Animal Welfare Act 50th Anniversary – Remarks by Bernadette Juarez, USDA APHIS, Animal Welfare Act
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Animal Welfare Act 50th Anniversary – Remarks by Bernadette Juarez, USDA APHIS, Animal Welfare Act


[Opening music] One of the lesser-known
functions of U.S. Department of Agriculture
is administration of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This year marks the 50th
anniversary of the Act, and USDA is pausing to
reflect on many years of progress and the millions
of animal lives that have been protected through
its enforcement. As the Deputy
Administrator for the Animal Care program,
I know firsthand how passionate the American
public is about animal welfare. I receive hundreds, and
sometimes thousands, of email messages and letters
each month, expressing concern about the welfare
of elephants in circuses, primates in research
laboratories, and dogs sold by breeders and dealers,
just to name a few examples. The American public’s
interest in the humane treatment of animals dates
back to the Puritan days, but it was not until 1966,
that the Animal Welfare Act -initially named the
Laboratory Animal Welfare Act – was signed into law,
in response to public outcry over laboratory
animals and dealers who supplied animals
to researchers. What triggered the outcry? In November 1965, Sports
Illustrated told a story about the disappearance of
a Dalmatian named “Pepper” who had been stolen
from her backyard. It turned out that Pepper
had been picked up by a dealer, sold to
a hospital, used in an experiment,
and subsequently died. A year later, Life
Magazine published an article about conditions
at animal dealer facilities that featured pictures of
skeletal dogs found at a Maryland
dog dealer’s farm. In response to these
two articles, a bi-partisan Congress
introduced legislation that charged USDA with ensuring
the health and humane treatment of animals used in research and
protecting pets, like Pepper, from being stolen
and sold for experimentation. Five decades later, our
goal remains the same, but our job has expanded to
encompass and protect even more animals. Congress has amended the
Animal Welfare Act to refine the standards
of care for regulated animals, and the law’s reach has
grown to cover the health and welfare of animals
used in commercial breeding, public exhibition, and
transported commercially. The Animal Welfare Act
also prohibits animal fighting, with stiff penalties for
those who own animals, and also for
those who are sponsoring and promoting the events. Recently, USDA closed an
unintended loophole in the Animal Welfare Act
regulations that allowed breeders to sell animals
sight unseen over the internet without
being licensed. The revised regulation
now requires many of these breeders to be licensed
with USDA, to ensure they provide humane care
and treatment to their animals. USDA also issued a policy
in April of this year promoting the humane
handling of newborn, exotic cats, such
as tigers and lions. Some of these animals were
being used for photographs and events where
the public could feed and handle them. Because these animals were
so young, their immune systems were undeveloped,
many of them were getting sick as a result of their
contact with the public, and some were dying. We took action to stop
these activities and prevent these young animals from
unnecessary stress and potential harm
at such a vulnerable age. Although the AWA does not
apply to privately owned pets, USDA now supports
pets during emergencies. When Hurricane Katrina
devastated Louisiana in 2005, many people wouldn’t
leave their pets, sometimes with
tragic results. Following that storm, and
hurricane Rita the same year, USDA veterinarians
and wildlife specialists helped save roughly 14,000 animals from
storm-ravaged areas. And, as a result,
we created the Emergency Programs Division to
work with FEMA and other organizations to develop
plans and training for disaster-related animal
issues-such as preparing kennels and shelters,
or assisting zoos during flooding or other
emergencies. We’ve also learned that
knowledge is powerful in building Animal
Welfare Act compliance. In 2010, we opened the
Center for Animal Welfare to provide science-based
guidance and learning opportunities to USDA
employees and stakeholders, and to partner with other animal
welfare experts to serve as USDA’s national science and
technology resource in support of the Animal
Welfare Act. Our experts share
information regularly with the animal welfare
community, at meetings, and through other
types of outreach. Today, USDA employees conduct
roughly 10,000 unannounced inspections every year, ensuring the health and welfare of over 2 million
animals at more than 10,000 Animal Welfare
Act covered facilities across the country. Our dedicated team of
employees remain steadfast in our goal of ensuring
animals receive the full protection of the law. We carry out our
mission transparently, taking regulatory action when
necessary for the benefit of the animals we
protect-large and small, exotic and domestic-and
using non-regulatory solutions where
appropriate. Our success would not be
possible without the help of our stakeholders
and the public. Working together,
understanding the issues, and identifying positive
solutions will ensure USDA’s involvement with
the Animal Welfare Act over the next 50 years
will inspire public confidence and bring
continued progress in the protection of a treasured
resource-our Nation’s animals. Thanks for listening
to this message. I appreciate your
time and support. [Closing music and credits]

About Bill McCormick

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2 thoughts on “Animal Welfare Act 50th Anniversary – Remarks by Bernadette Juarez, USDA APHIS, Animal Welfare Act

  1. We would like to know why the Animal Welfare Act is not imposed to everyone with the same rules, why licensees are not held to the same standards. It seems that if a facility is against private owners they get a free ride on the Animal Welfare Act and veriences are given to them along with not being written up for violations others are written up for. Many questions will be coming in the near future as to why animals that are taken away ONLY go to these very facilities that are getting away with these violations.
    Vote Donald Trump. Things will change…..

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