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Reps. Schiff and Huffman Pass Amendment Directing USDA to Update Rules Protecting Captive Orcas and Other Marine Mammals

Washington, DC—Today, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) attached an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Act to require the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct and update the science necessary for Animal Welfare Act regulations on captivity of orcas and cetaceans. The amendment would direct the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service – which regulates animal captivity, sale, and exhibition– to update and finalize captive marine mammal regulations that have languished for 20 years. The Schiff-Huffman amendment passed with unanimous bipartisan support.

“For almost 20 years, USDA has failed to review and update the Animal Welfare Act regulations for captive orcas and other marine mammals. These rules certainly should have been revised in light of new data twelve years ago when USDA opened up the rulemaking process. Unfortunately, they dropped the ball—so it’s time to try again,” Reps. Schiff and Huffman said. “Our amendment reminds USDA that inaction is unacceptable – the American people want to see these regulations reviewed and updated to reflect the growing scientific and public concern about the effect of captivity on these animals.”

In 2002, USDA sought public comment on an update to captive marine mammal standards for indoor facilities, outdoor facilities, water quality, space requirements, and swim-with-the-dolphin programs. During the public comment period, USDA received numerous comments from the animal exhibitor industry, animal welfare groups, the scientific community, and the general public, recommending changes to tank sizes and otherwise improving facilities for marine mammals. Yet twelve years later, USDA still has not finalized these regulations.

Last month, Reps. Huffman, Schiff and 38 members of Congress called on USDA to take immediate steps to ensure the regulations protecting captive orcas and marine mammals reflect modern science. In a bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the members of Congress urged his department to immediately update Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations for captive marine mammals, which have not been updated since 1995.

To see speeches by Reps. Schiff and Huffman on the House Floor in support of their amendment, please click here.