The Government Shutdown Is Crapping All Over Adorable Animals, Too


When measuring the true dimensions of the current GOP’s monstrousness, we can’t just consider how House Republicans’ tantrum-throwing government shutdown affects the human Americans standing in line at the passport agency, staring hopelessly into a faded travel poster for Jamaica. Who cares about people, really? Certainly not House Republicans. It isn’t until we see Republicans ignore the plaintive, saucer eyes of a puppy trapped in a puppy mill because the government shutdown has cut funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that we truly see that the current class of GOP lawmakers is mostly comprised of literal, wearing-human-suits monsters, possibly of the lizard-person variety.

A government shutdown means less resources for ensuring standards for animal welfare are being met across the country. It’s a bummer, even more so because animals don’t know what the fuck is going on. At least we can all go on Twitter and be like, “Government shutdown is making me simmer with rage #aneurysm #nohealthcoverage.” For many of the less articulate residents of America’s hollows, dales, lakes, creeks, and farms, this week was the first moment in an unspecified number of moon-cycles during which life will be inexplicably more difficult. Thanks to an initial rundown from the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s website, we can get a hazy idea about which animals are lowest on the list of federal priorities and may, as a result, experience some unpleasantness during the government shutdown.

Animals at puppy mills, research facilities, and roadside zoos

In other words, creatures like this poor guy. It falls to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that research facilities, commercial dog breeders, and dealers/exhibitors of exotic animals are meeting minimum standards of care and treatment for their animals. The USDA’s purview, however, encompasses more than 12,000 sites, and a lack of federal funding due to a government shutdown means that there’s no fucking way USDA authorities can inspect puppy mills, roadside animal prisons, and labs to ensure compliance with care and treatment standards. The agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued a statement on Oct. 1 saying, dismally, that “facility inspections and complaint investigations related to the Animal Welfare Act” wouldn’t continue during the funding lapse. It’s like a feature-length Sarah McLachlan PSA directed by Steven Spielberg.

Maybe good news for coyotes?

The HSLF’s site speculates that some activities of the Wildlife Services program, i.e. controlled removal (by killing) of predatory animals like wolves or coyotes from private or public lands, may stop during the government shutdown. Then again, they might not.

But we’re looking after the horses, right?

Nope! Humankind has asked equus kind to do basically all of our work since forever ago. You’d think we’d take extra-special precautions when it came to their safety nowadays, but we manage to treat them with the same apathy with which the NFL treats its former linemen. Without government funding, the USDA will not be able to ensure that Tennessee walking horses are not subjected to an abusive practice called soring, whereby pain is applied to a horse’s hooves or legs to force it into “an artificial exaggerated gait.”

Meanwhile, at the Department of the Interior, “the minimum number of employees needed to humanely care for” more than 50,000 wild horses in care facilities will remain on staff. But the Bureau of Land Management also said it will suspend horse and burro adoptions, which means that the problem of housing horses and burros will be compounded, which means that they’ll need more staff at care facilities, which means that we go on and on in an ouroboros cycle of suck FOREVER.

Surely, though, we’ll have law enforcement officials patrolling our vast wildlife refuges so no crazed poachers with evil monitor lizards break in and make bald eagle egg omelets.

Sort of. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says only “essential” employees will remain on staff. That includes federal wildlife officers patrolling the wildlife refuges, but it doesn’t include anyone working on adding animals to the Endangered Species Act (African lions and chimpanzees are currently in a holding pattern).

Whales will be cool though, right? Because we really fucked them over in the 19th century…

No, whales will not be “cool” (and yes, I am aware that killer whales are impostors). The National Marine Fisheries Service has suspended its Dynamic Management Area program, which protects right whales (a critically endangered species) from ship strikes. There will be no federal response for marine mammal strandings, either, except “for issues of public health and safety or live animal safety.” Since that’s basically all marine mammal strandings, we shouldn’t have to rely on George Costanza to go around fishing golf balls out of whales’ blowholes during the shutdown.

Well fine. I’ll just feed my pet this fancy food I bought and do my small part to ensure that my animal’s needs are being met.

How libertarian of you. Actually, the shutdown may also mean that the FDA “will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities.” This could mean delays in enacting new regulations to ensure that pet food safety and nutrition standards are being met, which could mean that you just fed your cat a can of delicious whale shavings. GOOD JOB.

What Does a Government Shutdown Mean for Animals? [Humane Society Legislative Fund]

Image via Getty, Gary Gershoff

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