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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

President’s budget a mixed bag for animals

Yesterday, the White House released President Trump’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019, which continues the trend of spending cuts for some animal welfare programs. For example, two agencies that oversee animal protection are slated again for deep budget reductions—the Department of Interior by 17 percent and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 20 percent.

Gary Alvis/iStock

Keep in mind that the budget proposal is a starting point, and still needs to be negotiated and approved by Congress. At this early stage in the process, here are some animal welfare programs that do not receive significant support in the President’s budget request:

Wild Horses and Burros

The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program budget is cut by over $13 million, and once again does not include key protective language to prevent the commercial sale and killing of an unlimited number of wild horses and burros rounded up from federal lands. These majestic animals are protected under federal law, and it would betray the public trust to allow mass killing of them.

Horse Slaughter

Missing from the President’s budget is language specifying that funds will not be available to allow the slaughter of horses for human consumption. This is the second year in a row that the President has failed to include this protective language, and members of Congress will need to block the use of tax dollars for horse slaughter.

Animal Welfare

The Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service’s Animal Welfare program is slated to be cut by almost $500,000 from the level in the pending House and Senate FY18 bills. This is particularly troubling given that APHIS recently approved nearly 1,000 new licensees subject to Animal Welfare Act regulation. This expanding program needs adequate funding to fulfill its responsibility to ensure basic care for millions of animals at puppy mills, laboratories, roadside zoos, and other facilities as Congress and the public expect.

Marine Mammals

Again this year, the President’s budget eliminates two initiatives critical to protecting marine mammals. The Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Grant Program supports trained teams, largely composed of volunteers, which rescue and care for more than 5,500 stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals each year. Thanks to this care, many of the animals successfully return to the wild. With the loss of Prescott funds, which often help leverage additional funds from the private sector, members of the public who encounter marine mammals in distress might be unable to find anyone to assist.

The budget again would eliminate the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, whose mandate is to conserve marine mammals. The commission notes  that it costs each American about one penny per year, and "sits at the juncture where science, policy, and economic factors are reconciled to meet the mandates of the [Marine Mammal Protection Act], which balance the demands of human activities with the protection of marine mammals and the environment that sustains them." It is imperative that the commission be funded to continue seeking practical solutions to conservation challenges facing marine mammals.

Alternatives to Animal Testing

The animal protection community celebrated the 2016 passage of legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, with language aimed at minimizing, and ultimately replacing, the use of animals in chemical safety tests. Funding for computational toxicology and other 21st century methods of risk assessment is essential to implement the law. Last year, President Trump’s budget went in the wrong direction by reducing EPA’s funding for alternatives development by a massive 28 percent. That budget request also reduced the National Institute of Health’s National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences by 19 percent. This year’s budget fares no better, reducing EPA’s computational toxicology program by over $4 million (nearly 20 percent) and reducing the NCATS program by over $200 million (nearly 30 percent).

Department of Justice Enforcement

The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division plays a critical role in prosecuting a number of environmental statutes aimed at protecting millions of animals, including endangered and threatened species. The President’s FY19 budget request reduces ENRD’s budget by $3.7 million (3.5 percent), at a time when ENRD may be expected to respond to impacts on wildlife from expanded fossil fuel development, infrastructure, border security, and military readiness activities. 

Wildlife Trafficking

While the President’s FY19 budget declares the Administration’s commitment to combatting illegal wildlife trafficking, it cuts Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement funding by $5 million. It’s hard to square this reduction with the budget notes directing FWS to "cooperate with the State Department, other Federal agencies, and foreign governments to disrupt transportation routes connected to the illegal wildlife trafficking supply chain," "encourage foreign nations to enforce their wildlife laws," and "continue to cooperate with other nations to combat wildlife trafficking to halt the destruction of some of the world’s most iconic species, such as elephants and rhinos, by stopping illicit trade; ensuring sustainable legal trade; reducing demand for illegal products; and providing assistance and grants to other nations to develop local enforcement capabilities."

On the positive side, it’s good to see that the President’s FY19 budget proposal again recommends cutting federal subsidies for the USDA’s Wildlife Services program that uses tax dollars to carry out lethal predator control programs, despite the availability of more humane and potentially more effective alternatives. This reduction specifically includes a decrease of $56,343,000 for the Wildlife Damage Management program and a $35,775,000 cut for Wildlife Services’ Operational Activities. We hope the Administration will press Congress to follow through on this policy shift, and reduce this government subsidy for toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps, aerial gunning, and other inhumane practices that kill predators and non-target species such as family pets.

While this budget document serves as a looking glass into the Administration’s priorities for FY19, Congress has the power of the purse. We will continue to work hard with our allies on Capitol Hill to ensure that animal welfare initiatives receive necessary funding and to fight harmful provisions to animals.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The 2017 congressional year in review for animals

As we begin the second session of the 115th Congress, let’s take a moment to look back at the highs and lows from the first session. While there were several bright spots, the new Administration and Congress produced a particularly dangerous set of challenges for animal welfare in 2017. The general governing philosophy of deregulation—put into practice at the departments of Agriculture and Interior and also in Congress—resulted in the targeting or outright repeal of a series of immensely important animal welfare reforms.

iStock Photo

With that said, there is also broad and deep support for animal welfare in the United States, and those bipartisan sentiments are particularly reflected among the rank and file in Congress. Six measures, all led by bipartisan teams, already garnered more than 200 House cosponsors, putting them in solid position to be considered on the suspension calendar reserved for relatively non-controversial items. More representatives—a whopping 184—joined in seeking animal welfare funding in 2017 than in any year since joint annual letters on this began in 2000. A few chairmen of key House committees have stonewalled even immensely popular policy reforms, while giving the green light to anti-animal votes. What positive measures got over the finish line were largely thanks to victories in the FY17 omnibus appropriations package signed into law in May. For 2018, we hope lawmakers will heed public demand to enact more legislation that protects animals and reflects our widely shared humane values.

Here’s a snapshot of major actions in 2017, with a list at the end detailing which legislators took the lead on the positive items.

Pro-Animal Measures Signed into Law

The FY17 omnibus bill (P.L. 115-31) contained a number of hard-won victories for animals, including:

  • Horse slaughter—Renewed the “defund” provision that effectively prevents horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil.
  • Wild horses—Restated the prohibition on sending wild horses to slaughter for human consumption, and clarified that the protection extends to those transferred to federal, state, or local governments to serve as work horses. Also directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to review proposals from non-governmental organizations regarding managing wild horses and burros, and gave BLM six months to create a plan to maintain long-term sustainable populations on the range in a humane manner.
  • Wolves—Maintained Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves, omitting a harmful rider that would have legislatively delisted them in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
  • Animal testing alternatives—Increased funding by $4.3 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Computational Toxicology program to develop replacements for traditional animal tests, as required in the 2016 reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • Organics—Included no harmful language blocking a USDA rule on animal welfare standards for organic products.
  • Animal welfare funding—Sustained funding and provided some increases: $400,000 more to oversee animal welfare standards at USDA facilities conducting research on farm animals, $1.5 million more for veterinary student loan repayment, and $2.5 million more for the Office of Inspector General that helps enforce animal fighting prohibitions and the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Class B dealers—Renewed the prohibition on USDA licensing of Class B random source dealers, who are notorious for keeping dogs and cats in awful conditions and obtaining them through fraudulent means such as pet theft to sell them to research facilities.
  • Wildlife trafficking—Sustained level funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)’s Office of Law Enforcement and the agency’s International Affairs division to fight wildlife trafficking.
  • ESA funding—Provided important resources for conservation of whales, bats, and other imperiled species.
  • Pet declawing—Included committee report language urging HUD to notify all Public Housing Authorities that cat declawing is not required in public housing.

In addition, although the final FY18 appropriations package has not yet passed Congress, the House Appropriations Committee did approve helpful report language (considered done once reported, unless explicitly reversed in the final bill) on a number of issues:

  • USDA data purge—Urged USDA to promptly restore and resume posting of online searchable Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act enforcement records.
  • Predator poisons—Encouraged USDA’s Wildlife Services program to evaluate alternatives to M-44 cyanide bombs for livestock protection and overall safety.
  • Chimpanzee sanctuary—Encouraged NIH to expedite retirement of their chimpanzees and consider expanding the national chimpanzee sanctuary system.
  • Animal testing alternatives—Strongly supported EPA’s Computational Toxicology program, which seeks to reduce, and ultimately replace, animal testing. Also supported FDA’s Organ on a Chip program to replace animals for drug and other testing.

Furthermore, Senate Armed Services Committee report language accompanying the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 115-91) called for a National Academies study on modeling and simulation techniques (such as sophisticated mannequins) for medical training. These methods could replace the Defense Department’s use of live animals for medical training.

Anti-Animal Measures Signed into Law

Among the worst actions of the 115th Congress so far were votes by both the House and Senate to revoke a well-crafted rule by the FWS to prevent extremely cruel and unsporting trophy hunting methods on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska (H.J. Res. 69). And in the tax package that passed in December (H.R. 1), Congress overturned decades of protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), authorizing oil drilling and putting at risk an extraordinary diversity of wild animals in the nation’s largest refuge.

Poised for Action

A number of bills highlighted in the 2017 Humane Scorecard have overwhelming bipartisan cosponsor lists and are ripe for floor action:

  • Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act—H.R. 1847 has 277 cosponsors.
  • Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act—H.R. 909 has 246 cosponsors; S. 322 has 36 cosponsors.
  • Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act—H.R. 1494 has 268 cosponsors; S. 654 has 37 cosponsors, and was unanimously approved by the full Senate in December.
  • Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act—H.R. 113 has 204 cosponsors; S. 1706 has 30 cosponsors.
  • Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act—H.R. 1456 has 230 cosponsors; S. 793 has 31 cosponsors, and passed by voice vote in May in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
  • Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act—H.R. 1406 has 224 cosponsors. In related action to this domestic bill, in November the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved by voice vote a resolution (H. Res. 401) condemning the global dog and cat meat trade and urging nations around the world to take action to end it.
  • Humane Cosmetics Act—H.R. 2790 has 167 cosponsors.

Several exciting new bills were also introduced in 2017:

  • Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, to ensure animal fighting prohibitions apply everywhere in the U.S., including U.S. territories.
  • Horseracing Integrity Act, to establish national standards and enforcement of rules against doping, which poses life-threatening risks for racing horses and jockeys.
  • Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, to prevent checkoff funds from being used to lobby against family farmer-supported policies including animal welfare initiatives.
  • Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act, to address the USDA purge by requiring the agency to resume posting online searchable inspection reports and other enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act.
  • Puppy Protection Act, to require stronger humane standards for dogs at breeding facilities.
  • Welfare of our Friends (WOOF!) Act, to prohibit licensing or relicensing of dog dealers (and those closely connected to them) who have had their licenses suspended or revoked.
  • Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act, to shift the costs of caring for animals seized in animal fighting cases from taxpayers to those responsible for harming the animals, and to expedite adoption of the rescued animals.

Congress deferred final action until January 19 on FY18 appropriations legislation that will determine a host of crucial issues including horse slaughter, wild horse management, ESA protections for gray wolves, extreme hunting methods on National Park Service lands in Alaska, funding to eliminate animal testing, and enforcement of key animal welfare laws. During floor debate on the FY18 bills, the House passed several positive amendments, which must also be resolved in the final House/Senate package:

  • A $2 million increase for the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program that awards grants to nonprofits providing therapeutic service dogs to veterans and active duty personnel facing physical injuries and emotional scars from their military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, blindness, loss of limb, and paralysis.
  • A $5 million increase for equine assisted therapy under the Veterans Affairs’ Adaptive Sports Grant Program for veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, military sexual trauma, and other psychological wounds.
  • A prohibition on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expenditures for any experiment that causes significant pain or distress to dogs.

Throughout the year, many legislators weighed in on behalf of animals via letters directed to the Trump Administration or congressional leaders. Their letters spanned a broad range of topics including horse soring, trophy hunting, USDA’s data purge, ESA and anti-environmental riders, horse slaughter, wild horse management, Marine Mammal Commission funding, Fur Products Labeling Act enforcement, the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival, VA experiments on dogs, poultry slaughter line speeds, and relicensing under the Animal Welfare Act.

Farm Bill

Congress is due to take up the next multi-year Farm Bill, which presents a prime opportunity for animal protection provisions within USDA’s jurisdiction. A group of 40 Republican and 40 Democratic representatives wrote to House Agriculture Committee leaders in August urging that the bill include animal protection measures, as did each of the last three Farm Bills.

We are also on the lookout for hostile moves, particularly Rep. Steve King’s expected efforts to attach his anti-states’ rights legislation, H.R. 3599, which could nullify state laws covering everything from intensive confinement of farm animals to puppy mills and dog meat, along with food safety, environmental, labor, and other concerns. We will need to rally to defeat this enterprise-threatening legislation.

For that and all our work, we depend on you to make your voice heard. Each one of us must continue to show that these issues are important to Americans and deserve a vote. If they reach the floor, we can win resoundingly and demonstrate the potential for bipartisan action even in these fractured times. Thank you for staying engaged, and let’s keep urging Congress to get the job done.

Reference—Lawmakers Who Led on Animal Protection Efforts

Animal welfare funding: Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Kennedy, R-La., and Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., led sign-on letters; Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., played key roles in obtaining needed funds.

Horse slaughter defund: Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Charlie Dent, R-Pa., offered amendments in committee; Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., and Ed Royce, R-Calif., led sign-on letters; Reps. Royce and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., filed floor amendment.

Wild horses: Sen. Udall, and Reps. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn., secured positive FY17 provisions; Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Peter King, R-N.Y., Lujan Grisham, and Jared Polis, D-Colo., filed floor amendment; Reps. Titus, Polis, and Lujan Grisham led sign-on letter.

ESA/wolves: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Raúl Grijalva led sign-on letters; Sens. Udall, D-N.M. and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., played key roles in keeping harmful anti-ESA riders out of FY17 bill; Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-AZ, offered floor amendment to remove anti-ESA provisions from Resilient Federal Forests Act; Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Reps. Buchanan and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., each wrote to DOI urging ESA protections for Florida panthers.

Alternatives development: Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., played key role in securing increased funding for EPA’s Computational Toxicology program.

Organics: Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Merkley, and Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., led efforts to protect USDA rule establishing animal welfare standards for organic products.

Class B dealers: Rep. Roybal-Allard secured prohibition.

Wildlife trafficking: Sen. Leahy led efforts to secure needed enforcement funds.

Pet declawing: Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, successfully requested report language.

USDA purge: Reps. David Young, R-Iowa, Chris Smith, and Sanford Bishop played key roles in obtaining report language; Sens. Menendez and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., led a sign-on letter to USDA; Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Roybal-Allard, Buchanan, Blumenauer, and Beyer led a sign-on letter to President Trump; Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Calvert sent their own letters to USDA; Sen. Wyden and Rep. Blumenauer introduced Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act.

Predator poisons: Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, secured report language; Reps. DeFazio and Gaetz introduced Chemical Poisons Reduction Act.

Chimpanzee sanctuary: Rep. Roybal-Allard secured report language.

DoD medical training: Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., offered amendment calling for National Academies study.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act: Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., introduced H.R. 1847; Reps. Yoho, Schrader, Marino, Cohen, and Schakowsky led sign-on letter to President Trump urging him to finalize USDA rule to strengthen enforcement of Horse Protection Act and requesting his support for PAST Act.

Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: Sens. Peters and Dean Heller, R-Nev., introduced S. 322, and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Cohen, and Mimi Walters, R-Calif., introduced H.R. 909.

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act: Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal introduced S. 654, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., introduced H.R. 1494.

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act: Sens. Menendez, Graham, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced S. 1706, and Reps. Buchanan, Schakowsky, Royce, and Lujan Grisham introduced H.R. 113.

Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act/Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act: Sens. Booker and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced S. 793, and Reps. Royce and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan introduced H.R. 1456.

Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act: Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Buchanan, Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., introduced H.R. 1406; Reps. Hastings and Buchanan introduced global resolution, H. Res. 401; Rep. Hastings introduced H. Res. 30 to condemn Yulin Dog Meat Festival; Rep. Hastings sent letters to President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, and Chinese Ambassador regarding Yulin; Reps. Hastings and Buchanan wrote to House leaders seeking floor vote; Rep. Royce secured committee approval of H. Res. 401.

Humane Cosmetics Act: Reps. McSally, Beyer, Royce, Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., introduced H.R. 2790.

Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act: Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Blumenauer, Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Nolan, Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Cárdenas, Steve Knight, R-Calif., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Buchanan introduced H.R. 4202.

Horseracing Integrity Act: Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Tonko introduced H.R. 2651.

Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act: Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Booker introduced S. 741, and Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., and Titus introduced H.R. 1753.

Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act: Sen. Wyden introduced S. 503, and Reps. Blumenauer and Susan Davis, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1368.

Puppy Protection Act: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., introduced H.R. 4693.

Welfare of our Friends (WOOF) Act/AWA licensing: Reps. Fitzpatrick and Crist introduced H.R. 4691; Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Fitzpatrick, Ryan Costello, R-Pa., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Barletta, and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., sent letters to USDA encouraging agency rulemaking to address problems with AWA licensing and relicensing.

Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act: Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., Judy Chu, D-Calif., Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introduced H.R. 398.

Wounded Warrior Service Dogs: Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., McSally, Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and LoBiondo successfully sought increased funding for current program; Reps. McGovern and Jones introduced H.R. 2625, the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act; Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Booker introduced S. 1014, and Reps. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., introduced H.R. 2327, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) Act; Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and Tim Walz, D-Minn., introduced H.R. 2225, the Veteran Dog Training Therapy Act.

Equine Assisted Therapy: Rep. Barr successfully offered floor amendment.

Veterans Affairs experiments on dogs: Reps. Brat, Titus, Ted Poe, R-Texas, Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Brian Mast, R-Fla., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., successfully offered floor amendment; Reps. Brat and Titus introduced H.R. 3197, the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act; Reps. Titus and Lieu led sign-on letter to the VA Inspector General.

Trophy hunting: Sen. Menendez led sign-on letter to Secretary Zinke challenging FWS plans to re-allow importation of elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, and Sen. Feinstein sent additional solo letter; Reps. Blumenauer, Buchanan, Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Gaetz, Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., led sign-on letter to President Trump.

Marine Mammal Commission: Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., led sign-on letters seeking needed funds.

Fur Products Labeling Act: Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. led sign-on letter to FTC calling for investigation and enforcement against 17 retail companies identified in Humane Society of the U.S. petition as having sold “faux fur” products really made with animal fur.

Poultry slaughter line speeds: Rep. DeLauro led a sign-on letter to Agriculture Secretary Perdue urging him to reject call to increase maximum line speeds in poultry processing plants from current 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute, which would exacerbate existing problems with worker injuries, animal suffering, and food safety risks.

Farm Bill: Reps. Buchanan and Blumenauer led a sign-on letter calling for inclusion of animal protection measures.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Bipartisan bills introduced in Congress to crack down on puppy mill abuse

There is a massive divide between how dogs in most American homes live versus how dogs in the nation’s thousands large-scale, commercial breeding facilities, known as puppy mills, live. Breeding dogs are treated like production machines, and can spend their entire lives in small, stacked, wire cages, often without veterinary care, exercise, socialization, or meaningful human interaction. Many of these inhumane facilities still meet the meager, bare minimum requirements outlined under the federal Animal Welfare Act regulations. In an effort to reduce the gap in that divide and offer much needed protections to our four-legged friends, U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., recently introduced two important bipartisan bills and the lawmakers formally announced word of the bills today.

image from
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

The Puppy Protection Act, H.R. 4693, would amend the Animal Welfare Act to mandate significant improvements to the standards of care for licensed dog breeders. Under current AWA regulations, breeding dogs can spend their entire lives in cramped, stacked wire cages. The regulations do not require licensees to ever let the breeding dogs outside of their cages for exercise, provide core vaccinations for each dog, or even give the animals water more than twice per day. No dog should live this way, and if this legislation is adopted, they won’t have to. The Puppy Protection Act would prohibit harmful practices such as cage stacking and wire flooring and require larger enclosures with spacious outdoor exercise runs. Dogs would be fed at least twice a day, have continual access to clean, unfrozen water, and would be protected from extreme sweltering or frigid temperatures. Hands-on annual veterinary exams and meaningful socialization with humans would also be required.

The Puppy Protection Act is a response to the public concern over dogs suffering needlessly in puppy mills, and also to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s lack of movement on the issue. In September 2015, The HSUS, ASPCA, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association submitted a rulemaking petition to the USDA calling for significant upgrades to the weak standards of care for commercial dog breeders. More than two years later, the USDA has still not officially responded, other than to acknowledge that it received the petition. It’s time for Congress to step in.

The basic standards of animal care set forth in the legislation are similar to those proposed in the rulemaking petition to the USDA and in a new ballot initiative launched in Ohio, the nation’s second largest puppy mill state—standards endorsed by veterinarians and pet industry groups.

The second bill, the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, H.R. 4691, addresses the fact that the USDA allows licensees with severe and multiple Animal Welfare Act violations to continue to be licensed year after year. It closes a loophole in the current law allowing problem dealers who have had their licenses suspended or revoked to simply obtain a new license under the name of a spouse or other family member while still owning the same animals on the same property. The WOOF Act would prohibit the issuance or renewal of a license to breeders whose previous license has been revoked or suspended, or to their immediate family members at the same address. This legislation would help stop puppy mill cruelty by ensuring that puppy dealers who have been shut down due to poor animal care remain closed, as the spirit of the Animal Welfare Act intended.

While the Puppy Protection Act and the WOOF Act are important animal welfare measures, they are also consumer protection measures. If commercial breeders were required to adhere to humane standards of care, or lose their license if they don’t, fewer families would unknowingly support cruel puppy mills or be duped into buying sick and behaviorally challenged puppies.

“It’s crucial we stand up for animals—both as individuals and as a society. That means strengthening important regulations under the Animal Welfare Act to meet this goal,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “As a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I’m committed to ensuring our government is doing its part to promote animal welfare.”

“The Bible teaches us to care for all of God’s creatures, and that includes man’s best friend,” said Rep. Crist. “I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation that protects dogs from unprincipled dealers and breeders, providing a voice for the voiceless.”

No dog should spend her entire life in a tiny cage, her paws never touching grass, outside and exposed to frigid temperatures and winds, and bred so relentlessly that her body eventually wears out. Some puppy mill operators game the system and register their mill under a different name after they are cited for animal welfare violations. These two bills will prevent that trickery and also strengthen the standards of care for hundreds of thousands of dogs on commercial breeding facilities.

This nation has a puppy mill problem, and it’s time for the federal government to stop ignoring it. Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to support and cosponsor the Puppy Protection Act and the WOOF Act to help crack down on puppy mills.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Greyhound racing is a bad bet in Florida

For most Americans, dogs are loving companions and family members. But there’s a small and dying industry, hanging on by a thread, that crams dogs into cages for most of their lives, and forces them to run on tracks for entertainment and gambling, sustaining broken bones, heart attacks, drug overdoses, and other injuries.

Denise McFadden/GREY2K USA

It’s greyhound racing, and it’s on its last legs. In the last decade and a half, more than two dozen dog tracks have closed all across the country, and dog racing now represents less than one percent of all wagers placed each year in the United States. It’s clear that American consumers have moved on to other forms of entertainment.

But Florida is its last bastion, with 12 of the remaining 18 tracks nationwide located in the Sunshine State. Now, there is a renewed effort to relegate dog racing to Florida’s history books. Florida State Senator, and past Senate President, Tom Lee, and former State Senate President Don Gaetz, both Republicans, have introduced a constitutional amendment to phase out greyhound racing over three years and to remove the current state requirement forcing casinos to run dog races if they want to operate other forms of gambling. If the proposed amendment is approved by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, the language will appear on the 2018 ballot, allowing Floridians to have the final say on the matter. They have already been voting with their dollars, but it may take a vote at the ballot box to end this cruelty for good.

It should be an open and shut case. Why should the government force a private business to offer a form of gambling that consumers are not interested in? And why do that when it causes dogs to suffer horrible injuries? Currently, the state dog racing mandate forces casinos to offer live racing as a “loss leader” for more viable forms of betting, at a significant cost to both taxpayers and track operators, and conflicting with free market principles. In 2015, Florida tracks lost a combined $31 million on greyhound racing.

Despite Florida’s being one of two states where dog injuries do not have to be reported to the public, some compelling data has trickled out. Dogs euthanized after falling during a race and breaking their backs or multiple leg bones. Dogs falling into the track fences and being electrocuted. At Ebro Greyhound Park, 30 greyhounds suffered “substantial” injuries and ten greyhounds were euthanized in a six-week period between May 21 and July 5, 2011. In 2013, the reporting of dog deaths did become mandatory, and between May 31, 2013 and December 31, 2016, a racing greyhound died every three days on average in the state.

Even if dogs don’t end up injured or dead, they suffer from extended confinement and cases of severe neglect. Dogs at the tracks are confined for 20 to 23 hours a day, in cages too small for them to stand up normally. Since 2008, state investigators have documented at least eight cases of severe neglect and cruelty at Florida dog tracks and associated kennel compounds, including a 2010 case where state investigators found 37 dead greyhounds at a kennel compound and another five severely emaciated live dogs. A trainer in this case was charged with 42 counts of felony animal cruelty and pled no contest to 39 of them. He was sentenced to five years in prison for each count, to be served concurrently.

Just this year, two more cases of drugging dogs have been added to the long list of such violations. In one instance case, 12 greyhounds tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine in Florida, with one greyhound testing positive on six different occasions. The trainer's license was suspended pending another hearing. In a different incident, five greyhounds tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine including one that tested positive for cocaine itself. That trainer’s license was then revoked.

No dog should suffer such abuses. The industry is already dying a slow death, with the total amount gambled on live racing at Florida dog tracks declining by 56 percent between 2006 and 2016. State tax revenue from dog racing also continues to drop, with revenue declining by 81 percent from 2006 to 2016.

There is an overwhelming humane and fiscal case to finally put an end to greyhound racing. Now is the time to weigh in with the Constitution Revision Commission and give Florida voters the opportunity to choose a policy that’s better for dogs, better for business, and better for taxpayers. If you are a Florida resident, please participate in our Week of Gratitude for Florida Greyhounds and help protect these dogs from cruelty and abuse.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Are your lawmakers making the grade on our interim report card?

Today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund releases its preview version of the 2017 Humane Scorecard for the first session of the 115th Congress. The Humane Scorecard is a snapshot of each federal legislator’s votes on key matters that affect the lives and well-being of animals, along with their efforts to help animals through cosponsorship of priority bills and support for adequate funding of animal welfare enforcement, as well as extra credit for pro-animal leadership. While the scorecard does not include every measure that relates to animals, it scores a cross section of key bills and votes on which HSLF has advocated and that significantly impact the state of animal welfare in America.

iStock Photo

This year has seen redoubled attacks on animals, as reflected in votes to gut animal protection regulations and revoke rules that protect wildlife on federal lands from inhumane killing methods. The Humane Society Legislative Fund has been fighting hard to preserve existing animal welfare policies. At the same time, we have been working with members of Congress from both political parties to push new legislation.

For animal protection measures to advance, robust cosponsorship is vital. The more members of Congress publicly supporting a bill through cosponsorship—particularly when it’s solidly bipartisan —the more apparent it is to congressional leaders in both parties that the bill warrants consideration. Animal protection issues have long been bipartisan and that trend continues in 2017, with every bill scored having strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

Already, for example the PAWS domestic violence bill has 241 House and 30 Senate cosponsors, the animal cruelty bill has 251 House and 28 Senate cosponsors, the horse slaughter bill has 192 House and 28 Senate cosponsors, the shark fin trade bill has 198 House and 20 Senate cosponsors, the horse soring bill has 268 House cosponsors, the dog and cat meat bill has 195 House cosponsors, and the cosmetics testing bill has 141 House cosponsors.

But this is only the first year of a two-year Congress. That means there’s still time to encourage your federal legislators to cosponsor these important animal protection bills if they are not already on board, and to press them to do all they can to help get these reforms over the finish line in the coming months. Please contact your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators to thank them for supporting any of the bills listed below that they have already cosponsored and urge them to join on any that remain. You can use our Find Your Federal Legislators tool, or call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask your friends and family to do the same; the more constituents your legislators hear from, the more likely they are to take action in support of animal protection.

The following section summarizes the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2017 Humane Scorecard. Some bills may have counterparts in both the House and the Senate, while others may only be introduced in one chamber.


Pets and Domestic Violence—S. 322 and H.R. 909, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Mimi Walters, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. This bill will help protect battered partners and their pets by extending current federal domestic violence protections to include pets, and authorizing grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. Many victims delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, a legitimate fear considering that up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet. While 32 states have adopted similar legislation, PAWS would ensure such protections under federal law for all victims of domestic violence.

Animal Cruelty—S. 654 and H.R. 1494, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. This bill will strengthen the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010 (which banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show live animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse) by prohibiting those same extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether or not a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, and this legislation would complement these laws, providing an additional tool to be employed when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or otherwise in interstate commerce.

Horse Slaughter—S. 1706 and H.R. 113, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. This bill will protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given hundreds of drugs over the course of their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. Horse slaughter is particularly cruel, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for long distances and are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At the slaughter plant, the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horses. Young and healthy horses are purchased, often by buyers misrepresenting their intentions, and killed to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. 

Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Shark Fin Trade—S. 793 and H.R. 1456, the Shark Fin Trade/Sales Elimination Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif. and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands. This bill will help fight the precipitous decline in shark populations, better protect sharks from cruelty, and preserve fragile ocean ecosystems by prohibiting our nation’s trade, both domestic and international, in shark fins. The bill will strengthen existing U.S. bans on the practice of shark finning—cutting the fins off a live shark, then discarding the mutilated animal to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten alive by other fish—just for a bowl of soup. It will complement state bans on the shark fin trade and reinforce U.S. leadership in global shark conservation.

Horse Soring—H.R. 1847, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by  Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. This bill will crack down  on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait in order to gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. Congress tried to rein in this abuse by enacting the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago, but rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA inspector general and HSUS undercover investigations of top trainers and owners in 2012 and 2015. H.R. 1847 will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring (including large stacked shoes and ankle chains), strengthen penalties and make illegal the actual soring of a horse—all without any additional taxpayer burden.

Dog and Cat Meat—H.R. 1406, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, introduced by Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa. This bill will amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption, and provide penalties for individuals involved in the dog or cat meat trade. H.R. 1406 would prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S., serve as an important expression of unity with countries and regions such as Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Taiwan, all of which have enacted dog and cat meat bans, and give the U.S. greater standing to press other nations to follow suit.


Animal Testing for Cosmetics—H.R. 2790, the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Ed Royce, R-Calif., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. This bill will phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. Companies can choose from thousands of ingredients already known to be safe for humans. If companies choose to use new ingredients, animal tests are not predictive of the human experience so their results are unreliable for consumer safety. These tests on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are cruel, and simply unnecessary since many alternative methods—which are more humane, faster to perform, and less costly to industry—are available to ensure that such products are safe for human use. More than 1.8 billion consumers live in countries that have already adopted similar restrictions, and more than 230 personal care product companies support this legislation.

Please take a few minutes today to help us save animals by voicing your support for these critical bills. Whether your legislators have scores of zero, 100+, or somewhere in between, they need to know that you care about their positions on animal protection policy and are paying attention to their performance on animal issues. Your efforts to engage them meaningfully on these subjects will produce ever greater returns for animal protection in the future.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Upgrading anti-cruelty laws across the country in 2017

Our movement has made so much progress over the last three decades in closing the gaps in the legal framework for animal cruelty. In the mid-1980’s, only four states had felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, only a dozen had felony dogfighting, and several states still allowed legal cockfighting. Today, malicious cruelty and dogfighting allow for felony-level penalties in all 50 states, cockfighting is banned nationwide with felony penalties in 43 states, and the federal animal fighting statute has tough penalties, including for training and possession of fighting animals, spectators, and bringing children to animal fights.

Larry French/AP Images for The HSUS

We continue to march state by state to further upgrade and fortify the anti-cruelty statutes, improve enforcement, and close remaining gaps in the law where they exist. In 2017, it has been a particularly exciting year in state legislatures when it came to strengthening laws for abused and neglected animals. These laws range from outlawing animal sexual abuse, to prohibiting the chronic, cruel chaining of dogs outdoors, to increasing penalties for dogfighting and cockfighting. 

This year, The HSUS, HSLF, and our partners worked to make great strides on these fronts. Lawmakers outlawed bestiality in Nevada, Texas (as a felony), and Vermont. When we renewed our campaign efforts on this issue just a few years ago, bestiality was legal in eleven states—now that number is down to five remaining. Laws to help dogs outdoors were strengthened in Maryland with more clearly defined standards of care; in New jersey with shelter and standards of care requirements, and significant tethering restrictions; in Rhode Island with upgrades to shelter and nourishment requirements; in Vermont with expanded standards of care and humane standards for tethering; and in Washington with an impressive, comprehensive dogs who live outdoors/tethering law.  

Kansas and Oregon upgraded their cost of care statutes, putting the burden on animal abusers—rather than nonprofit organizations and taxpayer-funded agencies—to pay the financial cost of caring for animals seized from cruelty cases. Cost of care law was amended in Oregon to include hens and chicks in cockfighting cases. Nevada made some progress on this issue, ultimately giving counties the ability to recover costs of care if an “authorized person” is unavailable to care for the animal. Oregon expanded agencies’ ability to petition for custody of seized animals, and Hawaii humane societies may now petition the court for custody of seized animals prior to filing criminal charges against the owner.

Pennsylvania passed a comprehensive upgrade of its anti-cruelty statute this year, including making malicious cruelty a felony on the first offense, rather than just for repeat offenders (leaving Iowa and Mississippi as the only two states left without first offense felony penalties). Arkansas, Texas, and Wyoming increased penalties for certain cruelty offenses, and Oregon increased prohibition for animal abusers on future ownership to 15 years. New York bolstered its animal fighting law by making animal fighting a designated offense for an eavesdropping or video surveillance warrant. And Rhode Island made animal hoarding a cruelty offense, making it the first state in the country to outlaw hoarding. North Dakota was the one state that took a step backwards, with an added requirement for a veterinary recommendation before an agency may seize an animal.

There is a rising tide of consciousness across the country—in red, blue, and purple states—that animals should be protected from cruelty, and that we must have strong laws on the books to prevent abuse and crack down on the outliers. The HSUS, HSLF, and our partners are proud to have had a hand in many of these successes, and are grateful to the lawmakers who took on these big fights. We look forward to continuing this important work to drive transformational change for animals in 2018 and beyond.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

House committee takes aim at endangered species

In recent months, dozens of Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives, have been waging a hot war on wildlife. Last week the House voted to repeal restrictions on baiting of grizzly bears, killing of wolf pups in their dens, and other extreme trophy hunting methods on National Park Service lands in Alaska. This follows a similar vote in February that allowed these sickening and despicable practices on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges—pristine federal lands where wild animals should be safe from such threats and cruelty and where there are no human-wildlife conflicts to motivate control actions.

Photo courtesy of hkuchera/

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee is poised to expand this lethal assault by taking up a slate of bills that threaten to gut the Endangered Species Act. This package of dangerous legislation will prioritize politics over science and undermine our ability to protect imperiled creatures, both in the United States and across the globe, from the brink of extinction. Here are some of the bills on the docket today:

H.R. 3668, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act,” is a grab bag of anti-wildlife provisions put together for the trophy hunting lobby. It provides a sweetheart deal to help 41 wealthy trophy hunters import the heads and hides of rare polar bears they’ve shot in Canada. The animals were not shot for their meat, but just for trophies and bragging rights. It’s the latest in a series of these special interest import allowances and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and then wait for a government hand-out to enable them to bring back their trophies. Another provision would open millions of acres of federal public lands to painful steel-jawed leghold traps, killing and maiming mountain lions, bears, wolves, bobcats, and non-target animals such as endangered species and family pets.

H.R. 424, best described as the “War on Wolves Act,” would remove ESA protections for gray wolves in three Great Lakes states and Wyoming—just weeks after a federal court ruled that the delisting plan for wolves in the Great Lakes was illegal. This legislative attempt to subvert the federal courts amounts to Congress cherry-picking wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species, and all but guarantees that hundreds of wolves would be subjected to baiting, hound hunting, and cruel trapping practices. Removing federal protections and turning wolf management over to the states has led to politically-motivated, fear-based killing programs targeting wolves. In a three-year period, trophy hunters and trappers killed more than 1,500 wolves in the Great Lakes states alone, and that killing spree stopped only because of a successful legal action led by The HSUS. Left to their own devices in the past, states have authorized the use of strangling cable neck snares; cruel steel-jawed, leg-hold traps; and hounding with packs of radio-collared trailing dogs. It is clear that federal oversight is necessary to provide adequate protections for gray wolves as required by the ESA.

H.R. 2603 would strip ESA protections for foreign species held in captive settings in the United States, such as elephants, tigers, lions, leopards, rhinos, and chimpanzees. This innocuous-sounding and deceptively named “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” could actually eliminate federal protections for imperiled animals—for example, by allowing the interstate commerce of elephant ivory, legalizing captive trophy hunting of African lions, and allowing laboratories to resume invasive experiments on chimpanzees in this country. Endangered and threatened species, whether native to the U.S. or not, desperately need as many protections as they can get. Removing protections for these animals under the ESA is nothing more than a nod to the trophy-hunting and wildlife trafficking industries, and sends a message that it’s okay to exploit rare and endangered wildlife as long as they’re not native to our country. 

A number of other Orwellian sounding bills are on the committee’s schedule today, from the “Listing Reform Act” to the “State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act” to the “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act.” They are all designed to chip away at the ESA, one of America’s most effective environmental laws and one whose reach is global. It serves as an essential safety net for imperiled plants, fish, and wildlife, and has saved more than 99 percent of species listed under its care from extinction. The ESA has seen such remarkable success because it relies on best-available science to make listing decisions, and empowers citizens to participate in and ensure adequate implementation of the law. We must not allow politicians to attack the very foundation on which the ESA was written.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Senate committee passes harmful anti-wildlife bill

While the U.S. Senate was largely occupied yesterday with the health care debate, one of its committees quietly passed an awful bill that puts wolves, eagles, and other migratory birds at risk, while giving a sweetheart deal to polar bear trophy hunters. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the innocuous sounding “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act,” S. 1514, by a vote of 14 to 7.

Photo by RamiroMarquezPhotos/

The bill allows Congress to cherry-pick wolves off the list of threatened and endangered species, undermining citizens’ rights to use the federal courts and all but guaranteeing that hundreds of wolves are subjected to baiting, hound hunting, and cruel trapping practices. It puts bald eagles and other migratory birds at risk by weakening bird anti-baiting rules. It denies proper oversight of toxic lead in the environment, barring federal agencies from regulating lead in fishing tackle, even though alternatives exist. It’s a government hand-out to wealthy trophy hunters who shot rare polar bears in Canada and couldn’t otherwise legally import them into the U.S.

It’s a grab bag of appalling provisions for the trophy hunting lobby, and will cause immense suffering to wild animals. HSLF is grateful to seven Democratic senators who voted against the legislation. All 11 committee Republicans favored the bill in committee, and three Democrats—Tom Carper of Delaware, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois—backed it, even with the terrible provisions in it. There’s still time to kill the bill, and we urge Senators to do so. 

The following are the most harmful provisions that should not be enacted into law.


1514 removes Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in three Great Lakes states (and also Wyoming, even though Wyoming already has management authority over wolves). This proposal would both subvert citizens’ rights to  judicial processes and undermine the ESA, one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. Removing federal protections and turning wolf management over to the states has led to politically-motivated, fear-based killing programs targeting wolves. In a three-year period, trophy hunters and trappers killed more than 1,500 wolves in the Great Lakes states alone, and that killing spree stopped only because of a successful legal action led by The HSUS. Left to their own devices in the past, states have authorized the use of strangling cable neck snares; cruel steel-jawed, leg-hold traps; and hounding with packs of radio-collared trailing hounds. It is clear that federal oversight is necessary to provide adequate protections for gray wolves as required by the ESA. The committee narrowly rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., to remove this anti-wolf provision by a party-line vote of 11 to 10. Eighty-one scientists submitted a letter in opposition to wolf delisting, citing the fact that they have not been restored to but a fraction of their historic range.


1514 also prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting toxic chemicals, such as lead, in fishing equipment. Millions of pounds of lead fishing tackle are lost in aquatic environments each year, putting water and wading birds such as loons, whooping cranes, gulls, swans, geese, egrets, and herons, at risk of lead poisoning. Alternative metals can be used in hunting and fishing equipment, eliminating the need to poison millions of animals as a collateral effect of these recreational practices.

Polar Bears

An amendment to the bill, offered by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, would roll back the Marine Mammal Protection Act and provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 wealthy polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. The animals were not shot for their meat, but just for trophies and bragging rights. It’s the latest in a series of these import allowances for polar bear hunters, and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and then wait for a congressional waiver to bring back their trophies.

Migratory Birds

1514 amends the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by sweepingly excluding vast areas of land from the definition of “baited area.” If an area is not a “baited area,” the Act’s standard prohibition against killing migratory birds does not apply. Already, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits to agricultural interests on a regular basis to kill birds to reduce crop damage, making this provision unnecessary.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Abandoned puppy at airport highlights need for PAWS Act

A 3-month-old Chihuahua puppy named Chewy was abandoned inside a Las Vegas airport restroom two weekends ago. The heartbreaking note from Chewy’s owner highlights a critical policy issue that should be a call to action for lawmakers.

Photo courtesy of Connor and Millie’s Dog Rescue
Chewy after being rescued by a Good Samaritan

The note read: "Hi! I’m Chewy! My owner was in an abusive relationship and couldn’t afford me to get on the flight. She didn’t want to leave me with all her heart but she has NO other option. My ex-boyfriend kicked my dog when we were fighting and he has a big knot on his head. He probably needs a vet. I love Chewy sooo much—please love and take care of him."

Fortunately a Good Samaritan found Chewy and got him to a local dog rescue, where he is recovering and doing well. But how many pets like Chewy are injured or killed in homes where there is domestic abuse? And how many human victims remain in dangerous situations rather than leave a beloved pet behind with an abusive spouse or partner?

In Congress, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., have introduced critical legislation to help domestic violence victims and their beloved pets. The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, S. 322 and H.R. 909, would amend the Violence Against Women Act to extend existing federal domestic violence protections to four-legged family members.

In addition to providing greater protections for human and animal victims, the PAWS Act would provide grant money for domestic violence shelters so they can accommodate pets. Right now, only three percent of these shelters are believed to allow pets, presenting another barrier for victims who want to get help but don’t want to leave their animals behind and in harm’s way. But with the proper resources, many more shelters will be able to provide refuge for all members of the family who need protection, whether they walk on two legs or four. Had the PAWS Act been passed, it may have helped Chewy stay with his owner.

Thirty-two states have enacted pet protective order legislation, allowing courts to include pets in restraining orders that prevent suspected abusers from having access to their victims. But under these differing state laws, what happens when a domestic violence victim must go to live with family in another state where pets are not covered under protective orders? The PAWS Act establishes a national policy on the issue and encourages states to expand their legal protections for pets in abusive households.

Photo courtesy of Connor and Millie’s Dog Rescue

Domestic violence and animal cruelty often go hand in hand. A seminal study in 1997 found that between 71 and 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners had threatened, injured, or killed the family pet. For abusers, harming or threatening to harm a beloved dog or cat is a way of exerting control and intimidation, trading on the victim’s emotional connection with a pet, and using that love as a lever to prevent an escape from an abusive and sometimes life-threatening situation.

A Campbellton, Fla., man, charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence toward his live-in girlfriend, shot the family’s dog twice, beat her with a rifle, and later with an ax, until she was dead. In Amsterdam, N.Y., a man slit the throat of his girlfriend’s cat and threw the cat out a window, and two days later, he attempted to strangle his girlfriend. Another woman was threatened while she was forced to watch her cat tied to a tree and killed with fireworks by her abuser.

All over the country, the examples are endless and horrifying, illustrating a direct link between animal cruelty and violence against people. Those who torture and abuse animals are the ones most likely to physically harm a human family member.

Chewy got away to safety, and so did the owner who loved him dearly. The passage of this legislation would show that Congress recognizes the seriousness of domestic violence and provides other victims and their families with the help they need. There is simply no reason to deny these protections to pets, and the people who love them. 

Contact your legislators today and tell them to support the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Libre’s paw on Libre’s Law, Time for Congress to make a PACT

This week Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, surrounded by a swarm of animal advocates and lawmakers, eagerly signed a comprehensive overhaul of the Keystone State’s anti-cruelty statutes into law. The governor wasn’t the only one to sign the bill, however: Libre, a Boston terrier who recovered from a shocking case of mistreatment that rallied the legislature to take action, dipped his paw print in paint and stamped it on the bill, too.

Photo courtesy of Governor Wolf
Libre signing his bill into law with the
governor and his mom!

A Good Samaritan got a glimpse of a severely neglected Libre and had the resolve to convince the owner to turn over the failing dog to her. From that point forward, two epic journeys followed: 1) Libre’s slow but steady convalescence, and 2) the inexorable advance of an anti-cruelty bill that had new vigor because of the dog’s painful circumstance. Libre’s plight touched the hearts of many Pennsylvanians who then called on the General Assembly to strengthen animal cruelty and neglect laws, so cases like Libre’s don’t go unpunished. 

At that time, the state’s laws did not carry penalties with suitable punishments for abuse, cruelty, and neglect committed against animals. Especially concerning to advocates of this bill was the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence. Numerous studies have shown a substantial correlation between animal abuse and family violence. Animal abuse may present a risk of child abuse and be predictive of future violence or threats against other human victims.   

Pennsylvania had previously been one of only three states in the nation (with Iowa and Mississippi) that did not punish extreme and malicious acts of animal cruelty as a felony on the first offense—only for repeat offenders. The new legislation, known as Libre’s Law, closes that loophole, and also updates and clarifies the existing animal abuse statute. Penalties will be more clearly delineated among summary offenses, misdemeanors, and felony charges based on the seriousness of the abuse involved. Also, this bill provides escalated penalties for repeat offenders. This is a major victory and the most comprehensive animal protection package in state history, and should move Pennsylvania up from its current #18 spot in our annual Humane State Ranking.

While the states have continuously fortified their anti-cruelty laws over the years—with all 50 now having some felony-level penalties for cruelty, compared to only four in the mid-1980s—there is still no general federal anti-cruelty statute. We are working to change that, with the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act—S. 654 by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and H.R. 1494 by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., Ted Deutch, D-Fla.—which now has 16 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate and more than 200 in the House.

There is already a federal ban on the trade in obscene video depictions of live animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other forms of heinous cruelty in perverse “snuff” films. But while the trade in videos depicting images of cruelty is illegal under federal law, the underlying conduct of the cruelty itself is not.

The PACT Act would close this gap in the law, and also provide prosecutors with a valuable additional tool when animal cruelty is occurring in a federal facility or in interstate commerce. For example, federal prosecutors would be empowered to take legal action in regard to malicious cruelty to animals on federal property or in a federal building, or if they found it in the course of investigating another interstate crime (say, in pursuing a drug smuggling or human trafficking ring). 

As we’ve seen with animal fighting, the state and federal laws are complementary and provide the widest set of tools to crack down on that barbaric bloodsport and its associated criminal activities. Some animal fighting raids are multi-state and multi-jurisdictional, and sometimes the perpetrators are charged under state law, or federal law, or both.

With animal cruelty, too, most cases can be handled under the existing state statutes. The federal law wouldn’t interfere with those of the states but would provide an additional overlay when necessary. The bill has been endorsed by more than 200 sheriffs and police departments in 36 states and national groups including the National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

It’s long past time that Congress empowers the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to deal with malicious and deviant cruelty on federal property or that crosses state lines. We know there is a well-documented link between animal abuse and other forms of violent behavior, and this legislation is a tool to combat this violence when we get a first look at it. We shouldn’t need some awful, personalized case of cruelty, and the naming of the bill after a battered animal, to stir us to do the right thing. Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to pass the PACT Act.

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