Welcome to another year of the Policy Corner! I wanted to start the year off on an optimistic note, because there have been a number of wins in the policy world for nonhuman animals recently.

The passage of the FDA Modernization Act marks a turning point in drug development and regulation. In the past, animal testing was a requirement for those seeking FDA approval for experimental drugs, although we know now that animal testing does not necessarily provide meaningful information on drugs’ efficacy or toxicity for humans. Science has advanced past the point of needing to test on animals, and these cruelty-free methods are now approved as part of the regulatory process. Although animal testing is still legal and acceptable in the process of experimental drug approval, I’m hopeful that over time pharmaceutical companies will opt for the methods that give them better data sooner in the development process, rather than holding on to animal testing.

New York recently passed a ban on the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores across the state. The ban will stop the pipeline of baby animals coming from breeding mills out of state to be sold in stores. The lack of oversight and profit-driven nature of breeding mills means that animals from these facilities are often sick, and all are born to mothers who will be discarded when they are no longer of use to the operation. Animal advocates are relieved that this ban will minimize the impulse purchase and subsequent abandonment of companion animals. Rabbits are especially at risk of abandonment in outdoor spaces, which is a death sentence for them, and rescue groups are overwhelmed by the volume of companion animals who are dumped or abandoned. Now, pet stores will be able to work with rescues to facilitate adoptions in their stores insteadtaking pressure off of rescue groups instead of adding to it. The ban goes into effect in 2024.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act was also recently signed into law, banning the private ownership of big cats. State-level protections have proven inadequate in regulating the private sale of big cats, which leads to tragic outcomes for both big cats and humans. The law also prohibits public exhibitors from facilitating contact between big cat cubs and the public. Often these cubs are bred for the sole purpose of interacting with the public while they are very young, and discarded or sold after they grow too large to safely be around people. Cutting off this practice will eliminate one avenue through which big cats end up in private homes, and hopefully curtail breeding in general. I’ll be interested to see how enforcement works in this regard, because animal exhibitors are often able to avoid meaningful sanctions for other violations. Regardless, the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act is an important step that will eliminate a lot of suffering for big cats across the country.

Looking ahead, I am anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision in Ross v Pork Producers Council soon, which will shape policies impacting farmed animals across the country. I am also hoping to look at institutional policy around the avian flu in the coming months. Stay tuned!


Author: Anna Balser – ASI Policy Volunteer. Anna holds a MS in Anthrozoology from Canisius College, where she primarily focused her studies on sanctuary regulation, public policy, and animal ethics. After living on the west coast for the past seven years, Anna recently relocated to upstate New York, where she is the Education Manager at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. She loves helping people question their assumptions about farmed animals and think deeply about interspecies relationships, always with the goal of building a more compassionate world. She is thrilled to be working on the Policy Corner this year.

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