Animal Protection Stays on Board Omnibus

Congress finally passed an “omnibus” funding measure for the remainder of the current fiscal year. Thanks to the intervention of our allies in the House and Senate, the barrage of messages to Congress from animal activists, and the sustained efforts by the animal protection community, the bill included provisions benefiting animals and did not include provisions that would have damaged key wildlife protection laws.

Efforts to deny protection for the gray wolf, lesser prairie-chicken, and Preble’s meadow jumping mouse failed, as did efforts to eviscerate core components of the Endangered Species Act. A policy rider that would have allowed the slaughter of mother bears and cubs as they hibernate also did not make it into the final omnibus package. The National Park Service currently does not allow aggressive, scientifically indefensible “predator control” practices for nonsubsistence hunting on national preserves. (However, the Trump administration is moving to strike the rules banning such cruel hunting practices within the preserves via other means.)

While holding off attacks on wildlife, we were able to make positive gains, as well. The US Department of Agriculture received funding increases for its enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. Congress renewed its directive that the USDA not license or relicense Class B dealers who sell dogs and cats obtained from random sources for use in experimentation. Congress also took the USDA to task for its purging of inspection and enforcement documents from its website and its inadequate efforts to return those documents to public inspection.

Protections for domestic and wild horses were reaffirmed. The bill prevents the return of horse slaughter to the United States by barring the use of federal funds for inspecting horse slaughter plants. (No slaughter plants can sell meat across state lines without USDA inspection.) The bill also prohibits funding for any activity resulting in the destruction of healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau of Land Management or its contractors.

Despite the fact that the Marine Mammal Commission’s funding was zeroed out in the Trump administration’s proposed budget, the omnibus included funding for this independent agency, which is mandated by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to further the conservation of marine mammals and their environment.