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Boyle and Smith Lead Bipartisan Letter to USDA Opposing Plan to Outsource Oversight of Bedrock Animal Welfare Law

March 27, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressmen Christopher Smith (R-NJ-04) and Brendan F. Boyle (D-PA-13) sent a letter urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to abandon its current proposal to outsource federal oversight of facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to private industry. This proposal would seriously compromise the integrity of the AWA inspection process and undermine protections for millions of animals at commercial breeding operations, medical laboratories, zoos, and other facilities across the country, as well as raise consumer and public safety concerns by allowing regulated industries the power to choose which facilities warrant agency oversight. The bipartisan letter to the USDA was co-led by Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA-06), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40), Lou Barletta (R-PA-11), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH-01), Tom Marino (R-PA-10), and Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), and signed by a total of 77 House Members representing 23 states (AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, IL, KY, MA, MD, MI, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OR, PA, RI, TN, TX, VA, VT, WA, and WI), along with the District of Columbia and Guam.

“The USDA is proposing to abandon one of its core responsibilities to oversee the humane treatment of animals, as required by federal law,” said Congressman Boyle. “Coming on the heels of its purge of inspection reports from the web, the USDA is aiming to create a complete free-for-all. Especially when it comes to safety and cruelty, we cannot allow regulated industries to police themselves. I am committed to fighting this harmful plan and proud to help lead this bicameral effort.”

“The USDA’s proposal undercuts transparency and oversight regarding treatment of animals, and could very well lead to more abuse,” Congressman Smith said. “Outsourcing animal welfare oversight hasn’t worked, as demonstrated by the plight of the Tennessee walking horses. To date, self-policing in this industry has hindered critical oversight of animal facilities and enabled systemic animal abuse to fester.”

“Outsourcing inspections of puppy mills, roadside zoos, labs and other facilities is a terrible idea that has rightly drawn strong bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill and by an overwhelming share of citizens at USDA's ‘listening sessions’ on this proposal,” said Sara Amundson, President, Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We commend Representatives Smith and Boyle for their leadership, and hope USDA heeds the message: animals and taxpayers deserve real enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, and industry self-policing doesn't work.”

The USDA proposal would recognize private, third party inspections and certifications when determining the frequency of federal inspections for facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Coupled with the agency’s decision last year to purge inspection reports from its website, relying on third party inspections would result in a lack of transparency and consistency, both regarding the welfare of animals at licensed facilities and the rigorousness of the enforcement of the AWA. The Members of Congress urged USDA to instead work to provide greater transparency, tighten its enforcement and licensing standards, and streamline its procedures for cracking down on animal cruelty.

The full letter can be found HERE.