Full Title Name:  Animal Welfare Act: 1976 Amendments House Report No. 94-801

Share |
Country of Origin:  United States Citation:  House Report No. 94-801 Agency Origin:  Congress

By 1976, rather than the use of animals in labs or stolen pets other animal protection issues had come to the forefront of public and congressional discussion. Those provisions dealing with research facilities and dealers were pretty much left alone by the 1976 amendments, which instead, dealt with several new topics.


            The Committee on Agriculture, to whom was referred the bill (H.R. 5808) to amend the Act of August 24, 1966, as amended, to assure humane treatment of certain animals, and for other purposes, having considered the same, report favorable thereon with amendments and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.


*758 *

Brief Explanation of the Legislation

            H.R. 5808, as amended, would broaden and strengthen the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture to establish and enforce humane standards for the treatment of animals under the Animal Welfare Act, as amended, 7 U.S.C. 2131, et seq.

            In brief, the bill would:

            (1) Bring carriers and intermediate handlers within the class of persons regulated under the statute and require them to adhere to humane standards promulgated by the Secretary with respect to the transportation affecting commerce of all animals protected by the Act.

            (2) Amend the definition of the term “animal” under the Act to clarify the fact that, contrary to the interpretation presently held by the Secretary of agriculture, all dogs, including dogs for hunting, security, or breeding purposes, do fall within the protection of the Act.

            (3) Prohibit delivery to an intermediate handler or carrier for transportation affecting commerce of any dog, cat, or other animal (i) designated by the Secretary without a licensed veterinarian’s certificate, or (ii) at an age of less than eight weeks or such other age as may be prescribed by the Secretary to assure their humane treatment, and also prohibit transportation affecting commerce of any animal on a C.O.D. basis unless the shipper guarantees payment of round-trip transportation charges and expenses incurred in their care.

            (4) Extend the Secretary’s investigative authority to intermediate handlers and carriers.

            (5) Revise the present penalty provisions of the Act to impose a uniform civil penalty provision on all persons regulated under the statute and eliminate the requirement applicable to persons currently covered by the Act that the Secretary issue a cease and desist order before seeking imposition of a civil penalty.

            (6) Add to the statute an entirely new section which would make it a crime punishable by fine and imprisonment knowingly to sponsor, participate in, transport, or use the mails to promote fights between live birds, live dogs, or other mammals, except man.


Purpose And Need For Legislation

            The Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq., was first enacted in 1966 to prevent theft and sale for use in research of pet cats and dogs, and also to foster humane treatment by dealers and research facilities of cats, dogs, and certain other laboratory animals.  In 1970, the Act’s coverage was extended to most live or dead warm-blooded animals.  Exhibitors and auction sales were subject to regulation, and the Secretary’s powers were increased and extended to cover activities which burden, obstruct, or substantially affect interstate commerce.

            H.R. 5808 addresses two problems not reached by the present law; (1) mistreatment of animals in the course of their transportation affecting commerce; and (2) animal fighting ventures.  All carriers of animals and persons handling such animals in connection with their transportation would be required to adhere to humane standards established pursuant to the bill under pain of civil and criminal penalties.  Also, the bill would make it a crime to promote, sponsor, or abet animal fighting ventures.  Several other clarifying and strengthening amendments would be made to the present law.

            H.R. 5808 deals comprehensively with the persistent problem of mistreatment of animals in the course of their transportation, particularly air transportation.  Over the past several years, domestic shipments of live animals by air have increasingly been monitored by the Secretary of Agriculture and to an even greater extent by voluntary organizations dedicated to promoting humane treatment of animals.  Many of the problems were explored in the hearings on H.R. 5808 and its predecessor bills in the 93rd Congress.  The sheer volume of animal shipments and particularly air shipments is enormous.  For example, an Air Transport Association survey showed an average of over 3,700 animal shipments per day during 1973.


*759 *

            The problems which exist with respect to the air transportation are typical.  At present, no single government agency has the authority necessary for the establishment and enforcement of adequate standards for the humane transportation of animals.  Instead, three government agencies have ill-defined and incomplete jurisdiction over shipment of animals by air, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Civil Aeronautics Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration.  Problems relating to the aircraft environment, i.e., climate control and stowage and tie-down regulations, are the prerogative of the FAA.  However, the FAA disclaims the expertise to promulgate effective rules.  The CAB has jurisdiction over the tariffs of air carriers and, indeed, conditions for acceptance of animal shipments are contained in some tariffs.  However, tariff provisions as, for example, those with respect to suitable containers for live animals are vague and only rarely enforced by the carriers.  While the CAB has embarked upon an investigation of live animal transportation by the air carriers, it, too, disclaims the expertise needed to achieve effective regulation and has endorsed H.R. 5808 as a solution to many of the problems.

            Witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee on Livestock and Grains cited literally hundreds of examples in which live animals which were injured, diseased, or otherwise unfit to travel were nonetheless shipped, with cruel results.  Some animals were shipped in containers or crates which were either flimsy or constructed in a fashion virtually guaranteed to result in injury to the animal.  In one instance a cougar shipped in a small crate lined with wire mesh and with only two narrow slits for ventilation was stranded all day in ninety degree heat at National Airport.  The animal could not turn around in the coffin-like crate but tore the wire mesh and suffered severe abrasions in its desperate struggle for air.  The animal later died.  The Director of the National Zoo subsequently stated that he would never ship an animal in such a crate, which he described as inadequate for any purpose other than to transfer an animal between cages.  At least in the case of air transportation, live animals shipments are often handled no more expeditiously than ordinary freight.  Connections are missed and cargo handlers, accustomed to handling ordinary freight, are by and large insensitive to the special requirements of live animals.  The result is that such animals are needlessly left in transit for extended periods without food, water, or exercise and are exposed to extreme conditions of temperature and climate.

            The air transportation problem was specifically addressed by the Committee on Government Operations of the House of Representatives in a special report entitled “Problems in Air Shipment of Domestic Animals.”  House Report No. 93-746, 1973.  Among the recommendations of the Government Operations Committee was the establishment of an inter-agency group to identify the problems and develop corrective regulations.  The Committee understands that such an interagency committee was formed but that it has met only infrequently and has taken no constructive action to remedy the many problems described above.


            H.R. 5808 would meet the animal transportation problem in a variety of ways.  First, of course, it will bring carriers and intermediate handlers under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture and, thus, eliminate the confusion which has heretofore stymied progress in this area.  The Committee has found that a significant portion of the problem is caused by intermediate handlers of animals, such as express companies, freight forwarders, etc., and, in some cases, cargo handling personnel and facilities.  Accordingly, H.R. 5808 brings such intermediate handlers under the jurisdiction of the Secretary.

            Carriers and intermediate handlers will be required to keep records either on existing forms or on forms prescribed by the Secretary in order to facilitate monitoring by the Secretary of their compliance with humane standards.  The Secretary will be empowered to promulgate standards for intermediate handlers and carriers, the transportation of exceedingly young dogs, cats, and certain other animals will be prohibited, and a licensed veterinarian’s certificate required in most instances which certifies that, when inspected by the veterinarian, the animal appeared free of any infectious disease or physical abnormality which would endanger the animal or animals or other animals or public health.  C.O.D. shipments will be prohibited unless the cosigner guarantees payment of round-trip charges.  The Secretary will also be empowered to investigate carriers and intermediate handlers.  Finally, H.R. 5808 authorized assessment of civil penalties against intermediate handlers and carriers who violate the standards established by the Secretary.  The civil penalty provisions of the present law would be revised to conform to those provided in the bill for intermediate handlers and carriers.

            A different and extremely vicious problem is presented by the animal fighting ventures uncovered by the Committee during the hearings.  Dog fighting, a minor problem prior to World War II, has unfortunately grown and prospered to the point that regional Conventions are held which attract fighting dogs and “dog fanciers” from numerous states.  They frequently are advertised in dog fighting magazines of nationwide circulation in addition the “sporting element” of these enterprises, there apparently has grown up also a sort of traveling circus in which vans will travel from state to state and set up for brief periods offering patrons the opportunity to witness and gamble upon a series of dog fights and to indulge at the same time many questionable and criminal activities.

            Dog fighting itself is a grisly business in which two dogs either trained specifically for the purpose or maddened by drugs and abuse are set upon one another and required to fight, usually to the death of at least one and frequently both animals.  The testimony indicated that a fight between two trained dogs would often continue for over an hour and that the dogs would literally chew out each others’ eyes and break or chew off each others’ feet and legs, bloodying each other extensively, all to the cheers and goading of handlers and on-lookers.  In the training of fighting dogs, live animals, such as cats and sometimes even untrained dogs, are used as bait to instill or enhance the fighting dog’s tastes for blood and, in some instances, to give it practice in killing other animals.


            The Committee considers the practice of dog fighting, and the setting of one dog upon another or upon other animals as bait, etc., in the training of dogs for fighting to be dehumanizing, abhorrent, and utterly without redeeming social value.  It may, of course, not be possible to completely eliminate these practices.  However, it is hoped that Federal legislation will complement local law enforcement which, without such assistance, cannot successfully cope with this essentially interstate problem.  It is expected that all Federal agencies, such as the FBI, the Treasury Department, etc., will lend every assistance to the Department of Agriculture in effectuating the purpose of this legislation.

            H.R. 5808 will make it a crime punishable by a fine of not more than $5000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both, to sponsor, exhibit an animal in, transport an animal to, or use the United States mail to promote an animal fighting venture.  As introduced, the bill would have prohibited fighting only between live dogs or other mammals.  However, the Committee amended the bill to include cockfighting within the proscription.

            During the Committee consideration, its attention was focused on the need for laboratories to provide adequate opportunity for exercise of dogs housed in cages.  The Act has had a benign influence in causing increasing numbers of lab dogs to be housed outside of cages in pens or kennel runways and it is the hope of the Committee that laboratories will expand on their efforts in providing such housing and affording an adequate opportunity for exercising dogs so to maintain their well-being.

            The Committee finds that animals and activities which are regulated under this Act are either in interstate or foreign commerce or substantially affect such commerce or the free and unburdened flow thereof, and that regulation of animals and activities as provided in this Act is necessary to prevent and eliminate burden upon such commerce, to effectively regulate such commerce, to protect the human values of this great Nation from the subversion of dehumanizing activities, and to carry out the objectives of the Act.


Share |