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Quigley Criticizes Inadequate USDA Animal Welfare Response

Jul 17, 2020
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) released a statement after receiving a letter from the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that failed to adequately address concerns about their Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement. In April, Quigley led a letter to the USDA expressing alarm over the agency’s lax monitoring and enforcement of animal welfare standards by animal dealers and exhibitors. The letter was co-signed by a bipartisan group of 52 members and called on USDA to aggressively enforce animal welfare standards that are already federal law and ensure that animal parks are not able to flagrantly abuse USDA’s inspection and certification process.

Quigley’s statement is below:

“While I am relieved that the USDA will no longer automatically renew the licenses of exhibitors whether or not they comply with the AWA, this change does not go nearly far enough. So-called ‘zoos’ will still be given three chances to pass inspections and all inspections will be scheduled in advance, giving applicants more than enough time to hide their most egregious violations. On top of this, any violations found during the few unannounced inspections that will take place, won’t be taken into consideration by USDA when deciding if a license will be issued.

“This agency has a clear pattern of failure to protect animals at facilities that exploit them and treat them inhumanly. In the wake of increased public attention to AWA enforcement, I had hopes that USDA would take action to better enforce the law. Unfortunately, in the months since my initial letter, I have grown only more discouraged. USDA must provide Congress and the public with clear, detailed information on how they plan to properly implement and uphold the AWA.”

Earlier this year, there was a significant increase in public attention to USDA AWA enforcement after the release of the Netflix series “Tiger King.” The documentary series included several instances of cruel animal abuse in violation of the AWA and featured staff from roadside zoos openly mocking the USDA inspection process.

Quigley is the lead sponsor of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which also experienced a surge in support following “Tiger King’s” popularity. The bill was passed by the House Natural Resources Committee last year and currently awaits a vote on by the full House.

Quigley’s initial letter to USDA is HERE. A copy of USDA’s response to Quigley is HERE.