Sending Office: Honorable Christopher H. Smith
Sent By:
Marisa.Kovacs@mail.house.gov

ANIMAL WELFARE ACT ENFORCEMENT – 3rd PARTY INSPECTIONS

Sign on to Bipartisan Letter Urging USDA to Shelve Proposal to Outsource Federal Oversight

 

Dear Colleague:

We hope you will join us in signing the below letter to the USDA, urging the agency to abandon its proposal to utilize inspections and certifications by regulated industries as a guide to determine whether and when to inspect a facility under the Animal
Welfare Act.  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.

If you have any questions or would like to sign onto this letter, please contact Marisa Kovacs with Representative Smith at
Marisa.Kovacs@mail.house.gov / 5-3765 or Alana Byrd with Representative Boyle at
Alana.Byrd@mail.house.gov / 5-6111 by COB February 20th.

 

Sincerely,

 

Christopher Smith               Brendan F. Boyle

Member of Congress             Member of Congress

 

 

Ryan A. Costello                   Earl Blumenauer

 

Member of Congress             Member of Congress

 

Carlos Curbelo                Lucille Roybal-Allard

Member of Congress             Member of Congress

 

Lou Barletta                         Carol Shea-Porter

Member of Congress             Member of Congress

 

Tom Marino                        Ted Lieu

Member of Congress            Member of Congress

 

Text of Letter

 

February__, 2018

 

The Honorable Sonny Perdue

Secretary of Agriculture

United States Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave SW, Room 200-A

Washington, DC  20250

 

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We write to express deep concern over a recent USDA-APHIS proposal to 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.

Third party “inspections” or “certifications” have no bearing on whether a facility is in compliance with the AWA. In fact, licensees from all categories – commercial pet breeders, exhibitors, and research facilities – have maintained their accreditation
in third party programs, despite having incurred AWA violations. These groups typically provide no reports on the results of their site visits, which may be infrequent and scheduled (rather than unannounced), nor on any penalties meted out for substandard
conditions. Conflicts of interest can cause private inspectors to ignore violations. The public would have no way of knowing if a puppy mill or other operation passed its third party inspection, remaining accredited by a self-interested entity that collects
dues from its members, and then bypassed USDA inspections because of its supposedly clean record. Accreditation with such entities should be irrelevant in the USDA’s assessment of whether and when to inspect a facility regulated under the AWA.

The USDA’s experience with industry self-policing under the Horse Protection Act (HPA) demonstrates the inherent problems with this approach. Decades after passage of that Act, the soring of Tennessee walking horses remains rampant in a segment of the
industry, in large part because the agency has outsourced inspection of those horses to individuals employed by the industry who often exhibit Tennessee walking horses themselves. The agency’s own Office of Inspector General highlighted the conflicts of interest
and ineffectiveness of this program in 2010, following a thorough two-year audit, and recommended that the industry self-policing system be abolished with full federal oversight restored, something that the USDA agreed then to pursue. Legislation in the House
that would require this reform and prevent individuals with conflicts of interest from becoming licensed inspectors, the PAST Act (H.R. 1847), has the bipartisan support of 277 cosponsors.

Given the continued abuses under the HPA, we do not believe this approach of third party inspections should be extended to facilities regulated under the AWA. We urge the USDA to permanently shelve this proposal – which would effectively outsource federal
oversight of animal welfare and seriously compromise the integrity of AWA enforcement. Instead, the agency should work to provide greater transparency, tighten its enforcement and licensing standards, and streamline its procedures for cracking down on animal
cruelty. For almost two decades, a large bipartisan set of legislators has successfully sought funds each year for the USDA to carry out inspections under the AWA, not to hand off this enforcement responsibility to the regulated industries themselves. Thank
you for your consideration.

 

 

 

Related Legislative Issues
Selected legislative information: Agriculture
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