Breaking news: Congress poised to pass spending bill that advances animal welfare in the nation

By on May 1, 2017 with 21 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Last night, Congressional leaders announced an agreement on the details of a massive bill to fund the federal government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2017 (through September 30th), and it’s packed with good news for animal protection. Working with our allies in the House and Senate, we staved off several anti-animal-protection riders, held the line on enforcement funding for critical animal protection programs, and even won new provisions and declarations that could help tens of thousands of animals in the months ahead. The full House and Senate are expected to take up the bill by the end of the week, and while there is no certainty, both chambers are expected to approve it and President Trump is expected to sign the measure into law. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will then begin marking up their bills to fund the various departments in Fiscal Year 2018, another opportunity to seek progress on behalf of animals.

With 184 House members writing in March to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee in support of strong funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and other key federal statutes, negotiators took notice, sustaining funding and even providing increases in a few of the accounts. This is most exciting, especially in light of major cuts proposed in the Trump budget for the departments of Agriculture and Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The massive spending bill also contained no harmful language to block important reforms, including a USDA rule to strengthen organic animal welfare standards, a USDA rule to end horse soring (which is currently frozen), and a National Park Service rule barring inhumane hunting practices to kill grizzly bears and wolves on National Preserves in Alaska. We’ll need to stay vigilant to keep out harmful riders blocking these rules in the FY18 budget and on other vehicles where these riders might emerge. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer were intensely focused on keeping this bill free of anti-animal riders, and worked across the aisle with a number of Republicans who have repeatedly championed animal protection issues.

Here are some other snapshots of hotly contested items. As always, animal welfare issues were included in the final discussions of top lawmakers in the country.


Congress did the right thing by not opting to legislatively delist gray wolves in this bill, and instead deferred to the courts currently hearing cases about the fate of wolves in the Great Lakes.

Wild horses and burros:

The bill includes language to prevent the Bureau of Land Management and its contractors from sending wild horses to be slaughtered for human consumption. It also directs BLM to review all serious proposals from non-governmental organizations and create a plan, within 180 days of enactment of this bill, to maintain long-term sustainable populations on the range in a humane manner. A provision allowing wild horses removed from public lands to be transferred to federal, state, or local governments to serve as work horses makes clear that these horses cannot be sent to slaughter for human consumption.

Horse slaughter defund:

The bill includes language that prohibits wasteful government spending on horse slaughter inspections, which rightfully maintains the ban on horse slaughter in the United States. This language has been maintained for most years since 2005, and ensures that millions of taxpayer dollars are not expended on a practice abhorred by 80 percent of the American public.

Agricultural animal research:

Negotiators included a $400,000 increase for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to strengthen its oversight of animal research at federal Agricultural Research Services facilities. In 2014, the New York Times brought to light terrible abuses of farm animals at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, and today’s news builds on strong provisions included in the appropriations packages during 2015 and 2016.

USDA website purge of inspection reports and other enforcement records:

Along with increasing funding for animal welfare inspections of these facilities, the package directs the USDA to post these reports online, a particularly important provision in light of the USDA’s recent mass removal of animal welfare records from its website. While the agency has restored a small number of reports, they are no longer readily searchable and most are still missing altogether.

Class B random source dealers:

The bill also renews the prohibition on funding for the USDA’s licensing or relicensing of Class B animal dealers who sell “random source” dogs and cats for use in research. These “random source” animals are often obtained from animal shelters, flea markets, or “free to a good home” ads (and sometimes from pet theft).

Marine mammals:

The package recognizes the importance of funding to conserve marine mammal species such as the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, and provides important funding for the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect endangered and threatened species.

Wildlife trafficking:

It provides an additional $7,500,000 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement and $1,920,000 for FWS’ International Affairs division to fight wildlife trafficking, signaling that combating wildlife trafficking will continue to be a priority for Congress.

Environmental Protection Agency:

The bill maintains most of the 2016 budget levels for the agency. This is critical not only for the environment but also for research and development of alternative methods and strategies to supplant traditional animal tests for the implementation of the reauthorized Toxic Substances Control Act.

Animal Research and Testing, Companion Animals, Equine, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Robynne Catheron says:

    THANK YOU, Wayne for sharing this fantastic information, and for your role in this legislation’s passage!

  2. yvonne tacoronte says:

    The animals need to be protected and helped !!!! STOP killing them !!!!!!

  3. yvonne tacoronte says:

    Help and protect the animals!!!!!!

  4. Joan says:

    Wow! This is fantastic! Is it really possible to turn around the wolf delisting and BLM’s horrible management of our wild horses and the bill just passed (that I read anyway) to allow inhumane hunting of bears and wolves in their caves along with all the other great things?

  5. Sherry McCullough says:

    I surely hope all the items discussed go through as indicated. Anymore it seems as though every step forward toward improving the lives of animals is followed by ten steps backward somehow, somewhere.

    • Maryann Reilly says:

      I agree! ,It would be a dream come true if this bill remains as it stands, Many people have worked long and hard for this with little cooperation.

  6. Cynthia Culp says:

    Finally! Thank you for this! Our wild horses are a national treasure, they deserve our protection .
    Please continue on to make tax cuts for those who adopt shelter animals and give them homes. Also, aid for NO KILL shelters who seek to fund homes instead of killing dogs and cats.

  7. Thomas lee says:

    This is wonderful news.

  8. Danielle Berkley says:

    That sounds terrific! Our voices for the animals have been heard in Congress.
    Thank you to EVERYONE who has worked so hard and so long for the creatures w/whom we share this earth.
    Now we must make sure these bills and appropriations are passed!

  9. Elaine Taylor says:

    Thank you Wayne for your dedication in helping our precious animals! And thank you to ALL of my fellow animal advocates for making your voices heard!!! Our wild and domestic horses and.burros, our dogs, cats, pigs, cows, chickens and so many more have suffered the abuse of mankind for all of history. Finally some light at the end of the tunnel!! YAY!!

  10. Nina Perino says:

    Well the American Wild Horse Campaign people are not happy. I’m not sure what to believe now.

  11. mattie goodwin says:

    thanks so much for all you’ve done for horses and animals! hope these bills pass! it’s nice to know there are still good people out there that care and act on animals behalf! thank you again and congratulations if these bill pass!

  12. Donna Young says:

    All the people that are going to sign the legislation should have to watch these animals being abused. Then there won’t be any animal abuse!

  13. Tracy Stevens says:

    I am so very happy to read this, but I am wondering about the SAFE Act, that if passed would prohibit over 130,000 horses every year from being transported to a horribly cruel death in slaughter plants in Mexico?

    If you don’t know what is happening to our equines in Mexico, look up Horse Slaughter Mexico–it is the worst cruelty I have ever read, and what happens before the horses get to Mexico is also absolutely horrible.

    Horses that end up in the slaughter pipeline are usually given away in Free To Good Home Ads, sold at auctions and/or priced below the per lb slaughter plant purchase rates.

    Please always check and verify references of anyone wanting to buy your horse. PLEASE, ALWAYS PRICE HORSES ABOVE THE PER LB SLAUGHTER HOUSE PRICES, BETWEEN $1.25 AND $1.50 PER LB.

    Our horses’ lives depend on us, and together we can make a difference to save them from cruelty that no animal should have to suffer…..


    Tracy Stevens

    • della lindquist says:

      Tracy you are so right! the SAFE Act was reintroduced in 2017 as HR 113..but I hope the humane society of the us pushes for this as well! thank you for caring! it is a brutal slaughter pipeline.

  14. Wild Horse Fantasy says:

    No harmful language?!!
    What about THIS!
    The language amends the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act by stripping them of their federal protections and transferring them to state and local governments ostensibly for use as “work animals.” And they could be sent to slaughter en masse!
    I’d call that VERY harmful.
    And underhanded, given that polls show a majority of Americans support leaving them free.

  15. Cynthia White says:

    Im concerned as wild horse groups reporting a last minute rider thrown in to potentially strip federal protections from thousands of wild horses.

  16. Craig Downer says:

    PZP is not the way to a human protection and preservation of America’s seriously underpopulated wild horse and burros. See my article in response to this entitled Will there be a Future for America’s Wild Horses and Burros? on my website

  17. Mary W says:

    It is so important to get the “news” correct and from a trusted source that has animals in mind. Thanks for all you do.

  18. Carole Giacomazzo says:

    I believe that Section 116 of this bill which has already been signed should be rescinded. This section refers to wild horses and burros being reclassified as work animals and they would not be protected by the Wild Horses and Burros Act. This is wrong. Everything that could be done should be done to protect them from being slaughtered. I’m worried that this is not going to happen. Wayne, please clarify this for me and other readers, thank you. I think I read that this reclass would take place sometime in September.

  19. K. Koermer says:

    We as a kind and supposedly caring nation should include in any negotiations with other countries, an insistence that animal abuse should stop before we will
    agree to helping that nation. We should include animals as well as people since we too are classified as ‘animals’ and we are to protect all living things.
    Why should that ever be difficult?

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