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Today, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) published a new five-year strategic plan.  The plan incorporates stakeholder feedback (click here to read AKC’s July 2022 feedback to APHIS), and includes six strategic goals, including promoting the welfare of animals.  That goal features three objectives, including one that covers those licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and one that relates to emergency preparedness:

OBJECTIVE: Ensure the humane treatment of animals covered by the AWA:

  • Conduct inspections to ensure substantial compliance with the AWA.
  • Update and enhance regulations to improve animal welfare.
  • Provide outreach and education to promote compliance and best practices.
  • Use data-driven decision-making and analysis to make effective use of resources.
  • Move more quickly to confiscate animals at extreme risk, as authorized.
  • Streamline enforcement review for critical cases and improve AWA enforcement timeliness.
  • Increase AWA inspections by five percent over FY 2022.
  • Implement the final rule to establish new regulations and standards governing the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of birds covered by the AWA including distributing educational literature on the bird rule.
  • Increase the usage of the self-service customer portal to 25 percent through enhanced marketing, education, and awareness to internal and external stakeholders.
  • Strengthen partnerships with State agencies to increase the speed and effectiveness of enforcement actions.

OBJECTIVE: Assist stakeholders with planning and preparedness to ensure the safety and welfare of animals during disasters:

  • Provide outreach and education to stakeholders to promote compliance and best practices,
  • Strengthen partnerships with industry groups, State, Federal, and Tribal entities,
  • Engage with emergency response partners at the local, State, and Federal levels to ensure the safety and welfare of animals is considered in exercises, planning activities, and disaster response operations, inclusive of sheltering operation.
  • Use evidence based trend analysis to facilitate conversations with partners and potential partners on potential preparedness and response strategies,
  • Monitor trends and issues with the potential to have significant impact on current and future efforts to ensure animal welfare in emergency response situations.

A separate, more controversial document also notes 10 societal, environmental, and technological trends and future scenarios that APHIS must be prepared to navigate.  Under the heading of Shifting Values, it notes that, “many will agree that livestock and wildlife should be provided the same rights as domesticated pets.”  The American Kennel Club (AKC) is alarmed by APHIS’ controversial use of “rights” language when referring to animals.  For centuries, owners have been able to protect the animals they love because lawmakers and the courts have legally treated animals—whether livestock or pets—not as family members, but as property.  This traditional treatment gives owners opportunities to decide the best ways to keep their dogs and for the reasons they want to keep them, whether as pets, as competition dogs, or as part of a responsible breeding program.  Rights are, and should continue to be, reserved exclusively for people.  Click here to learn more about the Legal Status of Animals.

AKC will continue to work with the members of Congress and USDA APHIS to ensure that laws and regulations impacting dogs and their owners and breeders remain reasonable, enforceable, and fair.  For more information,  visit the AKC Legislative Acton center at or contact AKC Government Relations at