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animal welfare act

Celebrate 50 Years of Protecting Animals with APHIS

Many people know that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the agency tasked with administering the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).  But did you know that this is the 50th anniversary of that Act?

In 1965, a Dalmatian named Pepper was stolen from her backyard by a dealer, who then sold her to a hospital.  Pepper was used in research and subsequently died.  The public outcry was, understandably, enormous, including coverage in several major magazines.  As a result, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act – the precursor to the AWA – in 1966, and tasked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the health and wellness of animals used in research.

APHIS Helps Fight Pet Overpopulation on Tribal Lands

Years passed, but no one was able to get near the stray dog roaming the 90 acres of the Ely Shoshone Tribal District in Nevada. Tribal members had tried many times to corral her, to no avail.

Then, in 2011, the stray became pregnant, giving birth to a litter under a walkway at the tribe’s clinic. Occasionally, the puppies were heard crying, but a few weeks later their cries grew less noticeable. When employees became concerned, they resorted to tearing up the walkway. Only one of three puppies was still alive, but it soon died after being taken to a veterinarian for care.

Many communities in the United States, including Native American tribes like the Ely Shoshone, face similar problems when dogs and cats are not spayed or neutered. Frequently, when humans are unable to take care of their unsprayed or unneutered animals, they abandon them -- bringing problems ranging from cats forming feral colonies to abandoned dogs becoming wild packs. Worse, a significant public health threat looms from potential dog bites and animals carrying diseases that can be transmitted to humans, primarily through ticks.

Why I Became an Inspector in APHIS’ Animal Care Program

USDA/APHIS’ Animal Care program enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act, which sets standards for humane care and treatment that must be provided for certain animals that are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale, used in biomedical research, or transported commercially. Individuals/entities that operate facilities using animals in these ways must provide their animals with proper veterinary care, adequate housing, appropriate nutrition, etc.

Dr. Andrea Morgan of USDA's Animal Care Program Talks Horse Health

Hello, I’m Dr. Andrea (Andy) Morgan, Associate Deputy Administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)’s Animal Care (AC) program. In 1985, when I hadn’t been out of vet school long and was working at a small animal practice, I got ahold of a brochure about APHIS’ Public Veterinary Practice Career Program. I was interested in working not just with small animals but with other animals, too—exotic animals and horses, to name a few. So I joined APHIS that year, and here I am, still working for the agency 26 years and many important experiences later.

APHIS Pleased With Animal Evacuations At Two Flood-Ravaged North Dakota Zoos

In late May, two zoos in central North Dakota were hit hard by flooding.  The disaster prompted the need for a swift evacuation of the animals.  In Bismarck, the Missouri River threatened to submerge the Dakota Zoo and its 500+ animals under as much as seven feet of water, and in Minot the Roosevelt Park Zoo was a potential target of the rising Souris River, which runs directly through the city.

During the height of the flooding, APHIS’ Animal Care Program monitored reports coming from the zoos and kept abreast of river levels.  Inspector Amy Jirsa-Smith contacted zoo officials regularly. She was on-site at both facilities, and helped corral some animals at the Dakota Zoo so they could be transported to other facilities.  However, she is quick to point out that the zoo staff at both facilities, with the assistance of several cooperating state and local agencies, state veterinarians, four neighboring zoos and the National Guard, had everything under control.

APHIS: Rescuing Suffering Animals

Each year, APHIS protects millions of animals nationwide that are covered by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).  The Act, and accompanying regulations developed by APHIS, set Federal standards of care for animals that are bred at the wholesale level, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.  Under the law, APHIS has the authority and obligation to confiscate any AWA-regulated animal that is in a condition of unrelieved suffering.