With all that needs fixing in this country, it is disappointing – though not altogether surprising – to see the United States Congress waste valuable time and energy proposing bills that essentially already exist. Couldn’t lawmakers’ precious resources be put to better use?
Last week, Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Pete King (R-NY) introduced H.R. 1042, the Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act. This piece of legislation, formerly titled the Animal Emergency Planning Act, would require entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act to have contingency plans in place to safely evacuate and care for animals in an emergency or disaster situation. Such entities include zoos, commercial animal dealers, and research facilities.
Sounds laudable, but the problem is, this law already exists and has for several years.
In December 2012, a Final Rule was enacted for the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that is almost identical to the legislation Titus and King introduced last week. This Final Rule was developed after the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. When the Final Rule was being developed, most institutions (zoos, research facilities, etc.) already had contingency plans, and “before developing the proposed rule,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) “gathered information on regulated entities that currently have contingency plans in place. This information was used as a basis for the proposed criteria for developing contingency plans.” (excerpt from the 2012 Final Rule).
Let’s take a look at the language of the old and new legislation side-by-side:
|AWA Final Rule (2012)||H.R. 1042 (2019)|
|“…[amends] the Animal Welfare Act regulations to add requirements for contingency planning and training of personnel by research facilities and by dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers, and carriers.”||“[amends] the Animal Welfare Act to require that covered persons develop and implement emergency contingency plans.”|
|“the Secretary of Agriculture is authorized to promulgate standards and other requirements governing the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of certain animals by dealers, research facilities, exhibitors, carriers, and intermediate handlers.”||“‘…covered person’ means a research facility, dealer, exhibitor, intermediate handler, carrier, or Federal research facility.”|
|“All licensees and registrants should be required to develop a contingency plan for all animals regulated under the AWA in an effort to better prepare for potential disasters.”
|“Each covered person shall develop, document, and follow a contingency plan to provide for the humane handling, treatment, transportation, housing, and care of its animals in the event of an emergency or disaster.”|
|“Identify common emergencies such as electrical outages, faulty HVAC systems, fires, animal escapes, and natural disasters the facility is most likely to experience.”||“Identify situations that the covered person might experience, including natural disasters and emergencies such as electrical outages, faulty HVAC systems, fires, mechanical breakdowns, and animal escapes, that would trigger the need for the measures identified in the contingency plan to be put into action”|
|“Outline specific tasks required to be carried out in response to the identified emergencies including, but not limited to, specific animal evacuation plans or shelter-in-place plans and provisions for providing backup sources of food and water as well as sanitation, ventilation, bedding, veterinary care, etc.”||“Outline specific tasks to be carried out in response to the identified emergencies or disasters, including detailed animal evacuation or shelter-in-place instructions and provisions for providing backup sources of food and water as well as sanitation, ventilation, bedding, and veterinary care“|
|“Identify a chain of command and who (by name or by position title) will be responsible for fulfilling these tasks.”||“Establish a chain of command and identify the individuals responsible for fulfilling the tasks…”|
|“Address how response and recovery will be handled in terms of materials, resources, and training needed.”||“Address how response and recovery will be handled in terms of materials, resources, and training needed.”|
There is similarly duplicitous language pertaining to personnel training and reviews of contingency plans in the AWA regulations and H.R. 1042.*
“The lives of animals are too precious to leave to chance,” said Congresswoman Titus, in a press release for this bill. But what about people’s lives, Rep. Titus? By requiring unnecessary regulatory burden, scientific progress is impeded and treatments are delayed. People’s lives are put at risk. Sadly, this is not unremarkable for Titus. She is an avid supporter of the White Coat Waste Project, an anti-animal research organization with the absolutist view that all animal research should be de-funded.
Rather disappointingly, H.R. 1042 is not the only recent piece of legislation that is both duplicitous and unnecessarily burdensome. In December 2018, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Primate Protection and Research Modernization Act of 2018 (S.3773). This bill would “require review and approval for future research on nonhuman primates, and for other purposes,” and largely ignores the extensive system of oversight and review that is already in place for nonhuman primate (as well as other animal-based) research. (Note: Booker’s bill is not currently active, since it was introduced at the end of the 115th Congress, but it could very well be re-introduced in the current Congress.)
To all members of the U.S. Congress: Speaking of Research is here as a resource for you! Before wasting your – or your staffers’ time – in drafting and introducing duplicitous and unnecessarily burdensome legislation, consider contacting us or reading relevant pages on our website to learn the truth about laws that already exist regarding animal-based research and welfare.
~Speaking of Research
*Speaking of Research notes that in July 2013, APHIS issued an indefinite stay of regulations on the Final Rule “in order that we may undertake a review of their requirements.” It is not clear to us why this review has not been completed, or when it will be. However, this stay of regulations does not negate the duplicity and unnecessary regulatory burden of H.R. 1042. As with any piece of legislation, it is entirely possible that, if passed, H.R. 1042 would also be delayed, thwarted, or unenforced, for any number of reasons.
(gifs from giphy.com)