When Congress passed the Animal Welfare Act in 1966, it charged the U.S. Department of Agriculture with safeguarding domestic warm-blooded animals from neglect and abuse. The stated intention of the law was to protect any creatures raised to be pets, put on exhibition, or used in research.
Some 95 percent of the animals that fit that description, however, were soon excluded from the act. The exempted group comprises an estimated 23 million rats, mice, and birds.
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