COVID-19 Stimulus Legislation Contains Several Animal-Related Provisions

In addition to financial relief measures for those individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the omnibus spending legislation that President Trump signed on December 27, 2020 (H.R. 133 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021), contains several provisions related to animals.

The most significant are the provisions on “Horseracing Integrity and Safety” in Title XII of the  “Other Matter” division of the bill (Division FF).  Section 1203(a) creates a “private, independent, self-regulatory nonprofit corporation” to be known as the “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority” (Authority).  The Authority’s nine-member board will be comprised of five independent members from outside the equine industry and four industry representatives, and the chair shall be an independent member. (Section 1203(b)).

In conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and an anti-doping and medication control enforcement agency (either the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or another entity established by agreement), the Authority shall implement and enforce programs on anti-doping and medication control and racetrack safety.  (Section 1205(a)).  The Authority has the power to develop rules and regulations to carry out these programs which are subject to oversight and review by the FTC.  (Sections 1204(a) & 1205(c)).

Generally, the anti-doping and medication control program shall develop uniform standards for the administration of medications to covered horses by covered persons, laboratory testing accreditation and protocols and a list of prohibited medications, substances and methods.  (Section 1206(c)).  Subject to certain exceptions, no “prohibited or otherwise permitted substance” shall be administered to a covered horse within 48 hours of its next racing start.  (Section 1206(d)).

The racetrack safety program generally will include the development of uniform standards for racetrack and horseracing safety and safety and performance standards of accreditation for racetracks.  (Section 1207(c)).

Coverage of the law includes:  (i) any thoroughbred horse or other horse made subject to the Act by a state racing commission or breed organization; (ii) any horserace with a substantial relation to interstate commerce; and (iii) all trainers, owners, breeders, jockeys, racetracks, veterinarians, and other persons licensed by a state racing commission. (Section 1201(4), (5), (6)).

By rule, the Authority shall issue a description of safety, performance, and anti-doping and medication control rule violations applicable to covered horses and covered persons.  (Section 1208(a)).  The Authority shall also establish, by rule, standards for the accreditation and maintenance of accreditation of testing laboratories.  (Section 1208(b)). The Authority has the authority to prescribe civil penalties for the enforcement of the rules for covered persons and racetracks and can commence civil actions against persons in violation of the law to enforce civil sanctions and obtain injunctive relief.  (Section 2105(i), (j)).  Civil sanctions imposed by the Authority are subject to review by an administrative law judge and, ultimately, the FTC.  (Section 1209).

Finally, section 1210 of the law makes the sale of a covered horse an unfair or deceptive trade practice under section 5 of the FTC Act if the seller knew or had reason to know, but failed to disclose, that the horse has been administered a bisphosphonate prior to the horse’s fourth birthday or any other substance determined by the Authority to have a long-term degrading effect on the soundness of the horse.

Other animal-related provisions of the omnibus spending law include the following:

• None of the funds made available by the Act may be used to carry out activities related to the issuance or renewal of licenses under section 3 of the Animal Welfare Act to class B dealers who sell dogs and cats for use in research, experiments, teaching or testing.  (Division A, Title VII, Section 733).

• The acceptable market name of any engineered animal approved prior to the effective date of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (Feb. 19, 2019), shall include the words “genetically engineered.”  (Division A, Title VII, Section 778).

• Excess wild horses and burros on Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service lands may be transferred to other federal, state or local agencies for use as work animals.  Such animals may not be sold or destroyed or euthanized except upon the recommendation of a veterinarian in the case of severe injury, illness or advanced age.  (Division G, Title IV, Section 419).

• The establishment of a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility which shall provide research, development and test and evaluation infrastructure to prevent, detect, respond to, or mitigate harm resulting from animal pests or diseases and zoonotic diseases to defend the U.S. against naturally occurring or intentional bio- and agro-threats.  (Division P, Section 1).

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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