On Tuesday, Congressional lawmakers released the final version of a must-pass $1.7 trillion fiscal year 2023 federal spending bill that provides funding for the U.S. Government. The agreement between House and Senate appropriators contains spending for several key areas impacting dogs. It also includes report language impacting canine policy, including legislative proposals AKC has tracked throughout the last Congress.
Highlights of government spending that impacts dogs and dog owners, and canine policy include the following:
Funding for Animal Welfare Act Enforcement (USDA Animal Care)
The agreement provides an additional $4 million for the Animal Care Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Administration (APHIS), which oversees the implementation of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA provides for federal licensing of dog breeders and dealers. APHIS is in year two of implementation of a 2020 Final Rule updating AWA dog licensing requirements. In recent years, funding for enforcement of the AWA held static as responsibilities increased, reducing enforcement effectiveness. Earlier this year, AKC urged members of Congress to increase funding for crucial inspections activities and engagement with stakeholders. AKC is very pleased to see these new funds made available to improve enforcement and education.
National Service Animals Memorial
The National Service Animals Memorial Act (H.R. 6353/S. 3447), which authorizes the creation of a memorial to working animals under the Commemorative Works Act was supported by AKC and included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of FY 2023. The measure calls for the establishment of a privately-funded memorial in the Washington, DC, area honoring the contributions of service (government working) dogs and their handlers.
Funding for Emergency Preparedness
The agreement also provides an additional $1.4 million for emergency preparedness and response to implement emergency contingency plans for facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act. AKC supported these efforts in HR 1442, the Prepared Act.
Funding for National Detector Dog Training Center
The agreement directs USDA to submit a report to the Agriculture Committees within 1 year of enactment of this Act regarding the National Detector Dog Training Center’s role in protecting the domestic agriculture sector from pests and diseases. The report shall include a description of domestic pest and disease programs that use canine detector teams, coordination between APHIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection on use of canine teams for agricultural quarantine inspections, and the Center’s current capacity level. AKC supported legislation earlier this year (H.R. 8432/S. 3678) to make funding permanent for this important center, which is home to the USDA’s famous “Beagle Brigade” detection dogs.
Grants to Domestic Violence Shelters to Assist Victims with Pets
The Agreement provides $3 million in funding to a government program strongly supported by AKC and not unlike the private program created by the AKC Humane Fund over a decade ago to provide grants to domestic violence shelters to allow victims of violence to find safe harbor with a pet.
Shortage of Veterinarians
The agreement notes the critical shortage of veterinarians in the public, private, industrial, and academic sectors, and as such, continues funding both the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and the Veterinary Services Grant Program.
In report language, the committee stated it is “aware that the USDA issued a report that showed that over one million dogs are imported into the United States each year. Of that number, however, less than one percent are subject to thorough health screenings to show that they are healthy, vaccinated and free of disease prior to entering the country. The limited health requirements and inspection has resulted in the importation of animals that, tragically, arrive in poor health or die during travel, as well as the importation of animals carrying various diseases from rabies to canine influenza to leptospirosis, among others. As the connection between human and animal health becomes clearer, it is imperative that imported animals, including dogs, are healthy, vaccinated, and of an appropriate age to travel. Therefore, the Committee maintains the 2022 increase of $1,000,000 for APHIS to strengthen its oversight of imported dogs, including stronger interagency coordination to better protect animal and public health.”
AKC, along with AVMA and NAIA, are strongly supporting H.R. 4239/S. 2597, The Healthy Dog Importation Act, to protect U.S. pet and public health by ensuring that dogs being imported to the U.S. are healthy, vaccinated, microchipped and free of disease.
Despite work educating the public and members of congress about the value of teachable moments for improving overall transparency, agency cooperation, and overall welfare for animal licensed under the AWA, the measure reiterates a prohibition on teachable moments for AWA licensees as follows: (SEC. 756 -) Hereafter, none of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act, may be used to pay the salaries or expenses of personnel to implement any activities related to the permitting of non-recording of observed violations of the Animal Welfare Act or its regulations on official inspection reports.
What’s Not in The Omnibus: Puppy Protection Act H.R. 2840/S. 1385
In recent weeks AKC expressed concerns that arbitrary one-size-fits-all-requirements for pet care in the 2021 Puppy Protection Act ( H.R. 2840/S. 1385) could be added to this measure. We are pleased to report it is not in this language, but warn that these troublesome provisions are likely to be re-introduced in 2023. For this reason, we urge you to continue to contact your lawmakers to share your expertise on why arbitrary one-size-fits-all breeding legislation is not in the best interest of dogs and responsible breeding.
To learn more about AKC’s educational and advocacy efforts, visit www.akcgr.org.