International Animal Rights Day falls on December 10th. It is a day to acknowledge the rights that animals do have and fight for the ones they should have. It’s a day to encourage lawmakers to pass better and more encompassing laws to protect animals, like the Big Cat Public Safety Act. It’s also a day to recognize animals as living, breathing, feeling creatures that should be treated with respect.
Federal Animal Protection Laws
In 1873, the “28-Hour Law” was enacted. This requires any vehicle transporting animals being slaughtered to stop every 28 hours, to allow the animal food, water, and exercise. However, this does not apply to animals in a vehicle equipped with water and food. It also does not extend to poultry, like chicken and turkey.
In 1900, the Lacey Act was enacted. This prohibits illegal wildlife trafficking and is the first federal law to protect wild animals. It specifically bans trading wildlife and plants that are illegally possessed, transported, and sold. It also criminalizes the falsification of documents regarding the sale and/or shipment of wildlife. This law is not well enforced. If it was, it would prevent much of the buying, trading, and selling of exotic cats in the United States.
Enacted in 1957 and amended in 1978, the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act requires animals to be stunned until they are unconscious before slaughter to minimize pain. Once again, this law does not specifically include birds, like chicken and turkey, and it is reported to be poorly enforced.
In 1966, the federal government signed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This remains the primary federal animal protection law. It mainly focuses on animals in zoos, laboratories, and commercial breeding and selling facilities. The AWA directs the USDA to set the minimum standard of animal care, which includes handling, care, treatment, and transportation. The AWA and the USDA receive frequent criticisms about allowing inhumane practices to continue unchecked.
Enacted in 1973, the Endangered Species Act protects threatened and endangered species in the United States, including mammals, birds, fish, and plants. It lists the procedures for federal agencies to follow regarding any species under protection of the act and outlines penalties for violation.
In 2019, the Prevention for Animal Cruelty and Torture Act was passed. It makes some of the worst forms of animal cruelty a federal crime. Due to this act, acts like drowning, crushing, burning, suffocating, impaling, and beastiality are federally banned.
Although many more animal right laws have been put into place, it goes by state, city, and county levels. Animal cruelty laws are mostly concerned with companion animals, like cats, dogs, and horses, and include things like hot car laws and retail pet sale bans. Some do extend to wildlife, but rarely to laboratory animals or livestock animals. States tend to have separate laws regarding wildlife and farmed animals, including wild animal performance bans and limiting intensive confinement.
All these laws are important, but federal laws do set a universal standard that everyone is required to follow. By strengthening and enforcing our federal laws, we can change the treatment of animals across the country, making it a safer place for them and for us.