March 22, 2018

Exciting News for Horses, Puppies and Other Animals in House-Passed Spending Bill

a galloping horse

Update—March 23, 2018: After passing the Senate on Thursday night, the omnibus was signed into law by the President on Friday, March 23, 2018.

A long-awaited, large federal spending bill was finally released late last night (March 21) and we are delighted that it contains many important protections for animals across the country. The U.S. House of Representatives passed an omnibus spending package with several crucial protections for animal welfare, and the Senate is expected to pass this bill imminently to avoid a government shutdown. This $1.3 trillion appropriations bill includes hard-fought provisions that continue the ban on domestic horse slaughter, protect wild horses from mass killing at the hands of a federal agency, and encourage more transparent Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act enforcement. 

The spending bill will fund the government through September 30, 2018, and ensures that no funding will go to the USDA for horse slaughter inspections. This longstanding provision ensures that horse slaughterhouses will remain shuttered on American soil for the time being. Until the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act is passed, it is crucial that this ban remain in place. 

The omnibus bill also continues the prohibition on the killing of healthy, federally protected wild horses. Even more encouraging, Congress directs the agency tasked with their care—the Bureau of Land Management—to produce a wild horse and burro management plan that addresses the long-term care of these herds. There were especially discouraging battles over this issue in last year’s House Appropriations Committee markups, so finally seeing the protections in print demonstrates a prevailing view in Congress that America’s wild horses must be managed without the wholesale slaughter options that have been proposed.

The bill also increases funding for enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Horse Protection Act (HPA). Accompanying this funding is a directive to restore AWA and HPA inspection and enforcement data to the public. The USDA removed this vital content from its website in February 2017 to our shock and dismay, and there subsequently has been tremendous public pressure on the administration to reinstate this information. Transparency about enforcement problems enables the public to monitor and make informed decisions about their purchases from businesses exhibiting animals or breeding animals commercially. 

The work is far from over, but your voices are being heard. None of this would have been possible without the vigilance of ASPCA supporters who have made calls, written letters, sent emails, used social media and held meetings with their legislators. So enjoy this well-earned victory, and then ready your pens, keyboards and phones for FY19. The next wave is right around the corner, and we will call on you again soon. Animals always need allies like you, fighting on their behalf. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to get involved and be a voice for vulnerable animals.