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:
Horse Soring 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.
Animal Slaughter 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.
Wild Horses 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.
Zoos/Circuses 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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This weekend, legendary environmental writer and activist Wendell Berry leaves his Kentucky farm for an inspiring conversation, and rare TV interview, with veteran journalist Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company. In an excerpt from that conversation below, Berry talks about how humans live at the expense of other creatures, making it our responsibility to treat those animals “with the minimum of violence.”
“It’s always great to see an esteemed figure like Wendell Berry sticking up for farm animals and so eloquently drawing that vital connection between respecting animals, our environment and ourselves,” says ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign Director Suzanne McMillan.
The temporary shutdown of the federal government is affecting people across the country, but we cannot overlook its impact on those who have no voice—our nation’s animals.
Right now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not performing all of its duties under the Animal Welfare Act: For one thing, it is not inspecting puppy mills or pet dealers. During this break in oversight, untold harm could be done to commercially bred animals simply because no one is empowered to monitor their safety.
“With limited resources and less-than-vigorous enforcement under ordinary circumstances, we know that the shutdown is a terrible blow to dogs in puppy mills,” says Cori Menkin, Senior Director, ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign. “Think of the mills that were scheduled for a follow-up inspection today to make sure serious issues had been resolved.”
For more information about our campaign against puppy mills, please visit our No Pet Store Puppies website. And for a more in-depth look at how the government shutdown is affecting routine oversight of several other animal-related industries, please check back with ASPCA.org/blog tomorrow for a special report from our Government Relations team on the ground in D.C.
Guest blog post by Ashley Chengerian, ASPCA staffer and Gray Wolf advocate.
I've loved wolves my whole life. Perhaps it was watching all those TV movie marathons of Dances with Wolves with my dad. Maybe it was reading about them at an early age in Scholastic-ordered books. Whatever the case, they mean something to me. So when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove Gray Wolves from its list of Threatened and Endangered Species, I had to speak out.
I knew that other departments within the ASPCA are working to protect wolves, but what’s a citizen advocate to do?
First, I did a basic search for online petitions and opportunities to submit official public comments. Most online petitions can save your basic information if you want, which makes signing on behalf of a cause take about two clicks of a button. For this issue, though, I still wanted to do more. I discovered there were several public hearings throughout the country on the potential delisting—so earlier this week, I hopped a bus from New York City to D.C., site of the nearest hearing.
At the hearing at the Department of the Interior, I testified publicly for the first time in my life. What a rush! I immediately felt a sense of pride in our democracy and was humbled to be an active participant. Most surprising, however, was the feeling of interconnectedness throughout the room.
It happened again: Yesterday a terrified carriage horse bolted down a busy New York City street, flipped over and was pinned to the ground. As traffic ground to a halt, rescue workers and good Samaritans labored to free the equine from under the wrecked carriage and prevent further suffering.
This is unacceptable. Carriage horses were never meant to live and work in today’s urban settings. From congested city streets to startling noises, New York City is a nightmare for these animals—and current City laws do not afford working horses adequate protection to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
"How many horses and people must be hurt before New York City wakes up and realizes we are in the 21st century?" asks Michelle Villagomez, ASPCA New York City Legislative Director. "Let’s change with the times and push for a safe, humane alternative."
Take Action! Your help is urgently needed to protect our city's working carriage horses. The ASPCA has been working hard to pass legislation that would take the burden off these horses and create a more humane attraction for tourists. If you live in New York Cityplease urge your councilmember to support and cosponsor Intro. 86A, legislation that would phase out horse-drawn carriages in New York City, replacing them with vintage electric cars. Yesterday’s accident is only the latest reminder that the time has come to get these sensitive animals off our streets.