As the budget stalemate in Washington led to this week’s government shutdown, a lot of animal advocates have been left wondering exactly how this unusual event is impacting our nation’s animals. Yesterday we told you about the shutdown’s effect on puppy mill inspections, but the federal government has many additional routine animal-protection responsibilities. We’ve done a little digging and outlined how the following animal welfare-related duties are being altered during this shutdown:
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is charged with enforcing the Horse Protection Act to combat the abusive practice of horse soring. APHIS oversees the inspection of at-risk show horses to ensure that they have not been sored and assesses penalties for violations. Suspension of this program during the shutdown could mean that unscrupulous trainers will take advantage of this lapse in oversight.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) upholds the requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act related to the treatment of animals prior to and during slaughter. This has been deemed a necessary function, so FSIS inspectors who monitor food safety and humane treatment in slaughterhouses continue to perform their duties during the shutdown.
Federal agencies periodically round up and remove large numbers of free-roaming wild equines on public rangelands, a policy that has resulted in tens of thousands of wild horses languishing in holding facilities. Additional gathers are suspended during the shutdown, but caretakers for the horses already confined remain on the job.
Exotic animal exhibitors are regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), and unfortunately, the welfare of these animals will go unchecked for the time being. However, the National Zoo in D.C., managed by the Smithsonian Institution, has retained employees essential to the security and the care of the zoo’s animals.
Animals in Laboratories
The USDA enforces the AWA to ensure minimum standards of care for animals in laboratories. While employees are on the job maintaining the animals, there is no USDA watchdog ensuring that minimum standards of care are being met.
Hunting and Trapping
All National Wildlife Refuges are currently closed to the public, meaning hunting and trapping on these lands is prohibited for the duration of the shutdown. Federal law enforcement activities will continue on public lands to preserve resources and protect against illegal hunting.
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