Freedom of speech is one of our most cherished rights guaranteed to the American people. Most of us have no problem engaging in respectful debates concerning how our government should operate, and understands comprise is a necessary aspect of any discussion. When political discourse, coupled with stubbornness and a refusal to compromise, forces the government to shutdown, it affects millions of people adversely with lost wages, uncertainty, and mistrust in elected leaders. Government agencies forced to operate with drastically reduced staffs, upset our lives, but it’s not just people who feel the pain. Dogs cats, and other animals are impacted, as well.
Denali Puppy Cam
One widely reported casualty of this shutdown, the Panda Cam at the National Zoo, is off until Congress can get its act together. But that’s not the only animal cam that’s gone dark. Each year, Denali National Park kennel welcomes a new litter of Alaskan Husky puppies. The kennel maintains about 30 dogs, and each year’s pups will replace older dogs on three dog sled teams. Rangers use sled dogs to patrol the vast wilderness of Denali because motorized vehicles are prohibited in the park, making dog sleds the only reliable mode of transportation. Denali is the only National Park with working sled dog teams. Losing live animal cams is a temporary loss of someone’s “cute” fix. More serious concerns could affect dogs, cats, and other animals during a government shutdown.
Pet food inspections and recalls
Early in September, Nestle Purina Dog Food recalled Purina One because of a potential salmonella risk. One of the responsibilities of the FDA is to inspect not only our food, but pet food as well. Food inspections for both humans and pets are on hold, and recalls will not be addressed. Investigations of tainted people or pet food are also on the back burner. Before a recall can be issued, tests need to be done to discover the toxin responsible, and the FDA can’t force a recall until the culprit is found. That leaves businesses to decide if they will recall any tainted products.
Puppy mills are a multi-billion dollar business with well paid lobbyists who advocate for the industry to make sure nothing changes. Pets living in horrible conditions in puppy mills have minimal protection under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), and the USDA has a less than stellar record when it comes to enforcing the law in the best of times. During a government shutdown, inhumane treatment of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats is not a priority. Puppy mill inspections are done in accordance with the AWA by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With no one minding the store, irresponsible breeders have no surprise inspections to worry about, and can basically do whatever they want while no one is watching. Puppies and kittens suffer needlessly in the hands of unscrupulous breeders who are not concerned for their welfare. Animal rights organizations are rightfully concerned for the welfare and safety of animals in these mills. Follow-up inspections to make sure a breeder has corrected serious issues and is in compliance with the AWA are suspended during a government shutdown. Random inspections are necessary because irresponsible mill owners will not do the right thing on their own. Inspections of zoos and circus animals are also put on hold.
Labs that use animals for research are required to provide minimal care to be in compliance with the AWA. The horrors these animals endure everyday is unimaginable, and testing on animals is no longer necessary in the view of many scientists who have found alternative methods to test products made for human use. Experiments by cosmetic companies, pharmaceutical companies, household cleaners, and other products continue, however, to be tested on animals. A government shutdown means labs aren’t being watched, which leaves dogs, cats, and other animals at risk from some labs that will take advantage of a government agency with not enough personnel to inspect their labs.
Class B Dealers
These are animal dealers who supply many research labs with pets, and will get them anyway they can, including stealing dogs from backyards, outside cats, and lost or stray pets. The innocent “free to good home” ad placed in a local paper by a pet owner attracts people looking for free dogs and cats to sell to research labs. Class B Dealers, watched over by the USDA and required to be in compliance with the AWA, have a history of neglect and abuse when it comes to the treatment and care of animals.
Horse Protection Act
This law was passed in 1970 with a stated goal of ending soring, a practice that causes the horse pain so he will lift his legs higher and faster as he prances around a show ring. This inhumane method of training high-gaited horses, like the Tennessee Walking Horse, is still used today despite the law banning it. Unfortunately, the Horse Protection Act isn’t enforced any better than the AWA, and during a government shutdown, horses are at risk of suffering pain and possible permanent damage by an unscrupulous trainer more concerned with winning than the welfare of the animal.
Therapy Dog Visits Put on Hold at NIH
The National Institutes of Health’s therapy dog program has gotten a lot of press. Among the patients at the clinical center are kids battling cancer. Staff veterinarians at NIH are responsible for evaluating the dogs, but with all of the vets on furlough, the program had to be suspended, even though the therapy dog program is run by volunteers.
A fully functioning government is something we take for granted, and when it’s shutdown we see what it does for us. Dogs, cats, and other animals are impacted during a government shutdown. If no one speaks up for them, their voices remain silent and their welfare is overlooked.
Legal Animal Cruelty: Puppy Mill Lobbyists and Animal Rights Groups
Legal Animal Cruelty: Animal Welfare Act of 1966
Legal Animal Cruelty: Pets and Class B Dealers