WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08), a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, and Representatives Young Kim (CA-40), Lucy McBath (GA-07) and David Joyce (OH-14) introduced the bipartisan Bring Animals Relief and Kibble (BARK) Act to provide liability protections for pet suppliers that donate food and supplies to animal shelters. Senators Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Tom Tillis (R-NC) are introducing companion legislation in the Senate. The BARK Act could facilitate the recovery of millions of pounds of pet food for animals in need.

“Today, some animal shelters struggle to buy enough pet food for all the animals in their care—while many pet stores routinely throw away perfectly good pet food,” said Rep. Raskin. “The BARK Act makes a straightforward fix to the law governing food donation to make donating pet food as easy as donating people food. The BARK Act is a commonsense, bipartisan opportunity to help shelter animals and reduce waste. I’m thankful to Reps. Kim, McBath and Joyce and Senators Warnock and Tillis for joining me in this effort.”

“Many animal shelters face food and supply shortages while over a million pounds of useable pet supplies are wasted each year. The BARK Act will help reduce this waste, supply shelters in need, and feed animals,” said Rep. Kim. “I am happy to lead this commonsense bipartisan effort to support shelters and reduce waste in landfills.”

“As a pet owner and fellow animal lover, I understand how important pets are to our families. After the death of my son, Jordan, I found solace in my relationship with the beloved dog he left behind, Benji,” said Rep. McBath. “I am proud to join my colleagues once again to introduce this bipartisan bill. The BARK Act will eliminate barriers and reduce waste while directing surplus pet food to shelters in need to nurture America’s animals as they await adoption to their forever homes.”

“As a proud pet owner, I understand the importance of protecting our four-legged friends,” said Rep. Joyce. “That’s why I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce the bipartisan BARK Act, which will help provide animal shelters with the food and resources they need while reducing waste across the country.”

“We all know it’s a dog’s life for many Georgia animal shelters, but it doesn’t have to be,” said noted dog-lover Senator Reverend Warnock, “This commonsense legislation reduces pet store food waste, and supports critical shelters, like Paws Humane Society in Columbus, that do so much to meet the needs of our community. I’m proud to partner with Senator Tillis on this bipartisan legislation that will help support our four-legged friends.”

“Every year, pet stores throw out surplus pet food, which could easily be donated to feed hungry pets in animal shelters,” said Senator Tillis. “This commonsense legislation removes unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions that keep many pet stores from donating food to animal shelters. No shelter pet should have to go hungry when so many pet stores have a surplus of readily available food.”

“The Animal Welfare Institute is grateful to Reps. Raskin and Joyce for acting to respond to a genuine crisis for animal shelters,” said Nancy Blaney, Director of Government Affairs at the Animal Welfare Institute. “By removing a barrier to donations of surplus pet supplies from pet stores, the BARK Act will make it easier for shelters to continue their important work of caring for animals and helping them to find their forever homes.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, there is a tremendous need for innovative, flexible, and resilient supply chains. For community animal shelters and rescues located across the country, that includes critical resources like pet food,” said Brynáe Riggins, manager of federal legislation for the ASPCA. “The ASPCA applauds Representatives Raskin, Kim, and Joyce for introducing the BARK Act to create more options for commercial pet food donations for agencies that care for dogs, cats, and other vulnerable animals in need.”

"Our membership of about 1300 leaders in the animal welfare field represent animal sheltering and rescue organizations throughout the United States," said Jim Tedford, President and CEO of the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.  "Animal welfare organizations already have great partnerships with pet food and supply sellers and the BARK Act is a way to make those partnerships even stronger and more effective.  Thanks to Representative Raskin and all the sponsors of this legislation for removing barriers to getting pet  food and supplies to animals who need them the most."

“As the only nationwide organization dedicated to ending the euthanasia of healthy and treatable pets in America’s animal shelters, Best Friends Animal Society is thrilled about the reintroduction of the BARK Act by Congressman Raskin and his colleagues,” said Laura Donahue, Senior Director, Legislation and Advocacy at Best Friends Animal Society. “Best Friends embraces a community-supported sheltering model, where the shelter strives to meet the animal needs of its community to keep pets with their families and out of shelters. In line with this model, the BARK Act will empower shelters to utilize pet industry excess to help more pets in their care and ultimately keep pets where they belong: with their humans.”

“We are deeply grateful to Representatives Raskin, Kim, McBath, and Joyce, as well as Senators Warnock and Tillis, for their championship of the BARK Act,” said Lisa LaFontaine, CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance. “As the leading animal wellbeing organization in the nation’s capital, we rely heavily on in-kind donations to care for the growing number of animals who need help. Like most animal shelters in the US, we are well beyond our normal capacity. The BARK Act incentivizes retail stores to contribute pet food and supplies, which bolsters our ability to care for the many animals in our shelters and allows us to run a robust pet food pantry for our communities. Thanks to these dedicated legislators, we will be better prepared to help pet owners care for and keep their pets, who are cherished family members, in the face of increased economic challenges.

“Every pet deserves a loving home and should have all they need as they await their forever family,” said Tracie Letterman, Vice President of Federal Affairs, Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We applaud Representative Raskin, Kim, McBath and Joyce for sponsoring this important bill to encourage retailers to donate pet food and supplies to animal shelters.”

“With pet food costs increasing more than 14% in the last year alone, tens of millions of families across the country are struggling to provide food for their beloved pets,” said Amanda Arrington, Vice President of Humane Society of the United States’ Access to Care. “The need is great so it is important to encourage generosity. By protecting those who donate and offer support, the BARK Act further the principles of the Humane Society’s Pets for Life program. We are grateful to Representative Raskin, Kim, McBath and Joyce for aiming to cover pet food donations, recognizing pets are an essential part of people’s health and wellbeing.”

“The BARK Act is a common sense way to support Maryland's animal shelters and animal-related nonprofits,” said Conner A. Wolfe, Manager, Executive Office at Maryland Nonprofits. “According to the latest IRS report, 61% of these nonprofits operate on annual revenues under $15,000. These smaller nonprofits are disproportionately led by women and people of color.”

Many stores discard pet food that is approaching its "best by" date, even though it is perfectly safe for pets to consume; the "best by" date is the manufacturer’s guarantee of freshness rather than an indicator of food safety. Retailers often cite donor liability as an obstacle to donating this surplus pet food. Meanwhile, in recent months animal shelters around the country have reported overcrowding, concerns about running low on pet food and a drop-off in charitable donations. The BARK Act would mitigate food shortages at animal shelters, while also helping to reduce the millions of pounds of pet food that go to waste in landfills each year.

The BARK Act amends the bipartisan Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 (Emerson Act), which provides criminal and civil liability protections to people and businesses that make good faith donations of food to nonprofits serving needy individuals, to include donations of pet food and supplies to animal shelters.

The BARK Act has the support of 19 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and has been endorsed by Animal Welfare Institute, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), the Humane Rescue Alliance and Maryland Nonprofits.

To read the full text of the bill, click here.