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  • USDA releases proposed animal welfare regulation for birds

    Laura Bies
    • Author: Laura Bies

      USDA APHIS has released for public comment new regulations that would establish standards governing the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of birds not bred for research under the Animal Welfare Act.

    The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has released a long-awaited proposal to amend the Animal Welfare Act regulations and establish new standards governing the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of birds. The proposed regulations would apply to birds not bred for use in research; all birds bred for research are exempt from regulation under the AWA.

    Read more about the context of this regulation and previous agency actions here.

    In late 2020, the Ornithological Council testified during a public hearing on the proposed regulation, and also submitted detailed written comments.  In that testimony, the OC asked that the forthcoming regulation (1) exclude wild birds studied in the wild from regulation; (2) exclude any offspring of non-exempt birds that breed in captivity from regulation; (3) consult with experts regarding housing and husbandry standards; and (4) exempt field surgery from regulation. 

    The draft regulation released last week applies only to captive birds, per the announcement from APHIS. In addition, the announcement also makes it clear that the draft regulation would not require that field studies involving wild birds be inspected; a recent publication from APHIS helps to define ‘field studies,’ which are exempt from regulation under the AWA. The new draft regulation, however, is silent as to whether and how it would apply to ornithological research done in the field that does not qualify as a field study. 

    Under the AWA, “major operative procedure” means any surgical intervention that penetrates and exposes a body cavity or any procedure which produces permanent impairment of physical or physiological functions. Such procedures must, under the AWA’s implementing regulations, be conducted only in facilities intended for that purpose which shall be operated and maintained for that purpose. The new draft regulation would provide an exception for surgery on birds, provided that such activities are conducted in accordance with current established veterinary medical procedures. 

    Along with the proposed rule, APHIS also released a draft environmental assessment of the proposed regulation. All comments on the draft rule must be received by April 25, 2022.


    Press release: USDA Seeks Public Comment on Proposal to Establish Animal Welfare Regulations for Birds

    Contacts: Andre Bell – Richard.A.Bell@usda.gov; Lyndsay Cole – Lyndsay.M.Cole@usda.gov

    WASHINGTON, February 18, 2022 – The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is inviting public comments on a proposal to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to establish new regulations and standards governing the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of birds.  The proposed regulations would apply to captive birds not bred for use in research. 

    The proposal would ensure each individual bird that is subject to the AWA is raised and maintained in conditions that ensure its good health and well-being and that its physical and behavioral needs are met.  The proposed rule outlines how entities with birds can obtain a license and the standards they would have to follow.

    APHIS is asking the public to provide comments on how this proposed rule would impact the regulated community, as well as ways that APHIS might assist regulated entities with implementation of these standards, whether through documents, guides, training, or other means.  APHIS also invites comments on the proposed operating standards for facilities, the proposed animal health and husbandry standards, and the proposed transportation standards.

    These proposed standards would allow APHIS to ensure the welfare of birds while affording flexibility in implementing the standards to bird breeders, dealers, exhibitors, and transporters. 

    In addition to the proposed rule, APHIS has completed an Environmental Assessment and a Regulatory Impact Analysis for these regulations and is sharing both documents for review and comment.

    APHIS is committed to ensuring the welfare of regulated animals and continues to carry out the critical day-to-day work of ensuring the humane treatment of vulnerable animals through unannounced inspections, pre-compliance visits, horse protection inspections, and other activities.

    This proposed rule may be viewed in today’s Federal Register.  Beginning Tuesday, February 22, members of the public may submit comments.  All comments must be received by April 25, 2022.


    About the Ornithological Council

    The Ornithological Council is a consortium of scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management. The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating directly at Birdnet.org. Thank you for your support!


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