July 10, 2015

U.S. House Appropriations Committee Delivers Mixed Results for Animals

Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. 

U.S. House Appropriations Committee Delivers Mixed Results for Animals

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee approved an agriculture spending bill with some positive notes for animal welfare, although it failed to protect our nation’s horses. 

By a single vote, the Committee failed to approve an amendment offered by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) that would have maintained the status quo by barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using taxpayer dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities. Congress renewed this ban last year, prohibiting the cruel and unnecessary horse slaughter industry from operating anywhere in the country. Without further action to extend this ban beyond this September, Congress opens the door for a possible return of horse slaughter to the United States.

It’s disappointing that the House Appropriations Committee could allow such an irresponsible, wasteful use of taxpayer dollars to resume. The ASPCA is working with leaders in the House to include the ban on horse slaughter funding when the bill reaches the House Floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider a similar amendment when it meets next week.

“A total lapse in management at every level” was the word from the Committee on another critical animal welfare matter. Referencing the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC)’s failures after a shocking New York Times exposé detailing egregious cruelties at the facility, the Committee took strong action to address the problems. The legislation approved this week provides funding for inspections of USMARC and other federally operated agricultural research centers and mandates improvements for animal welfare at these facilities. In fact, the legislation withholds $56.1 million dollars of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service budget until the agency offers official assurances to Congress that it is adhering to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and following necessary reporting requirements. 

Additionally, the bill blocks funds for licensing of Class B animal dealers who sell “random source” dogs and cats, often stolen or lost household pets obtained from disreputable and difficult-to-trace sources, for use in research. This language, championed by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), was added as part of a non-controversial manager’s amendment to the bill.

Finally, the agriculture spending bill maintains current funding levels for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. These funds will go toward AWA inspections and enforcement of provisions for dogs in puppy mills, and will enable the USDA to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring

The Agriculture Appropriations bill may move to the full House for consideration in coming months.