1. AWA Exhibitor Licenses
A brief introduction to the Animal Welfare Act's ("AWA") Exhibitor licensing scheme.
- The Animal Welfare Act (“AWA”) is the largest piece of legislation which governs acceptable welfare standards for most warm-blooded creatures. As part of the AWA, it requires “[i]ndividuals or businesses with warm-blooded animals that are on display, perform for the public, or are used in educational presentations must be licensed as exhibitors with APHIS. Licensed exhibitors include circuses, zoos, educational displays, petting farms/zoos, animal acts, wildlife parks, marine mammal parks, and some sanctuaries. The animals involved in the exhibition may include domestic and exotic animal species.”
By the plain language, individuals who exhibit exotic and domestic animals on social media should be licensed, which would subject them to basic inspection, health, and welfare requirements. The licensing process requires the individuals and businesses undergo an inspection, ensuring they comply with AWA welfare standards and regulations. The inspection inspects veterinary care, species specific and adequate enclosures, species separation, adequate sanitation, clean water, and species appropriate food.
APHIIS has a statutory obligation to enforce compliance with the licensing requirements and welfare standards for all applicable exhibiting individuals and businesses. The Department of Justice has already determined that social media exhibition is exhibition as defined by, and controlled by, the AWA’s licensing scheme. In the Justice Department’s complaint against Jeff and Lauren Lowe, it alleges that the couple is violating their ban on exhibition by, among other things, continuing to exhibit nonhuman animals on social media and pornography platform, OnlyFans. The Justice Department describes OnlyFans as a “paid subscription online platform.”
The Justice Department stated that, “Lauren Lowe has exhibited and continues to exhibit animals, including lions and tigers, to members of the public for compensation through the paid subscription online platform called OnlyFans,” on Paragraph 93 of its Complaint. OnlyFans qualifies as exhibiting, according to the Justice Department, because it is to the public and for compensation. So to do individuals and business exhibit nonhuman animals to the public and for compensation on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, to the tune of millions of dollars of ad and subscriber contributions.
The total absence of enforcement of licensing for social media has created a free for all of cruelty and exploitation where thousands of animals not getting the benefit of absolutely minimal welfare standards.
Hit "next" to view the Ethical Implications of Nonhuman Exhibition.