2005 Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act:
Whose Side is the USDA on?

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2005 Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act: Whose Side is the USDA on?
By Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director, SAEN
saen@saenonline.org 

Conclusion

The situation for animals in U.S. laboratories, animal dealers, exhibitors, and intermediate handlers is very grave. The USDA/APHIS/AC is arbitrarily decreasing enforcement actions at a time when the numbers of violations of the Animal Welfare Act and the number of animals negatively impacted by those violations is increasing dramatically (44% for violations and 321% for animals effected). The USDA/APHIS/AC is deliberately choosing not to prosecute offenders, is reducing fines to the level of non-existence, and is also promulgating misleading information.

Statistics regarding the use of animals in laboratories has been reported in such a way (by omitting information about the use of animals in federally owned laboratories) so as to give the appearance of a reduction in the use of animals in experimentation, at a time when the actual total is rising. These omissions have been made by a part of the federal government who actually uses more animals intramurally than any other agency. However, the majority of the USDA’s own animals are specifically excluded from all protections of the Animal Welfare Act – even though these are the same species that are protected in the labs of private universities and other research facilities.

Any non-governmental entity with such a poor record would either go out of business or would make massive changes in the hierarchy of the agency in question. However, things continue without major alterations at the USDA – despite internal documentation of malfeasance. When inspectors can’t even be bothered to count animals, what hope is there that federal law is being enforced with any degree of reliability? Though the reported totals of violations and animals effected by those violations are skyrocketing, how many violations go unreported? How much protection do animals really receive?

Additionally, many other federal agencies use substantial numbers of regulated species in experimentation. The Department of Defense is estimated to utilize over 36,000 regulated animals per year. The National Institutes of Health uses an estimated 16,500 regulated animals per year. The Veteran’s administration experiments upon roughly 13,000 regulated animals per year. Other miscellaneous agencies (including the EPA, Department of the Interior, etc.) use another 11,200 regulated animals per year.

The research facilities which contain these animals receive no outside inspections; they agencies are expected to be self-regulating. There is no independent oversight. There are no prosecutions, no fines, and no meaningful enforcement actions. The roughly 127,500 animals in federally owned laboratories have no meaningful protections. There is no law, because there is no realistic enforcement.

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