CAN FEDS MAKE A CASE? Bombing compounds enforcement crisis

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1995:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Bracing for attack from budget-slashers and deregulators
in Congress, federal animal protection law enforcement took a deadly hit of a different kind
on April 19. Seven of the 167 people killed by the truck bomb that devasted the Alfred P.
Murrah building in Oklahoma City were USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
staffers, including Richard Cummins, 56, senior investigator assigned to the Midwest Stolen
Dog Task Force and a 30-year veteran of the department, who left behind a wife, two daugh-
ters, and a son. Three more APHIS staffers were seriously hurt. Two escaped with only
minor injuries, after being marooned on the seventh floor of the shaky ruins for most of the
day. Three staffers were out of the office when the bomb went off.
Having only 75 inspectors to cover more than 8,000 federally licensed facilities,
APHIS in a split second lost 10% of its staff––and also suffered extensive loss of case files.
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press, 26 days after the blast, APHIS officials in
Washington D.C. were still trying to piece together and reasign the Oklahoma City work-
load––and were still putting together strategy, as well, for the upcoming battle over the 1995

Farm Bill. New Farm Bills, introduced at
five-year intervals, inevitably bring
Congressional policy review. Virtually every
USDA program is expected to have to justify
itself, as leaders of the Republican House
majority try to cut $10 billion worth of farm
subsidies while Democrats and Republican
Senate leader Bob Dole hope to keep the sub-
sidies, yet chop the USDA budget, by sacri-
ficing programs of lower profile. The latter
approach appears to have the endorsement of
President Bill Clinton, who on April 24
pledged to defend subsidies. In absence of
evident strong support for APHIS, enforcing
the Animal Welfare Act could fall into the
trimmable category of allocations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Division of Law Enforcement could be in
even deeper political trouble. Senator Phil
Gramm of Texas was embarrased shortly
after announcing his quest for the Republican
presidential nomination when DLE staff con-
firmed––off the record––that in 1987 Gramm
pressured then-USFWS chief Frank Dunkle
into transfering Blackwater National Wildlife
Refuge manager Don Perkuchin to the
Okefenokee Swamp, in Florida, after
Perkuchin interupted Gramm and friends as
they approached an illegally baited field near

the refuge, apparently to hunt waterfowl. The DLE has
also made enemies among other office holders of both
parties, for prosecuting major campaign donors in similar
baiting cases in Maryland, Louisiana, and Texas, and in
cases involving the illegal import of hunting trophies from
endangered species.
The budget requests of both APHIS and the
DLE are backed by recent audits affirming that they
urgently need help to fulfill their mandates. Each audit
followed up on the recommendations of audits done in
1991. The open question is whether public pressure to
continue enforcing federal animal protection laws will be
enough to overcome the powerful anti-APHIS and anti-
DLE forces. Dole has usually supported measures to
strengthen APHIS––but the DLE would appear to be
without political friends.
Needs authority
James R. Ebbitt, assistant inspector general for
audit, on January 5 reported to APHIS acting administra-
tor Lonnie J. King and acting deputy administrator for
management and budget Phyllis York that, “APHIS does
not have the authority, under current legislation, to effec-
tively enforce the requirements of the Animal Welfare
Act,” as they pertain to animal dealers and research facil-
ities. “For instance,” he charged, “the agency cannot ter-
minate or refuse to renew licenses or registrations in cases
where serious or repeat violations occur, such as the use
of animals in unnecessary experiments, or failure to treat
diseases and wounds.” Although APHIS does technically
have such authority, it can’t “revoke registrations or sus-
pend operators without a lengthy administrative hearing
process,” which can be prolonged for up to three years,
during which “the operator can continue to commit the
violations for which the facility was cited.”
Thus, Ebbitt said, “Our audit disclosed 28
instances in the Northeast and Southeast sectors in which
APHIS had renewed licenses or registrations of facilities
which were in direct violation of the Act, thereby poten-
tially jeopardizing the health and well-being of animals.”
Further, Ebbitt wrote, “APHIS cannot assess
monetary penalties for violations unless the violator
agrees to pay them, and the penalties are often so low that
violators regard them as merely part of the cost of doing
business.” At that, “Monetary penalties [during the audit
period] were not always agressively collected and were in

some cases arbitrarily reduced.”
As troubling, Ebbitt charged, “APHIS also
generally accommodated facility operators who routinely
refused APHIS inspectors access to their facilities,
instead of issuing suspensions or taking other available
enforcement actions. As a result, facilities had little
incentive to comply with the requirements of the AWA.
We identified several instances in which facilities contin-
ued to commit violations even after the violations had
been identified by APHIS.” In other instances, facilities
were licensed up to a year before they were actually
inspected––and found to be substandard.
In addition, Ebbitt continued, “APHIS inspec-
tions at research facilities did not sufficiently cover the
activities of the Institutional Animal Care and Use
Committees,” self-policing bodies established under the
AWA “to ensure that the animals are cared for and that
unnecessary research is avoided. Without the proper
inspections,” Ebbitt observed, “there is insufficient
assurance” that the terms of the AWA are maintained.
Ebbitt recommended that the Animal Welfare
Act be amended to allow APHIS “to revoke or withhold
renewals of licenses and registrations,” require on-site
inspection prior to licensing; increase the amounts of
fines and make a more aggressive effort to collect them;
increase accountability requirements of IACUCs; and
automatically suspend the licenses of dealers who bar
APHIS inspectors from their property. Further, Ebbitt
argued, the AWA “should be extended to cover all dogs
and cats sold to research, not just those handled by Class
B dealers. Presently, Ebbitt said, “While licensed deal-
ers must wait five days before acquiring [shelter] animals
for resale to research facilities, the research facilities
themselves may buy the animals directly from the shelters
as early as they wish. We found that two universities in
different states had purchased numerous animals from
shelters without observing the waiting period.”

Blunt verdict
Fish and Wildlife Inspection Program Needs
S t e n g t h e n i n g is a blunt title for a blunt General
Accounting office report on the other major federal animal
protection law enforcement agency, the DLE. “Growing
demand throughout the world for wildlife and wildlife
parts and products has created a market in which commer-
cial exploitation has threatened certain wildlife popula-
tions,” it begins. “Although the full extent of illegal trade
is not known, the value of such trade into and out of the
U.S. is estimated to be between $100 million and $250
million annually.”
This makes the U.S. the world’s leading wildlife
trafficking nation. The traffic fell from 86,909 shipments
in 1989 to 71,661 in 1993, but is likely to rise again soon.
“The passage of the North American Free Trade
Agreement is likely to increase wildlife trade among the
United States, Canada, and Mexico,” the GAO warned.
“The expected increase in trade will increase the workload
of the FWS inspectors, who are already stretched thin
along the U.S./Mexico and U.S./Canada borders.”
The USFWS employs 74 wildlife inspectors,
distributed among “11 designated ports of entry and 14
other locations where wildlife import and export ship-
ments occur.” Over the past five years the USFWS
processed about 77,000 shipments of wildlife or wildlife
parts. Only 26.7% were physically inspected in 1993, up
from 20.6% in 1989––but at the two busiest ports, New
York/Newark and Miami, only 8% and 7% were inspect-

ed during that five-year period. Less busy ports often
inspected from 32% to 52% of shipments.
Asked how many more inspectors were needed
to inspect wildlife shipments adequately, DLE personnel
indicated that they could use another 43: 58% more.
“FWS estimates that it is detecting less than 10%
of the violations associated with declared shipments,” the
GAO report said, “and a much lower percentage of unde-
clared shipments. Lack of prosecutions, it added, “cou-
pled with a lack of significant penalties and fines, do little
to encourage compliance” with the laws the DLE
enforces: the Endangered Species Act, Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species, parts of the
AWA, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The lack of prosecutions, significant penalties,
and fines may result less from lack of will on the part of
the DLE than from lack of interest on the part of the agen-
cies with which DLE officers must work. “Because of
higher priorities and staffing constraints within the
Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor and the
Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney Offices,” the GAO
noted, “the most frequent punitive measures involve the
forfeiture of the illegal wildlife the violators were attempt-
ing to move.” In words presaging the Ebbitt audit of
USDA-APHIS, the GAO found that “Violators tend to
view forfeitures simply as a cost of doing business.”
The GAO also found that DLE inspectors lack
adequate safety equipment, reference books to help them
identify animals and animal parts, and quick access to
enforcement history involving trafficking suspects. Some
of the funds needed to improve the situation could be
raised through increasing user fees for various services
provided to importers. But higher user fees, in the present
political climate, may only go to make up for budget cuts.
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