*This blog post was updated on Feb. 25 from its original version. Please see correction below.
By: Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director, AVMA Governmental Relations Division
In response to a front page article in the New York Times about alleged animal abuses at a federal research facility in Clay Center, Neb., Congress introduced a bill this month that will change how farm animals are cared for in agricultural research at federal research facilities.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in the House and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the Animal Welfare and Agriculture Research Endeavors (AWARE) Act (S. 388/H.R. 746) on Feb. 5. This bill will remove the exemption for farm animals used in agricultural research at federal facilities under the Animal Welfare Act, resulting in regular inspections and oversight by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Over the next two months, the AVMA Governmental Relations Division will work with AVMA’s volunteer entities and Board of Directors to review the legislation and develop a position.
Late last month, the AVMA sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack sharing our policy on the Use of Animals in Research, Testing and Education, which expressed the association’s concerns about the alleged conditions at the research center and suggested potential solutions to help ensure the good health and welfare of the animals at this facility. For more information, see this blog post.
*The original blog post indicated that the definition for “animal” under the Animal Welfare Act would be modified by the legislation, but that is not the case. The bill would only address the responsibilities for federal facilities to remove the exemption for agricultural animals and to add an exhibition as a “covered activity” for those facilities.