Categories: Animal laws

USA: Petition for Animal Welfare Act To Cover Animal Shelters

According to the USDA National Agricultural Library, The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966 and amended in 1976. It is the only U.S. Federal law that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. While other laws, policies, and guidelines may include other species, the AWA is the reference source to the minimum of care allowed by law, and is enforced by the USDA and APHIS Center for Animal Welfare.


Petition for change to the US Animal Welfare Act

A petition started by Jean Harrison of Nashville, Tennessee is being circulated with the hope of adding private or government-run animal shelters or other rescue facilities/organizations to this list. The goal of 8,445 signatures has been reached and doubled at the time of this article.

Currently no one is watching over the cats and dogs who are starving, sick and neglected in animal shelters across the country. One case that recently made the news was the shelter in Magnolia, Arkansas. Not to go into this case due to length, you can read about it here.

Jean’s petition is directed toward Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture and President Barack Obama and states

“Without the application of this law, those who abuse domestic animals in their care are rarely subjected to punishment because there are no state laws that make them comply with any standards of care for domestic pets and animals.”

While this article doesn’t provide any video footage of shelters caught abusing the animal in their care, these are easy enough to find by going to YouTube and searching under ‘animal shelter abuse.’ Dozens of news videos will pop up to show just how bad this problem has become.

What’s scary is this is only the tip of the iceberg. As a reporter, I hear of abuse by different shelters around the United States. I’m emailed or messaged on an almost daily basis about animals being mistreated. Without concrete evidence against a shelter, I’m powerless to make the public aware of these shelters.

I can share this petition, because it would make animal shelters accountable for how animals are cared for. Or NOT cared for, as the case may be in most of the messages I’ve received personally. Of course, it will take the Department of Agriculture doing their job by following up on complaints instead of looking the other way.

It’s discouraging to know there are outbreaks of one disease or another, and being unable to report it to anyone who can legally do anything about it. Veterinarians in the area where the neglect and illness are treated post-rescue are afraid to speak out against their local shelter. So are employees and supporters. Reporters can’t write without hard evidence, and local news stations don’t want to get involved. This leaves us, the animal loving public, who should do everything possible to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture knows the importance of this petition.

The animals in our nations shelters have no voice, other than the voice we give them. We fight to give them more time at the shelter. We fight to get them out before they’re routinely killed (the word euthanasia doesn’t apply in most shelter deaths, because these animals are not being relieved of a terminal or painful medical condition). Shouldn’t we do our best to ensure they have the best of treatment while a home is being sought?

Please sign this petition, and pass this article along to your animal loving friends. This is about doing what’s right. Because right now, animals are dying in our nations shelters, and this has to be stopped. Doing so at a national level, as opposed to state, would be a major victory for our shelter cats and dogs.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I have also learned to CMA using screenshots. I file the screenshots with quotes I need to keep as evidence away because shelters are bad about taking down condemning statements made without thinking. The case of the Virginia dog who was about to be killed got me a call from the police department. If not for screenshots and witnesses I'd have been in trouble on that one.

  • Good article Elisa and an excellent petition. You portray an image of animal shelters which is worse than I had thought.

    These are animals which are inherently very vulnerable because they are unwanted. They have one foot in the grave already which probably encouraged carelessness on behalf of the shelter staff.

    I wouldn't let it stop you writing about it. I'd use cautious language such as:

    It is alleged that the XXX Shelter are abusing cats because allegedly they XXXX.

    • The shelters I hear about "allegedly" have good attorneys :). Every now and then I get enough info to actually report on something, but a lot of times I just have to wait it out. I had a vet statement from one vet stating a dog had died of distemper. The shelter told me I'd better have a necropsy because the opinion of one vet didn't count. The rescue world is very ruthless at times. You have to be very careful who you piss off.

      • Someone said that non-profit animal rescue was not a business. I disagreed with her. They don't make a profit but they are guarded by attorneys etc. so someone is concerned about protecting the "business". The more I know about US animal shelters the more I see a business-like attitude and I have called them "processing facilities" rather than "rescues".

        • It's a business for the Greenville shelter. Below is part of my evidence email. Animals trapped in Spartanburg are brought to the Greenville shelter. I don't remember the amount, but it's not small change.

          "Spartanburg County tax dollars are being paid to GCACS. S'burg citizens pay $29,000 p/month, for 1 or 400 animals. Any over 400 p/month and we pay an additional $60 p/animal. If fines are collected, G'vlle keeps that money paid by S'burg citizens."

    • Thanks Geri. This is one I knew should be on PoC. I deal with reports on bad shelters several times a week. There are a few in California I'd like to pay a visit to because the reports are so bad on them.

  • Dee, I think you're the only one on PoC still following me. So on articles like this I call in my Facebook forces. It will get the article seen around 50,000 times. Whether it's clicked on or not is anyone's guess. :)

  • It's so hard to believe that any lawmaker, much less those with the federal government, would even care about any animal welfare.
    I admire what Jean is doing and will, indeed, sign the petition.
    It's my belief that county shelter animals will never be protected until the ski masked people break in, take them to safe havens, and torch the hell out of those buildings.
    Elisa, you'll have to pardon me please. But, I am just checking to see if our comments are really read, because I have gotten some bland and mundane responses as if they are only scanned. Non emotional responses to very personal comments.

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