4. AWA Unenforcement of Social Media Exploitation

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ("APHIS") does not enforce the exhibitor licensing scheme for social media accounts, despite the lucrative industry and rampant cruelty.

4. AWA Unenforcement of Social Media Exploitation
    APHIS is the primary enforcement arm for the AWA, and it has a history of turning a blind eye to exploitation and cruelty depending on the identity of the abuser. As discussed on the other pages, 1. APHIS is obligated to enforce the licensing and inspection requirements of the AWA, and is a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA"), 2. Social Media is intrinsically abusive and exploits animal cruelty, and 3. Animal exhibition is voyeuristic and unethical.

    Because social media influencers are able to exploit animals for vast sums of money, and many people are flouting the licensing requirement, APHIS may genuinely not have enough resources to enforce licensure and inspection against all applicable social media influencers. Nevertheless, it can certainly target the most flagrant abusers and exhibitors. It is choosing to do so with The Lowes and their OnlyFans accounts, so it may choose to do so with exhibitors who do not have "Tiger King" connections.

    Another issue with enforcement is the failure of APHIS and the USDA to then order the removal of animals from the exploitative exhibitors to a qualified sanctuary, and the question of whether there are enough qualified sanctuaries to handle the animals being exhibited without a license. For example, the ALDF has filed a lawsuit against the USDA for revoking licenses and then continuing to leave the animals with the exhibitor. This puts the exhibitor in the position of having to care for many animals who are no longer bringing in revenue and local authorities are then in the position to monitor unlicensed exhibitors for cruelty.

    Recently, the Miami Seaquarium's new owner decided to not renew the exhibition of Lolita, the captured orca from the Southern Resident Orca population off the coast of Washington. This means the Miami Seaquarium must choose to house and feed her without forcing her to perform tricks to the public. Miami Seaquarium was in a poor position with the tank for Lolita being too small and in disrepair. She was frequently at risk of raw sewage entering her tank from storms and given that she is now quite elderly, at risk of dying. By exempting her from their exhibit license, the Miami Seaquarium has effectively removed her wellbeing from the public eye.

    APHIS is failing two fold: 1. permitting cruel social media exhibitions without a license and 2. leaving licensed and unlicensed exhibitors to "dispose" of their animals however they see fit and not ordering humane removal and relocation.

    The AWA, per the Department of Justice, requires social media influencers to obtain an exhibitor license, yet few if any do. This has created a pocket economy based on animal abuse and exploitation, which APHIS is statutorily obligated to quash. APHIS, being low on resources and inclination continues to fail to do so.

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