Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers activities impacting federal policy in the areas of conservation, energy, environment, animal welfare, and natural resources. For education policy issues, please visit my new blog Fed Ed Policy.

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IN THIS ISSUE:  A focus on policies impacting animals.

Monkeys & Harvard.  After several violations of the Animal Welfare Act, USDA issued a fine against Harvard Medical School of over $24,000.  USDA found 11 violations of the AWA from February 2011 through July 2012, including four deaths of non-human primates (monkeys) who were used in medical research.  As a result of this controversy, at least one of the facilities, New England Primate Research Center, saw changes and resignations, and the facility will be closed within the next year or two.  Unfortunately, Harvard does not plan to shutter all of its primate research facilities.  All of this comes at a time when NIH announced that it plans to retire most of its chimps from research.

Puppy MillsPuppy mills, or commercial breeders who churn out puppies for profit, often provide unacceptable, substandard treatment for their animals.  USDA recently amended the AWA to close a major loophole, by expanding its definition of retail pet store to include animals sold over the Internet.  As explained in the Q&A, APHIS – a USDA agency – made this change because “the OIG audit found that more than 80 percent of sampled breeders were not licensed under the AWA because they sold pets over the Internet and claimed “retail pet store” status. Not unexpectedly, a group of commercial breeders filed a lawsuit to stop USDA-APHIS from implementing this important change in its regulation.

Marine Mammals.  In an unfortunate development for marine mammals, NMFS is allowing the Navy to continue with its training exercises in the Pacific under a five-year plan, despite the known harm to marine mammals.  Although NMFS did put some restrictions on some Navy activities, several conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in attempt to prevent the Navy from moving forward with this plan claiming NMFS violated NEPA by using an outdated environmental impact statement (EIS). And, this comes after the release of a study showing that dolphins in the Gulf (Barataria Bay) are seriously ill, with significant long damage, malnourishment, and reduced hormones, as a result of the BP oil spill

HORSES: A federal court revoked the injunction preventing USDA from inspecting plants that slaughter horses and process the meat for export for consumption. USDA stopped inspecting horse slaughter plants in 2007 as a result of Congressional action.  Unfortunately, the Obama Administration and Congress have provided funding for USDA to inspect these plants and allow them to kill horses for profit.


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