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Congressman Krishnamoorthi Announces Plan to Reintroduce the Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act During Panel Discussion With Supporting Organizations

May 7, 2021
Press Release

SCHAUMBURG, IL – Today, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi announced his plan to reintroduce the bipartisan Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act (AWEIA) this month. The legislation would improve Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement by strengthening the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) licensing process for animal dealers and exhibitors.

Animal dealers and exhibitors — including commercial dog-breeders, circuses, zoos, educational displays, petting farms/zoos, animal acts, wildlife parks, marine mammal parks, and some animal sanctuaries — are required to obtain a license and comply with the AWA.  Dealers and exhibitors must renew their licenses each year. However, the current process relies on self-certification, and USDA’s stated policy is to rubber-stamp renewals, even in cases where the licensee is committing ongoing violations that endanger animals. This system currently has a lack of oversight and accountability that leads to risks to animal safety and welfare, like those seen on the Netflix show Tiger King. The Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act strengthens AWA enforcement and the licensing process to hold dealers and exhibitors accountable. 

Congressman Krishnamoorthi announced the legislation this morning as a part of National Pet Week during his virtual panel event on animal protections. The event was hosted alongside The Animal Legal Defense Fund and Animal Welfare Institute with experts discussing the main issues and policy priorities for animal welfare.

“The Animal Welfare Act is a crucial piece of legislation, but it can’t achieve its goals if we don’t close frequently abused loopholes, which is why my Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act is necessary,” Congressman Krishnamoorthi said. “I worked closely with the organizations present at our event today to develop a bill that would best protect animals and end the rampant abuse. These animals don’t have a voice, and many of the people who come across them don’t realize the nature of their suffering. But we have a voice, and we have a responsibility to take compassionate, justice-drive action in Congress.”

Key provisions of the legislation include:

  • Requiring animal dealers and exhibitors to renew their licenses annually, including a full pre-license inspection.
    • Inspections before issuing or renewing a license must be unannounced.
    • For initial applications, the applicant would have only two chances to pass an inspection.  If any noncompliance is observed during the second inspection, the application would be denied, and the applicant could reapply after one year.
    • Renewal would require that the licensee have no more than one documented noncompliance with any standard for the humane care of animals during the previous two years.
  • Prohibiting USDA from issuing or renewing a license if the dealer or exhibitor has been found to have violated any federal, state, or local animal welfare law, or if the applicant is applying for a license to circumvent a state or local law prohibiting the private ownership of certain animals as pets.
  • Requiring USDA to suspend the license of any dealer or exhibitor who commits a violation that presents a risk to animal welfare, and to permanently revoke the license (after notice and opportunity for a hearing) if the violation persists or the licensee has committed multiple violations.
  • Preventing dealers and exhibitors whose licenses are suspended or revoked from being granted another license under another business name or through a business partner or family member, or from being employed by another licensee to work with animals during the period of the suspension or revocation.
  • Authorizing citizen suits to enforce the Animal Welfare Act (similar to the Endangered Species Act and other major federal environmental laws).
  • Requiring USDA to publish all inspection reports, enforcement records, and animal inventories online without redactions (as it did prior to February 2017).

The Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act has been endorsed by the Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Wellness Action, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Animal Legal Defense Fund, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.