The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is an advocacy organization that promotes an expansive view of “animal welfare” that would eliminate many common farming, hunting, and fishing practices, in addition to other commercial uses of animals in entertainment and scientific research.  The AWI actively promotes legislation to achieve these goals through its lobbying arm, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation 
Animal Welfare Institute was founded in 1951 to oppose the use of animals in scientific testing.  Its mission has expanded to promote an expansive view of animal welfare that seeks to limit commercial use of animals to activities that do not cause suffering to animals. Its proposed policies would limit or eliminate many common farming, hunting and fishing practices, among other significant changes. 
AWI’s founder and long-time president Christine Stevens was the wife of Roger L. Stevens, a wealthy and politically connected real estate developer and Broadway producer who was active in the Democratic Party.  He was the first chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, the first chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and was the Democratic Party’s finance chairman during the 1956 presidential election. 
When Roger Stevens and a consortium of other investors purchased the Empire State Building, AWI received a rent-free office in the building for its headquarters. 
The AWI moved its headquarters to Washington, DC in 1972.
The AWI promotes a broad range of policy priorities related to its views on animal liberation and appropriate treatment. 
One outlier area of policy advocacy is the organization’s opposition to free international trade in goods and services of all kinds. 
Animal Use in Scientific Research
Animal Welfare Institute was originally founded to oppose the use of animals in scientific research.  It has continued to promote legislation that limits researchers to experiments in which animals’ “pain, physical discomfort, maladaptive behaviors, fear and anxiety are prevented or, at least minimized.” 
The AWI has been criticized for promoting disclosure practices in scientific research in the name of protecting animal welfare that violate the individual privacy rights of researchers, laboratory employees, and other individuals and potentially leave them open to harassment by militant animal liberation extremists. 
Common Farming Practices
AWI’s proposed changes to common farming practices would have the practical effect of eliminating industrialized farming, as practiced widely in the United States.  The organization acknowledges this, saying that it seeks to “Abolish factory farms, support high-welfare family farms, and achieve humane slaughter for animals raised for food.” 
The AWI uses litigation as a tactic to promote its policy preferences, suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other regulatory agencies in an effort to promote an expansive view of regulatory authority over farmers and animals. 
Opposition to Circuses and Aquariums
The AWI opposes the use of “exotic” animals in traveling circuses and supported proposed legislation by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that would have created a federal ban on traditional circus animals such as lions, tigers, and elephants in traveling shows. 
The organization has opposed American aquariums’ importation of whales and other marine mammals that were born in captivity because they would be “allowed to breed” and perpetuate populations of whales in aquariums. 
Regulation of Family Pets
Animal Welfare Institute promotes policies that would interfere with many long-standing practices of pet owners and give police and regulatory agencies new authority over the relationship between Americans and their pets. For instance, AWI works to criminalize the long-standing practice of restraining pets in a yard through a chain or tether. 
It also promotes including pets in personal protective orders issued by judges against potentially violent domestic abusers, placing pets at the same effective level of protection as spouses and children. 
Trapping and Hunting
Animal Welfare Institute opposes many traditional methods of game management, including common trapping methods for nuisance animals and permitting hunting as a method of managing game species populations. 
In 1971, Animal Welfare Institute was among the organizations involved in launching the “Save-the-Whales” campaign that brought public attention to commercial whaling practices of the time.  The AWI continues to oppose all whaling, including by indigenous peoples who depend on whaling for food and other needs in a subsistence environment. 
Cathy Liss has worked for Animal Welfare Institute since 1983 and is the current president of the organization, having previously been its executive director and a senior research associate. Liss has been vocal in criticizing what she claims to be the USDA’s improper enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act under the Trump administration.
Dena Jones is director of AWI’s Farm Animal Program. She is a former programs director at World Animal Protection, a former public policy consultant for the vegan organization Farm Sanctuary, and a former program director for Animal Protection Institute.
Christine Stevens founded the Animal Welfare Institute in 1951 and was its president until her death in 2002. Stevens formed the Society for Animal Protective Legislation in 1955, so that AMI could lobby on behalf of animal-rights legislation. Stevens favored lobbying over confrontational tactics, and regularly spoke before Congress.
Joanna Grossman is the Equine Program Manager, and a Senior Advisor at AWI. Grossman is a former senior policy specialist at the Good Food Institute, a lobbying organization for plant-based meat substitutes.
Kate Dylewsky is the Senior Policy Advisor for AWI. Dylewsky is formerly a Program Associate at Born Free USA, a Government Relations Intern for the ASPCA, and intern for Environment America. Dylewsky lobbies for the Society for Animal Protective Legislation in support of bills such as the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and the Captive Primate Safety Act.
Nadia Adawi has been the Executive Director and General Counsel for AWI since 2017. Adawi is a former Public Interest Fellow at the Environmental Law Institute, former intern at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and was the founder and CEO of BlackGold Biofuels, a now defunct waste oil recycling company.