This week, we had the pleasure of gathering with beagles and lawmakers on Capitol Hill to show our support for a promising new bill that would usher in a new era of animal protection at the federal level in the U.S.
The Better Collaboration, Accountability, and Regulatory Enforcement (CARE) for Animals Act (introduced earlier this year by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and John Kennedy, R-La., and Reps. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Penn., and Mike Quigley, D-Ill.) is designed to enhance the capabilities of the U.S. Department of Justice in relation to Animal Welfare Act enforcement efforts. These sponsors share our view that a multi-agency approach is the way of the future for strengthening our nation’s primary animal welfare law and its enforcement.
To help us highlight the need for better and more comprehensive enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, we were joined by the families of five beagles who were among the nearly 4,000 dogs transported from a mass breeding facility in Cumberland, Virginia, last year. In May 2022, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit over shocking Animal Welfare Act violations at Envigo RMS’s facility, where these beagles were being bred for use in research and testing. The families in attendance, like countless more nationwide, have opened their homes to these special dogs and seen firsthand how much their lives have changed due to the DOJ’s enforcement efforts against Envigo.
At the event, Tammy Chincheck looked on as her beagle Cricket enjoyed her day in the sun, relaxing on the grass lawn (just one of the things Cricket’s release from the Envigo breeding facility made possible). Sen. Kennedy voiced with amusement his love of dogs over people, spoke with affection about his beagle Roger, and got down on the ground to engage with the beagles present. Sen. Blumenthal invoked the notion of our nation being defined by how we treat animals, and that animals currently deserve better than they are getting. The dogs drew dozens of animal lovers from congressional offices to the event to interact with the beagles and hear their stories. A few staffers mentioned growing up with beagles and communicated that they felt reenergized to advocate for this bill.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture was historically designated as the agency to uphold the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, but as the American public becomes more invested in animal welfare, there has also been increased demand for more legislative protection for animals and for better enforcement. As a result, the DOJ was given the authority to issue injunctions in Animal Welfare Act cases, but it’s time for the DOJ’s enforcement tools to match the USDA’s. The Better CARE for Animals Act would augment the relatively limited powers the DOJ currently has under the Animal Welfare Act by providing more enforcement tools, including license revocations, civil penalties and a process for pursuing appropriate seizure/forfeiture in cases in which animals are suffering as a result of animal welfare violations. This applies to animals of many species, such as those bred for the pet trade and to supply laboratories, animals in entertainment and display among others.
In his remarks, Sen. Blumenthal quoted President Harry S. Truman’s famous line, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” This event was a wonderful way to put some adorable faces on legislation that could more fully protect animals of all kinds.
But the event was more than a beautiful afternoon on the Hill. The very introduction of this bill signals something important in our work: Our country is becoming ever more serious in its commitment to animals and their protection. It is natural that our federal government should reflect that commitment by working across agencies to ensure that animals receive the compassionate treatment and the justice they deserve.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.