Join us in demanding transparency and stricter enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act!
SEPTEMBER 2019 - Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi has introduced federal legislation to amend the Animal Welfare Act by closing licensing loopholes and returning transparency to how animals are treated. The Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act H.R. 4211 would end the automatic renewal of USDA exhibitor licenses for those with a damning record of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. It would also require once-public documents to be again made available on the USDA's website.
We've seen it time and time again. USDA licensed exhibitors operating roadside zoos or traveling exhibits with big cats are cited over and over again by inspectors for violating the most basic requirements of the AWA - such as failing to provide potable water or veterinary care for injured animals. Nonetheless, their license is automatically renewed year after year.
It happens more often than you'd think because the USDA does not require anyone seeking a license renewal to demonstrate compliance with the law. For decades the government has rubber-stamped renewals with no thought to the animals they are obliged to protect. This is how some of the country's worst big cat abusers continue to operate.
To make matters worse, in February 2017, animals across the country were dealt a devastating blow when the USDA removed inspection reports from their website. Big Cat Rescue used to check these reports regularly to monitor big cat licensees. Inspection reports helped us determine who owned big cats, where they were located, how they were treated, and how effectively the USDA enforced the Animal Welfare Act. Even if the USDA wouldn't revoke an exhibitor's license, we could at least show these exploiters for who they were by pointing to documented violations of the law. But over the past two years, we've been operating in the dark, having access to only a handful of highly redacted reports released by the agency.
The Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act H.R. 4211 brings hope for animals held by AWA licensees. Exhibitors would have to pass an annual unannounced renewal inspection. If they're noncompliant, found to have violated any animal-related laws, or have a record of persistent violations, their license would be denied or permanently revoked. Better yet, H.R. 4211 would require the USDA to publish all inspection reports, enforcement records, and animal inventories online without redactions.
TAKE ACTION! Contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to champion the Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act H.R. 4211.
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