National Avian Welfare Alliance

OPA is a member of the National Avian Welfare Alliance, represented by Howard Voren. NAWA was formed in early 2003 to address the regulation of bird breeding facilities under the Animal Welfare Act as a result of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. NAWA represents 31 member organizations.

Birds and the Animal Welfare Act

Information used for comments to the USDA is presented for reference only. The official Comment Period for Docket No. 98-106-4 ended November 1, 2004.

Background — As a result of a lawsuit settlement between the USDA and the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation (ARDF), an animal rights group affiliated with the Anti-Vivisection Society, birds are now included in the definition of animals covered under the Animal Welfare Act. The USDA settled the lawsuit with ARDF in October of 2000 and agreed to cover birds out of fear that losing in court would force immediate coverage. The settlement allowed USDA time to develop regulations and research their impact before requiring licensing for bird facilities.

To address the issue of regulating birds, the USDA informed various bird-keeping organizations and asked for input since they had no prior experience with regulating birds. To facilitate a coordinated effort, The National Avian Welfare Alliance (NAWA) was formed of representatives from a variety of bird specialty groups, including bird trainers, racing pigeon fanciers, waterfowl and pheasants, finches, softbills and parrots. These representatives have been working for more than a year to formulate a proposal to the USDA about the regulation of bird facilities and the impact such regulations would have.

After careful consideration of the impacts of Animal Welfare Act inspection and licensing, and the reasons for which birds are now included in the definition of "animal" under the AWA, it is NAWA's recommendation to UDSA that birds should be exempt from regulation under the AWA. This recommendation is based upon the extensive negative impacts that AWA regulation would have on aviculture and the original intent of the ARDF lawsuit. The negative impacts identified by NAWA would result in a high percentage of bird facilities closing down if AWA licensing were extended to birds.

Regulating birds under the AWA would stretch USDA resources beyond current funding and staffing levels. This is a time when government funding is needed in other areas of far more seriousness to the general public: monitoring B.S.E. in cattle, putting in place programs for the protection of agricultural products from terrorists, and in general maintaining a sound and healthy food supply in the US. Regulating birds under the AWA seems an inadvisable use of USDA staff and funds. There are existing laws that cover sales of birds as pets, transportation of birds, and birds in exhibitions. Regulation of birds under the Animal Welfare Act is unnecessary, detrimental to the welfare of birds, and overly burdensome to bird facility operators and to USDA resources alike.

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The currently provides guidelines to the avicultural community without the harmful impact that would result from inspections under AWA licensing. The AWA regulatory model does not fit the bird industry and would result in numerous negative consequences. Nesting birds are notoriously sensitive to disturbances and unfamiliar occurrences. Unannounced inspections of breeding facilities would result in damage or death to eggs, chicks or mates. Such disruptions are also likely to reduce egg laying, resulting in loss of revenue from decreased production. Birds are often the target of thieves and when information on licensed bird facilities becomes a matter of public record, it will result in the theft of valuable stock. Even small bird facilities would require additional clerical staff to comply with AWA record keeping provisions. These negative impacts, as well as many others identified by NAWA, would result in a high percentage of bird facilities closing down if AWA licensing were extended to birds.

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