The federal government shutdown is in its 24th day, and while we hear how it is affecting government employees, services and the overall negative impact, what we don’t hear is how it is affecting animal.
Puppy Mills are operating without any oversight or accountability because the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection service (APHIS) who is charged with ensuring minimum standards of care under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), is not conducting inspections or bringing enforcement actions against operators violating the Act. All inspections of commercial breeding operations have ceased and puppy mills are operating without any government oversight and even the bare minimums like access to food and water may not be being met, so animals are suffering and there is no one to hold breeding facility operators accountable.
Animals in research facilities, zoos and circuses are also operating without oversight by APHIS, so any violations of the AWA will go without consequence. Laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses and others can cut corners, and animals can be neglected and abused without fear of being caught.
Horse Soring is a cruel and inhumane practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait and APHIS enforces the Horse Protection Act (HPA) to prevent Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds from being subjected to soring, and oversees the inspection of show horses at-risk, to ensure that they have not been sored and imposes penalties for violations. With the shutdown, trainers are free to cruelly sore and harm horses without repercussions.
Humane slaughter of farm animals is overseen by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) which does have contingency plans, and employees who inspect meat, poultry, and egg products are considered crucial and will work throughout the shutdown. However, the contingency plans do not appear to address how humane handling violations will be addressed if they occur., which means that humane slaughter violations go unaddressed and lead to unrelieved suffering of animals.
These are just a few examples of animals not being protected during the government shut down, and with the USDA , where there was already a serious problem, with the agency now largely out of commission, it means an even greater problem and weaker oversight. The government shutdown is bad for animals and for them, as well as for America, we hope it ends soon.
Photo credit: Rhea Animal Control