Final Congressional Budget Includes Important Policy Victories for Animals
Last night, Congress passed the FY 2021 Appropriations bill, funding federal government agencies through September 30, 2021. The package also included emergency coronavirus aid to provide relief to Americans suffering as a result of the pandemic. We are pleased that Congress retained important protections for animals in the final spending bill and included some new policy provisions that help both animals and people. Unfortunately, Congress failed to address major harms to animals that have been exacerbated during the pandemic.
We thank congressional leaders for including the following new protections:
- Disaster Preparedness: The ASPCA applauds Congress for directing the USDA to move forward with a process it has delayed for seven years requiring puppy mills, zoos and animal research laboratories to develop plans to safely care for animals in case of an emergency—including natural disasters or pandemics. The rule would implement some of the essential components of the PREPARED Act, legislation championed by Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Peter King (R-NY). We hope the USDA will now move swiftly to implement this desperately needed policy in the face of intensifying natural disasters and pandemic threats.
- Animal Welfare Act Enforcement: The bill includes language encouraging the USDA to make note of any animal care violations in federally inspected puppy mills on inspection reports.
- Humane Care and Management of Wild Mustangs: Congress allotted an additional $14 million of funding for wild horses and burros linked with firm directives aimed at shifting the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro program toward maximizing on-range treatment and humane care of horses. This will help enable these herds to live wild and free for future generations without threat of sale to slaughter or mass killing management strategies.
- Funds for Domestic Violence Victims: Congress allocated $2.5 million for lifesaving grants to keep domestic violence survivors and their pets together—a $500,000 increase over last year’s funding level.
- Horse Protection Act Funding: Congress more than doubled funding to enforce the Horse Protection Act—adding $1 million to last year’s funding level to exceed $2 million—and included report language urging new measures that strengthen this law, which forbids the cruel practice of soring—the intentional infliction of pain to the legs of certain show horses.
- Boosting Enforcement Against Animal Fighting: Congress provided an additional $500,000 for the USDA’s Office of Inspector General to investigate illegal animal fighting.
This legislation also retains critical animal protection provisions from previous years:
- Protections for Horses: Longstanding anti-slaughter protections for domestic and wild horses.
- Humane Methods of Slaughter Act Enforcement: Dedicated resources to ensure that there are at least 148 USDA employees responsible for inspecting and enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
The legislative package also incorporated emergency coronavirus relief, including emergency rental assistance and language extending the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021—helping to ensure that people with pets who are facing eviction can remain safely housed. Though lacking in the transparency and oversight we hoped for around agricultural relief payments—many of which have gone to inhumane factory farms—the package does allocate funding to the Local Agriculture Marketing Program, which supports regional food systems and higher welfare farmers.
Congress also passed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a revised version of legislation that the House passed earlier this Congress aimed at banning performance-enhancing drugs on race day and establishing a national oversight process for horse racing.
Unfortunately, important measures we advocated for and which would have helped animals during the pandemic were not included in the bill:
- Extreme-Speed Slaughter: We had urged Congress to pass the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to stop these dangerous systems during the pandemic. Unfortunately, Congress failed to address the dangers and risks that high-speed slaughter systems pose to animals and people.
- Horrible Mass Killing Methods: The bill provides taxpayer-funded compensation to agribusinesses that intentionally depopulated their flocks or herds during the pandemic, including by using cruel methods of ventilation shutdown and water-based foam. We vehemently oppose the use of these methods to kill animals. We are disappointed that Congress did not better allocate tax funds by including provisions that bar reimbursement for inhumane depopulation, provide transparency to the public or require producers to be prepared for future pandemics.
While this bill is not perfect, we commend Congress for once again advancing animal welfare protections through the annual government funding process. We thank Congressional leaders who fought for these significant victories and appreciate our incredible volunteers who tirelessly advocated for the inclusion of these important measures in this year’s bill.
There’s still so much work to be done for animals—and we can’t do it without you! Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to stay up to date on animal-protection legislation and learn how you can make a difference for animals in your state and community.