to foreign slaughterhouses. 
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must ensure there are adequate state management plans in place before delisting any species under the Endangered Species Act and must establish a system to ensure the strict enforcement of those plans.
  • Research and conservation efforts protecting critically endangered North Atlantic right whales received $5 million, supporting a pilot program to develop innovative lobster gear aimed at reducing entanglement and supporting the Marine Mammal Commission’s oversight capacity and emergency response for marine mammals in distress.
  • The bill contained a number of provisions addressing wildlife trafficking and trophy hunting, the relationship between wildlife exploitation and the transmission of zoonotic diseases, and trapping. With reference to trapping, the USFWS must brief Congress on its implementation of a pilot program to replace the use of body-gripping traps with nonlethal methods and equipment on national wildlife refuges.

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