Rats, mice, birds comment time extended

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1999:

PHILADELPHIA––The USDA has extended until May 28 the comment period on a proposal announced January 29 to amend the definition of “animal” in the Animal Welfare Act enforcement regulations so as to remove the exclusion of birds, rats, and mice which has been in effect since 1970.

ANIMAL PEOPLE, in a March edition front page on the proposed amendment, a longtime goal of the animal protection community, wrongly attributed it to a petition submitted to the USDA by United Poultry Concerns.

In fact, the petition was filed in April 1998 by the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation, an affiliate of the Philadelphia-based American Anti-Vivisection Society.

The mistake was made because extensive material on the proposal received from both UPC and USDA made no mention of either ARDF or AAVS.

ANIMAL PEOPLE learned of the error on March 9, a week after publishing our March edition.

On that date, ARDF, the alternatives-toanimal-testing research and development firm In Vitro International, and Beaver College biology student Kristine Gauz of Philadelphia jointly sued the USDA in support of the April 1998 petition––and AAVS distributed a press release giving the history. AAVS executive director Tina Nelson called on March 18 to make sure ANIMAL PEOP L E had received the new material and accurate background. UPC made no effort to correct our error.

If the USDA removes the regulatory exclusion of birds, rats, and mice from AWA coverage, as ARDF, IVI, and Gauz ask, their suit will become moot, and will not have to be contested.

If USDA maintains the exclusion, it will have to tell a judge why for 29 years it has acted contrary to the clear intent of Congress, which amended the 1966 Federal Laboratory Animal Welfare Act in 1970 to cover all “warm-blooded animals…used or intended for use, for research, testing, experimentation or exhibition purposes.”

The 1970 language remained intact in the 1976 and 1985 amendments that established the AWA in present form.

“As a result of this exclusion,” the March 9 suit contends, “the majority of all animals used in research are not protected by the AWA.”

Previous suits have argued the same point, but the plaintiffs have repeatedly failed to gain standing––a problem apparently overcome by the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington D.C. Circuit on September 1, 1998 in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Glickman that individuals and humane societies were intended by Congress to have standing to sue to enforce the AWA. The ALDF v. Glickman precedent could only be reversed by either the U.S. Supreme Court or an Act of Congress.

Comments on the proposal to remove the rats, mice, and birds exclusion may be submitted to Docket #98-106-1, Regulatory Analysis & Development, PPD, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Suite 3C03, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238; or via e-mail c/o Jerry DePoyster, Senior Veterinary Medical Officer, USDA/APHIS, >>jdepoy@erols.com<<.

“APHIS is also seeking public comments on regulations involving the use of farm animals in research,” DePoyster reminded ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The full Federal Register notice,“ on both proposed sets of AWA amendments, “may be found online at >>http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.fedreg/a990303c.html<<. Scroll down to APHIS Notices.”

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