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Animal Welfare

The well-being of nonhuman animals

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare describes how the living conditions of an animal and the quality of its life. It includes where it lives, having enough to it, and the treatment it receives from humans. Since humans impact and control many aspects of the environment, animal welfare is our responsibility.

Several aspects contribute to good animal welfare and prevent poor living conditions. Depending on a person’s perspective, more or less can be done to maintain proper standards of care and protection. Below, we’ve explored the main actions that could be taken.

Areas Where Animal Welfare Is a Concern

The rules for animal welfare need to be specific to the situations where the animals are found. Human interactions with animals as pets, livestock, and research subjects change the conditions and considerations for maintaining a standard of living.

Some of the categories for tailored approaches include:

  • Pets
  • Working animals
  • Wild animals
  • Farm animals
  • Animals used in scientific research
  • Captive animals

Each situation can provide different stresses, problems with disease, and handling that need specific rules, regulations and oversight.

Federal Laws

Several laws exist at a federal level to set out requirements for animal treatment. Many of these are overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). They give them room to apply and enforce specific regulations. However, actions might also need to be taken at the state level.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA)

This federal law sets the minimum standards for the care, treatment, and transportation of animals. It covers animals bred for sale commercially, animals in captivity, and those used in research, teaching, and testing.

The law bans practices such as dog fighting. However, as a federal law, the activities need to cross state lines for enforcement to be possible.

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT)

This law from 2019 makes specific types of animal cruelty a federal crime. Any actions involving sexual activity, burning, crushing, drowning or suffocating are illegal under this act. It includes exemptions for customary agricultural and veterinary practices.

The Endangered Species Act

This act covers all types of animals, including mammals, birds and plants, and includes plants. Any species listed as threatened or endangered is protected. It sets out the procedures and criminal and civil penalties for violations.

The Lacey Act

Illegal trafficking of wildlife, including animals and plants, is banned under this law. It concerns the transportation, possession and sale of wildlife and the falsification of papers for those purposes.

Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act

This law was most recently updated in 1978. It sets out how pain should be minimized during livestock slaughter by stunning the animal. Birds, such as chickens and turkeys, are not covered by this law, though evidence suggests they feel pain in the same way as other animals.

State and Local Animal Protection

Each state has its own laws on animal welfare and how to enforce them. All 50 states have a law that makes animal cruelty a felony. Definitions for cruelty and the actions involved differ between states.

Specific Animal Rights Issues

Beyond the federal and state laws, specific issues with animal welfare are coming to light in the US. These concerns revolve around several issues, such as the sale of products using animal fur and the slaughter of cats and dogs for food. Individual federal and state laws are being proposed to address these issues where existing acts don’t prohibit these activities.







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