Thanks to the government shutdown several important animal programs have been forced to suspend operations from canceling last weekend’s annual Chincoteague Island pony round-up* for the first time in nearly 100 years, and turning off the National Zoo’s Panda Cam, to more serious programs with major consequences such as the therapy dog program at the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland because the canines who make visits to patients including kids with cancer, need to be seen by veterinarians on the staff at the NIH, of which have all been furloughed.
And, while food inspectors have been called back to work following a nationwide outbreak of salmonella, the USDA lost funds used to conduct animal welfare inspections at facilities including research laboratories, as well as exotic animal exhibits and commercial animal breeders and dealers.
"With limited resources and less-than-vigorous enforcement under ordinary circumstances, we know that the shutdown is a terrible blow to dogs in puppy mills," stated Cori Menkin of the ASPCA's Puppy Mills Campaign.
Other programs affected by the cut-off of government funding include research into the increase of marine animal strandings including bottle-nose dolphins and right whales which have been washing up on shore in record numbers, as well as programs meant to protect people and crops against invading bugs such as the brown marmorated stink bug now found in 40 states and responsible for millions of dollars of damage, and Asian citrus psyllid.
It is important to not that even if Congress can finally agree on a way to end the shutdown by the end of this week, there is no telling how soon any of these, and other vital programs will be back up and running.
*Although popularly known as Chincoteague Ponies, wild horses actually live on Assateague Island (split between Maryland and Virginia), which is owned by the federal government. Those on the Virginia side reside inChincoteague National Wildlife Refuge but is owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which manages the herd of approximately 130 and gives them medical check-ups each fall before winter sets it. Despite the cancellation of this year’s round-up, the firefighters will still be able to access the island if a pony in the herd is in need of medical attention.