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Congress Requires USDA to Restore Deleted Records and Maintain Records Going Forward

The House Amendment to the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, signed into law on December 20, requires that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture both restore all previously deleted records to its website and to make publicly available for the next three years unredacted versions of all Animal Welfare Act inspection reports, Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act enforcement records, all reports and documentation of non-compliances observed by Department officials, and final Animal Welfare Act research facility annual reports.

DC Circuit Revives Lawsuit Regarding Humane Handling of Birds Not Bred for Research

The DC Circuit has reversed a district court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the American Anti-Vivisection Society and the Avian Welfare Coalition against the United States Department of Agriculture that alleged that the agency’s failure to establish standards for the humane handling of birds not bred for use in research was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act. The issue has been remanded to the lower court for briefing on whether such action was unreasonably delayed.

Federal Prosecutors Say ‘Tiger King’ Zoo Violates Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against Jeffrey Lowe, Lauren Lowe, Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, LLC, and Tiger King, LLC for violating the Endangered Species Act by subjecting animals—including lion and tiger hybrids—to substandard care and treatment. The suit also alleges violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Bill Would Require AWA Covered Entities to Plan for Disasters

The PREPARED (Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters) Act of 2019 proposes to amend the Animal Welfare Act to require that research facilities, dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers, carriers, and Federal research facilities covered by the AWA develop and follow emergency contingency plans that ensure humane treatment of animals in the case of a disaster.

Congress Considers Banning Resale of Shelter Animals to Research Laboratories

House Bill 3187, the Pet Safety and Protection Act, would prohibit Class B Animal Welfare Act dealers—dealers who may purchase animals from shelters and re-sell them at a markup—from selling animals to research laboratories. The bill was previously introduced in 2019.

Legislation Would Require Offering Animals Used in Federal Research for Adoption

H.R. 5244, the “Animal Freedom from Testing, Experiments, and Research (AFTER) Act of 2021” would amend the Animal Welfare Act to direct all federal research facilities to promulgate standards to facilitate the adoption of certain animals used in federal research, or their “non-laboratory placement” with an animal rescue organization, animal sanctuary, or animal shelter. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and is sponsored by Reps. Brendan Boyle and Nancy Mace.

USDA Settles 2017 Blackout Lawsuits

Two cases stemming from 2017 when the United States Department of Agriculture removed Animal Welfare Act enforcement records from its website—an incident referred to as the USDA Blackout—were settled. The settlement includes the agency’s commitment that it has restored and will continue to provide public access to the records at issue.

USDA Announces Final Rule Relating to Emergency Management at Regulated Animal Facilities

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that a final Animal Welfare Act rule it published on December 31, 2013, finally will become effective on January 3, 2022. To “better safeguard the health and welfare of their animals,” the regulation establishes requirements that research facilities, dealers, intermediate handlers, and exhibitors must meet regarding “contingency planning and training of personnel for possible emergencies or disasters.” The USDA had stayed implementation of the final rule in 2013 to further review impacts on regulated entities; however, the 2021 Congressional Appropriations Act requires the agency to lift the 8-year stay.

Indiana ‘Tiger King’ Bill Would Prohibit Direct Public Contact with Big Cats and Bears

Indiana House Bill 1248 would prohibit an individual who owns a big cat, big cat hybrid, or bear from allowing a member of the public to have direct physical contact with the animal. The bill also would prohibit the ownership of big cats or bears without a U.S. Department of Agriculture license. The bill was introduced after an Indiana roadside zoo, Wildlife in Need, and its owner, Tim Stark, were charged with more than 120 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act and assessed with more than $300,000 in penalties in connection with a big cat breeding and petting business they ran before being shut down by state and federal officials. Both were featured in the Netflix series “Tiger King.” The bill passed the House and has been referred to the Indiana Senate Committee on Natural Resources.

Court Dismisses Challenge to NMFS Decision on Disclosure of Necropsy on Standing

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by several animal rights advocates and individuals that challenged the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision not to enforce a permit condition requiring SeaWorld to release the necropsy report of an orca whale named Tilikum. The court found that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing because they “failed to allege a cognizable informational injury.”