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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Honoring the memory of a hero for horses, Congress must take action on PAST

U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings was a giant in the halls of Congress and in the hearts of horse lovers everywhere. We mourn his passing while acknowledging the rich legacy he leaves on preventing cruelty to horses. Senator Tydings, the father of the federal Horse Protection Act, represented Maryland from 1965 to 1971. He also lobbied pro bono with us in recent years to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. I fondly recall his stories of the U.S. Senate and his experiences there. He was a larger than life individual to the very end, and we’ll remember him with the deepest gratitude.

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Photo by the HSUS

A lifelong horseman, “Joe,” as he preferred to be called, strongly appreciated the contribution of horses to our society. He served in the last horse cavalry unit of the U.S. Army during World War II.

Tydings was appalled when he learned of the vile cruelty known as “soring,” in which trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds using caustic chemicals, chains, weighted shoes, hard objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to force them to perform a pain-based artificially high-stepping gait—the "Big Lick"—to gain unfair competitive advantage at shows. Working with the HSUS and other groups, he led the charge on legislation he thought would end the practice once and for all—a bill that took three Congresses to pass, in 1970.

In recent years, upon hearing that the law he had worked so hard to enact had failed to accomplish its goal due to loopholes—some created by a 1976 amendment and others by weak U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations—that enable violators to evade detection, he joined the battle again.

Tydings signed annual letters to key Senators and Representatives urging increased funding so that USDA could better enforce the law. He wrote to officials at all levels of USDA, urging tougher regulations and enforcement. He was known to walk the halls of Congress to make his case, too. 

The senator will be remembered as a staunch advocate for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.1847/S.2957—a bill to strengthen the Horse Protection Act by banning the use of devices integral to the soring process, eliminating the conflict-ridden, failed system of industry self-policing, and increasing penalties. He teamed up with former Senator John Warner of Virginia, also an ardent horseman, to advocate for the PAST Act in a bipartisan op-ed published in The Hill, “Stop torturing horses now.”

A former U.S. Attorney, Tydings encouraged and applauded the prosecution of Jackie McConnell—the notorious Hall of Fame Walking Horse trainer who pled guilty to numerous federal charges as a result of the HSUS’ 2011 undercover investigation—and stood with us on the courthouse steps on the day McConnell was sentenced.

He was a presenter and frequent attendee at the Sound Horse Conference events organized by Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).

Tydings was also a co-petitioner with the HSUS and partner organizations in a petition to USDA seeking regulatory reforms, and he enthusiastically supported the agency’s rule (announced as final in January 2017 but then put on the shelf by the Trump Administration) to strengthen Horse Protection Act regulations. 

For all of his extraordinary efforts, the HSUS honored Tydings with its Humane Horseman of the Year award in 2016.

Joe Tydings was a passionate advocate for horses and a true friend to the HSLF and the animal protection community. We must never let the contributions of this valiant warrior for fairness and humaneness be forgotten. We must honor his legacy by securing long-overdue passage of the PAST Act, to achieve the vision promised by the Horse Protection Act nearly 50 years ago. Congress should be inspired by his example and never let the demands of a few who profit off the abuse of horses prevail. Members of the U.S. House and Senate should cosponsor the PAST Act if they haven’t already, and do all they can to ensure it moves swiftly to a vote.

Please contact your legislators and urge them to pass the PAST Act!

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Are your lawmakers making the grade?

One of our core objectives is to make it simple and efficient for voters to determine how federal lawmakers have sided on crucial animal protection legislation across a range of issues. As the midterm elections approach, the Humane Society Legislative Fund has just released its preview version of the 2018 Humane Scorecard for the second session of the 115th Congress to provide voters with such a tool as they head to the polls. 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.

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iStock Photo

This Congress has presented core challenges for animals, including the seemingly endless attacks to weaken historically critical laws such as the Endangered Species Act. The Humane Society Legislative Fund has been fighting tirelessly to preserve existing animal welfare policies and work with members of Congress from both political parties to push new legislation.

We’ve chosen to highlight a few key votes from the Farm Bill because it comes up only every five or six years and contains important animal protection provisions. The final Farm Bill is not yet settled, so we are continuing to press for positive outcomes on a number of issues in the House and Senate versions. The highly controversial House bill includes good amendments to strengthen federal law on animal fighting and prohibit the dog and cat meat trade, but it also contains the egregious and overreaching “King amendment,” which threatens to nullify hundreds of state and local laws on animal welfare, food safety, environmental protection, and many other concerns related to agricultural products. The Senate approved a much friendlier Farm Bill, which omits the King amendment and  includes essential language to address domestic violence against pets, as well as a provision (similar to House language) to prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide.

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 2018, with every scored bill having strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

The PAST Act to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring has 285 cosponsors in the House and 37 in the Senate, the PAWS domestic violence bill has 251 House and 41 Senate cosponsors, the PACT animal cruelty bill has 282 cosponsors in the House and passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, the SAFE horse slaughter bill has 219 House and 31 Senate cosponsors, the shark fin trade bill has 257 House and 40 Senate cosponsors, the cosmetics testing bill has 183 House cosponsors, and the WOOF puppy mill bill has 127 cosponsors in the House.

There is 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 the rest. 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.

Here are summaries of the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2018 Humane Scorecard. Some bills may have counterparts in both the House and the Senate, while others may only be introduced in one chamber.

Horse soring – S. 2957 and H.R. 1847, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., and 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 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 for competitions. Congress passed the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to end this abuse, but rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA inspector general and by HSUS undercover investigations in 2012 and 2015. The PAST Act will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and make illegal the actual soring of a horse—all without any additional taxpayer burden.

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 expand current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorize grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets or arrange for pet shelter. Currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets, and many people delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety (a legitimate concern considering that up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet). While 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have adopted similar legislation, the PAWS Act would ensure protection across the country.

Animal fighting – S. 2971 and H.R. 4202, the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Steve Knight, R-Calif., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and John Faso, R-N.Y. This bill will clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply equally to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. The PACE Act will protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gang violence, reduce public health threats from the transmission of bird flu and other diseases, and enhance enforcement of the federal animal fighting law across the U.S.

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 drugs that can be toxic to people if ingested. Horse slaughter is 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 for the overseas horsemeat market.

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-N. Marianas. This bill will protect sharks from cruelty and preserve our oceans’ fragile ecosystems by strengthening federal law against finning, in which fishermen slice off sharks’ fins and toss the mutilated animals back into the ocean to die. This bill will prohibit the trade in shark fins, expanding on the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 and the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 (laws that banned shark finning and the transportation on U.S.-flagged vessels of fins not “naturally attached to the corresponding carcass”).

Animal cruelty – H.R. 1494, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. This bill will strengthen the 2010 federal “crush video” law, 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. The PACT Act will prohibit those same acts of extreme animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals; this legislation will complement state anti-cruelty laws and provide an additional enforcement tool when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or in interstate commerce (e.g., in the puppy mill trade or wildlife trafficking).

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. These tests performed on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are intensely cruel and unreliable predictors of effects on humans. Cosmetics companies can choose from thousands of ingredients already known to be safe for humans. For new ingredients, there are faster, less expensive non-animal methods available to ensure products are safe for human use. More than 1.8 billion consumers live in countries that have already adopted similar restrictions, and 250 personal care product companies support this legislation.

Puppy mills – H.R. 4691, the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla. This bill will address significant deficiencies in USDA oversight of commercial dog breeding facilities. The USDA often allows breeders with severe and multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act to be licensed year after year and allows those whose licenses have been suspended or revoked to operate under a new license using a family member’s name. The WOOF Act will prohibit the agency from issuing licenses to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended or to their immediate family members at the same address.

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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

After tragic death of puppy in airplane’s overhead bin, House passes bill to ensure it never happens again

Update 10/3/2018: Today the Senate passed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by a vote of 93-6. The bill includes the same language that was approved by the House last week—prohibiting the storage of live animals in overhead compartments of airplanes and authorizing civil penalties for violators. Thank you to Senators John Kennedy, R-La, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., along with Reps. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., for spearheading this critical language. The bill now goes to the president’s desk for a signature, so please join us in urging him to sign it quickly!

On March 12th, a family lost their beloved 10-month old French bulldog, Kokito, after being forced to stow him in the overhead compartment during a three-and-a-half hour United Airlines flight from Houston to New York. Kokito had been a birthday gift for 11-year-old Sophia Ceballos. Her mom, Catalina Robledo—who had paid the $200 fee to bring Kokito aboard with the family, including a newborn baby—protested when the flight attendant insisted that she put Kokito (in his carrier) in the compartment. Sophie recounted to CBS News how her mom had told the flight attendant, “‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ He can’t breathe up there.’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter, it still goes up there.’” As the family sat in their seats, worrying, “they heard Kokito barking for two hours, then he stopped.” They wanted to check on him but couldn’t. “We tried, but there was a lot of turbulence. And we weren’t allowed to stand up,’ Sophie said.” When they landed, the heartbroken family and fellow passengers discovered that Kokito was dead.

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Photo by iStock.com

Short-nosed breeds like pugs and bulldogs are particularly vulnerable in such situations, as they often have difficulty breathing and cooling their bodies efficiently. But no live animal should be stowed this way. As reported by CBS News: “Retired airline captain Denny Kelly says the pitch-black overhead bin is dangerous for any live animal. ‘There is no circulation at all in there. They’re scared, their heart rate goes up and they use more oxygen. And there’s not enough oxygen in the first place, that just makes it worse.’”

United issued an apology and took responsibility for the tragedy, refunding the family’s tickets and $200 fee—which Sophia told NBC News wasn’t really the point. “She said they’re not after money as she recalled how her dog enjoyed running around and doing flips in the park. ‘We don’t want the same thing to happen (to other pet owners). If flight attendants tell you to put your pet (in an overhead compartment), don’t do it.” United announced that putting animals in an overhead compartment was already against company policy, and instituted a new system of issuing brightly colored tags to make animal carriers stand out for airline personnel. 

Thankfully, a bipartisan group of federal legislators decided not to leave it to chance, company policy, or mere common sense. They swiftly joined forces to ensure that no other beloved pet ever suffers the fate that Kokito did. On March 15th, Senators John Kennedy, R-La., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., introduced the Welfare of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act, S. 2556, and Representatives Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced the Planes Ensuring Total Safety (PETS) Act, H.R. 5315. Both bills directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue regulations within a year to prohibit the storage of live animals in overhead compartments of airplanes and to establish civil fines for violators. Sens. Kennedy and Cortez Masto then got WOOFF incorporated into the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill (S. 1405).

Last Friday, House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on a final FAA reauthorization package (H.R. 302), which includes an even stronger provision—making it immediately unlawful for anyone to place a live animal in an overhead storage compartment of an aircraft and authorizing the Administrator to impose a civil penalty for each violation.

The House has just passed this FAA bill by a vote of 398 to 23. It now heads to the Senate, which we hope will quickly follow suit and send it to the president’s desk for signature into law. We shouldn’t need a law to prevent such an obviously dangerous and cruel practice. But Kokito’s tragic story reminds us we can’t always count on common sense and basic compassion to protect animals. So we’re grateful to Sens. Kennedy and Cortez Masto and Reps. Donovan and Cohen for making sure that our beloved companions will be safer when they fly with us.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

You asked, we answered: our HSLF-endorsed candidates for 2018

“Politics,” Charles de Gaulle reportedly observed, “is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”  There’s a fundamental truth there, and it doesn’t diminish our elected officials when we underscore the genuine importance of citizen engagement in the political process. At the HSLF, it’s the foundation of our work.

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iStock Photo

Every year, our supporters contact their elected officials about animal protection issues by calling, emailing, writing letters, and visiting their offices. In many cases these communications result in new legislative advances and protections for animals, and that’s what it’s all about for us. 

But it’s also true, all too often, that some elected officials continually ignore the pleas of constituents who make the case for animals. Instead, they side with special interests like puppy millers, horse sorers, trophy hunters, factory farmers, and cockfighters. They launch attacks on existing animal protection laws, and they stand in the way of new reforms. It’s an unfortunate reality of our work.

We’re in no way helpless in the face of such challenges, however. We have the power to replace officials who are indifferent to our humane agenda with candidates committed to common sense animal protection measures, and, in the case of those who stand with animals, to reelect them and make it possible for them continue their good efforts.

It is a priority for the HSLF to work with you to elect leaders committed to our shared values. We need officials ready to move our agenda to defend pets from cruelty and abuse, replace the use of animals in cosmetics and other chemical testing, improve welfare standards for farm animals, expand protections for wildlife, end the slaughter of American horses, and more.

To achieve these goals, we’ve launched our HSLF 2018 election site, featuring our initial endorsements in hundreds of congressional races as well as several at the state level. As a nonpartisan organization, we’ve selected these candidates solely and strictly on the basis of their positions on animal protection.

The election site landing page features candidates in some of this year’s most consequential races for our work. Former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who has supported animal welfare in both the state legislature and Congress, is running in an open seat contest against a former congressman who received a zero on the Humane Scorecard and refused to support tougher penalties for extreme animal abuse. We’re with Horsford.

We’re also supporting Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who is running for reelection in a newly-drawn congressional district in his state.  Rep. Fitzpatrick has led efforts to crack down on puppy mills, and earned a score of 100 on the Humane Scorecard. Not long ago, he said, "A culture that respects the dignity of all living things is one that I want to live in and represent in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Mr. Fitzpatrick, we’re with you on that, sir.

In addition to the candidates we’re highlighting in key races, users of the website can easily view our full endorsement lists by state or office.

Finally, I’d like to remind you that we’re backing two statewide ballot measures: Prop 12 in California, which will upgrade farm animal protections, and Amendment 13 in Florida, which will end cruel greyhound racing in that state. If you live in either state or can support those efforts in other ways, we’d love to see you get involved.

If you have been paying attention to our issues in recent months, you know that this is a particularly critical time to get political for animals. So, please take a look at our site, work out which humane candidates will be on your ballot, and then share the information with your friends and family members. If you haven’t registered to vote, you can easily do so here. We at HSLF are counting on you to get political for animals by voting on November 6th!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Great day for animals on the Hill as three critical animal welfare measures pass the House

Today we made major strides in our fight to improve the lives of animals everywhere with the passage of three critical animal welfare measures in the U.S. House of Representatives. All three of the following passed the House by voice vote after strong bipartisan floor statements:

  • the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 6720) to keep this brutal industry from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in pressing other countries to outlaw it;
  • Res. 401, a global resolution urging other countries to prohibit and enforce laws to end their dog and cat meat trade;
  • and the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act (H.R. 6197) to authorize U.S. State Department rewards to combat international wildlife trafficking.

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Jean Chung/For HSI

The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 6720) makes it illegal to knowingly slaughter, ship, transport, move, deliver, receive, possess, purchase, sell or donate a dog or cat or his or her parts for human consumption, and authorizes a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation. H. Res. 401 urges the governments of China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, India, and other nations to adopt and enforce existing laws banning the dog and cat meat trade. 

Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are subjected to this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars as they are subjected to unspeakable abuse, only to end up on someone’s dinner plate.

Momentum is growing around the world to end the dog and cat meat trade. Humane Society International/Korea recently delivered 1 million signatures to end the dog meat industry to South Korean President Moon Jae-In. HSI has worked with South Korean dog meat farmers to help them transition to more humane livelihoods, closing 12 dog meat farms and bringing more than 1,300 dogs to Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States for adoption.

Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore have all outlawed the dog meat trade, and the government of Indonesia has pledged to do so; some of them have banned the cat meat trade as well. In a 2016 poll, more than 8.6 million Chinese expressed support for a proposal to ban trade in dog and cat meat, making it the most popular of 142 legislative proposals presented for online voting in China that year.

We are grateful to Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., for their leadership in persuading the U.S. House to pass legislation to end the dog and cat meat trade. Today’s action demonstrates the commitment of Congress to end this horrific trade once and for all.

With the House global resolution over the finish line now, we are urging the Senate to swiftly approve the common-sense domestic ban bill, which mirrors provisions the Senate already passed in July as part of its Farm Bill. (The precursor ban bill, H.R. 1406, was incorporated into the House Farm Bill, and has 245 cosponsors.)

In addition to these two successes in the fight against the dog and cat meat trade, the House today reaffirmed its commitment to crack down on wildlife trafficking by passing the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act (H.R. 6197). This bill authorizes the U.S. State Department to use its successful rewards program to target wildlife traffickers.

Wildlife trafficking is one of the most lucrative illicit trades in the world, bringing in over $10 billion a year in illegal profits and threatening endangered species worldwide. The RAWR Act provides an important additional tool to combat illegal wildlife trafficking on a global scale. We are thankful to Reps. Dan Donovan, R- N.Y., and Joaquin Castro, D- Tex., for leading the charge on the RAWR Act.

Today was a good day for animals. We are incredibly grateful to each and every one of you who reached out to your legislators to push for action on these issues and support for other pro-animal measures. Your voice really does make a difference. We hope you will continue to use it as we work to move the dog and cat meat and wildlife trafficking bills through the Senate and onto the president’s desk for signature soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Transition at the top, continuity at the core

By Michael Markarian

When I decided to relinquish my leadership role and my position within the Humane Society Legislative Fund some months ago, to follow a lifelong dream, I had no cause to worry about the future of the organization. The HSLF has a great and well-practiced team, a record of achievement, and a fantastic base of support.   

But of course, we also needed a leader, and we have one in Sara Amundson, our longtime colleague. The HSLF board selected Sara to be the organization’s next president earlier this year and you’ll be hearing from Sara in this space going forward. I’d like to share a few things about Sara so that you’ll feel just as good as we at HSLF do about her appointment. 

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Photo by Meredith Lee/The HSUS
Sara Amundson, president HSLF

Experience is not an issue with our new leader, that’s for sure. Sara has spent her entire professional career in animal protection lobbying and advocacy, starting with the Doris Day Animal League in 1988. She came to HSLF in 2006 as executive director, and was one of our first employees. She worked to build the legislative and regulatory work of the organization, political activity to support humane candidates for office at the state and federal levels, and HSLF’s affiliated Political Action Committee.

Over the course of her career, Sara has been a major presence before Congress and state legislatures, testifying on bills focusing on the “retail pet store” rule to regulate puppy mills, the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze to render it nontoxic to pets, wildlife and children, and a requirement for alternatives to animal testing of chemicals and cosmetics. She has led successful negotiations with the chemical industry to voluntarily adopt bittering agents for household antifreeze and to gain support for the replacement of animals in toxicity testing through federal appropriations, voluntary commitments, and the passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

For me as for many colleagues, Sara epitomizes the discipline, strategic direction, and tenacity needed to advance the animal protection agenda in public policy forums. The road to success in our work, with respect to just about any issue of concern to us, is a long one, and Sara understands that. 

When we formed HSLF more than a dozen years ago, we did so with the certain knowledge that there were Americans—many of you—who wanted to support a 501(c)(4) organization that would take on the greatest and most urgent of challenges in the political arena, whether it involved legislation, regulatory action, or election and candidate endorsements. 

I’m very proud of all that you have helped HSLF accomplish since the founding of the organization, as together we have reshaped the legal and political framework for animals in this country. We’ve seen the passage of dozens of new federal laws to protect animals, including laws banning puppy mill imports, requiring labeling of fur trim, planning for the needs of pets in disasters, and retiring chimpanzees from labs to sanctuaries. We’ve also strengthened the laws on shark finning and wildlife trafficking, made it a crime to attend an animal fight, banned animal crush videos, and much more. We’ve seen more than 1,500 new state and local laws passed for animals since 2005, cracking down on puppy mills, animal cruelty and fighting, wildlife trafficking, private possession of dangerous wild animals as pets, confinement of farm animals in cages, and other abuses. We’ve held the line and prevented horse slaughter from resuming in the United States and blocked other cruel threats to animals. We’ve helped to elect humane candidates to office who are championing animal protection policies and reforms.

This work is only possible thanks to your support and advocacy. I hope that you’ll do all that you can to support Sara and HSLF in what is shaping up to be an important political season. But more importantly, I hope that you’ll all stay involved with HSLF for the long haul, because that’s ultimately the best way to secure the kinds of changes we all hope to see.

I’m moving on, but I plan to support HSLF as a rank-and-file supporter in the future. I’ve been honored to serve as the organization’s first president, and I’m confident that Sara and the outstanding HSLF team will continue to deliver the transformational and lifesaving results and outcomes for animals that you as a supporter have come to expect from us.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Primary election results for animals, and important fights on the November ballot

A number of states, including Michigan and Missouri, held primary elections yesterday, and there are a number of important outcomes for animal protection.

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Photo by iStock.com

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is pleased that Gretchen Whitmer won the nomination last night in the Democratic primary for Michigan’s gubernatorial race, with just over 50 percent of the vote. HSLF ran an ad campaign against one of her Democratic opponents, Shri Thanedar, highlighting the alleged neglect of animals at a testing facility he once owned. Thanedar reportedly continued this neglect by fighting efforts to place the dogs and monkeys into sanctuaries. HSLF had spread the word about his record on animal cruelty and urged citizens to sign a petition at www.TellShri.com.

Whitmer will now face Republican nominee Bill Schuette in the November general election.

In a matter of great importance to animal advocates, voters in Springfield, Missouri, shot down Question 1, which would have banned the ownership of pit bull-type dogs within city limits, with about 68 percent siding with the “No” vote. Last fall, the city council, in a misguided attempt to improve public safety, passed the measure by a vote of 5 to 4, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote. But the dedicated advocates of Springfield refused to give up and collected more than 8,000 signatures to require the ordinance to go to a vote of the people.

Ordinances targeting dogs based on how they look are ineffective, have no basis in science, and are not supported by animal welfare experts or veterinarians. Congratulations to the Citizens Against BSL coalition for soundly defeating this misguided anti-dog measure.

As we get closer to the November general election, there are two important statewide ballot measures to watch. A “Yes” on Prop 12 in California will upgrade the state law to prevent baby veal calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens from being crammed inside tiny cages for their entire lives on factory farms. The measure is backed by HSLF and a coalition of animal welfare groups, veterinarians, and food safety experts.

A “Yes” on Amendment 13 in Florida will end the cruelty of greyhound racing in Florida, the hub of the industry where 11 of the nation’s 17 remaining dog racing tracks are located. Last week, a circuit court judge ruled that Floridians should not be allowed to vote on the measure. This ruling was immediately appealed by the state of Florida and “stayed,” which means Amendment 13 remains on the ballot while the Florida Supreme Court takes it up for review. We are working with Grey2K, the Doris Day Animal League, and other coalition partners to make sure the voters have an opportunity to have their say on greyhound racing.  

Please support these critical animal welfare ballot measure campaigns, and stay tuned for more updates from HSLF on important candidate races.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Breaking: Trump administration proposes new changes to weaken Endangered Species Act

Today's blog post is authored by Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund and Kitty Block, acting President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

During the past year and a half, the Trump administration and the 115th Congress have launched over a hundred attacks on the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock law that protects endangered and threatened animal species and their habitats. Today, the administration dealt the latest body blow to this law by proposing changes that would weaken it and make it harder to secure federal protections for endangered and threatened species.

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Photo courtesy of hkuchera/iStock.com

Under today’s proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would establish additional roadblocks to securing comprehensive protections for threatened species. The administration also wants to make the process of removing species from the ESA easier.

This death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach aims to extinguish one of the country’s most effective and popular statutes, on which the survival of so many wildlife species depends. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct. This results in part from the statute’s flexibility and the collaboration it facilitates among federal, state, triba,l and local officials. The ESA enjoys wide support with the American public too. A 2015 poll by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of self-described conservatives, support upholding the ESA. Another study by Hart Research Associates from 2016 found that 70 percent of Americans oppose removing ESA protections from threatened species such as gray wolves and sage-grouse.

We are grateful that the administration will not apply any of these regulations retroactively to previous decisions for species receiving protections under the ESA, but there is little doubt about what’s going on with this proposal. It’s an attempt to decimate the effectiveness of the ESA, plain and simple.

Congress has launched its own attacks on the ESA, and on Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to discuss a bill, authored by EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to gut the ESA’s efficacy and harm conservation organizations’ ability to enforce the law’s protections. The draft proposal contains many damaging provisions, including turning over much ESA decision-making authority to the states.

Unfortunately, states do not always prioritize wildlife protection, as we saw when gray wolves and grizzly bears lost federal ESA protections in Wyoming and the states promptly declared hunting seasons on these animals. The bill also would make litigation over ESA listing and delisting more difficult.

A similar attack surfaced in the House when the Congressional Western Caucus oversaw the introduction of nine bills assailing various aspects of the ESA. One of the bills allows information provided by states, tribes or localities to constitute the “best available science” regardless of its quality or scientific merit, for making ESA decisions. Another bill makes it easier for the Fish and Wildlife Service to dismiss ESA-listing petitions without thorough evaluation.

Keeping the Endangered Species Act strong is critical if we are to ensure that threatened and endangered animals, including species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and African lions and elephants, do not go extinct. The Humane Society of United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are at the forefront of the battle to protect the ESA, but we need your help. The administration and your congressional delegation need to hear that you don’t support a dismantling of our nation’s cornerstone law designed to protect and save iconic wildlife, in the United States and around the world. The ESA is essential to the protection of animals, and we’re doing our best to turn back threats to its integrity and efficacy. And so can you.

Let the Administration know that you strongly oppose a dismantling of our nation’s cornerstone law designed to protect and save iconic wildlife, in the United States and around the world by leaving a comment here. Below is suggested text:

"The proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would weaken the ESA regulations by making it harder to secure and maintain federal protections for imperiled species. The FWS and NMFS should keep the existing ESA protections to save threatened and endangered animals from extinction."

Friday, June 29, 2018

Bipartisan approach yields results for animals in Senate farm bill vote

Today's blog is guest authored by the Humane Society Legislative Fund's new president, Sara Amundson.

By a vote of 86-11 last night, the Senate approved its bipartisan Farm Bill. Overall, it’s a much better package than what passed the House on June 21. For animals, the Senate bill contains two important measures and omits the worse provisions that could have been included. We are grateful for the leadership of Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Here’s a quick run-down of key points:   

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Jean Chung/For HSI

PRO-ANIMAL OUTCOMES

King Amendment – The Senate wisely opted not to include anything like the outrageous power grab that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tacked on the House Farm Bill to try to negate state and local laws regarding agriculture products. The King amendment—which is opposed by a diverse set of more than 220 groups from across the political spectrum—threatens to unwind countless duly-enacted measures to protect animals, consumers, and many other concerns, and it must be kept out of the final House/Senate Farm Bill.

Domestic Violence and Pets – At the behest of Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who sponsored the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, S. 322, this essential language to protect pets and families was folded into the initial Farm Bill that Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow brought to committee a few weeks ago. It will extend current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorize grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (only 3 percent currently allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. Many delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, a legitimate fear considering up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet. The PAWS provision is not in the House Farm Bill, so we’ll need to work hard with a broad coalition of supporters to ensure it is in the final package.

Dog and Cat Meat – Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) successfully appealed yesterday to Chairman Roberts and Sen. Stabenow to add their amendment to prohibit domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. It’s based on the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, H.R. 1406, which Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Dave Trott (R-Mich.), and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) got into the House Farm Bill during committee markup. The House and Senate provisions will prevent this appalling trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide. Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are subjected to this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars as they are subjected to unspeakable abuse to end up on someone’s dinner plate. 

Dodged Bullets – In addition to keeping out anything like Steve King’s amendment, the Senate did not incorporate many harmful amendments that were filed, including:

  • Animal Welfare Inspections at Research Facilities – Senator Marco Rubio tried to eliminate the Animal Welfare Act’s modest requirement for annual inspections of animal laboratories and weaken enforcement, despite recurring problems cited by USDA’s Inspector General.
  • ESA Attacks – Several amendments to weaken Endangered Species Act protections were left out of the package, including amendments targeting prairie dogs, bald eagles, and sage grouse, and the “SAVES” Act  (S. 2778) offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing any foreign species as threatened or endangered under the ESA, which could allow invasive experiments on chimpanzees to resume and open the door to interstate commerce of elephant ivory.
  • Truck Driver Rest/Livestock – Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) tried to drastically expand already excessively long truck driving shifts, which would increase the risk of crashes that endanger everyone on the road and animals being hauled.

MAJOR MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

We are very disappointed that the Senate Farm Bill does not include two priority measures:

Checkoff – By a vote of 38-57, the Senate rejected the reasonable amendment offered by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to correct abuses by commodity checkoff programs such as those for beef, pork, and eggs. Based on the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, S. 741/H.R. 1753, the amendment would bring greater transparency and accountability and prevent checkoff dollars from being misused to lobby against animal welfare reforms and family farmer interests. It has strong support by more than 100 organizations representing over 250,000 family farmers and ranchers and many other interests, including the Heritage Foundation, National Farmers Union, R Street, Organization for Competitive Markets, Family Farm Action, National Taxpayers Union, American Grass-fed Association, National Dairy Producers Organization, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Animal Fighting – The Senate failed to consider a bipartisan amendment led by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and cosponsored by Sens. Booker, Heller, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting activity “in or affecting interstate commerce” are to be consistently applied in all U.S. jurisdictions including the U.S. territories. Mirroring the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, S. 2971/H.R. 4202, this amendment would protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gangs, protect public health and the food supply from bird flu and other disease transmission, and enhance enforcement of federal animal fighting law across the country. Fortunately, an identical amendment was incorporated into the House Farm Bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51, so we will push for it to be sustained in the final House/Senate bill.

It’s hard to know how quickly things may move to the next stage, since the House and Senate are far apart on key controversies such as reforms to nutrition assistance programs. But with your help, we’ll be ready, and will redouble our efforts to ensure that Congress enacts a Farm Bill containing the best of both from the Senate and House versions—keeping the King amendment and other harmful provisions out and including the pro-animal provisions on pets/domestic violence, dog and cat meat, and animal fighting.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

From Atlanta to Umbabat, American trophy hunters pose a threat to endangered species

This week, the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a Department of the Interior advisory group dominated by big-game trophy hunters, held its second public meeting, in Atlanta. This advisory group seeks to promote the trophy hunting of charismatic animal species on the taxpayer dime—and questions and discussions at the meeting underscored that the council aims to weaken existing protections for threatened and endangered species, all to make it easier for trophy hunters to import animal trophies into the United States.

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Skye, the lion, who was allegedly killed by a
trophy hunter

Council members appeared miffed by the widespread negative perception of trophy hunting and attributed this to the American public’s lack of understanding about the purported multitude of conservation benefits that they themselves attribute to trophy hunting. They also sounded the customary—and false—note that animals will go extinct if trophy hunting were stopped.

This council’s membership is stacked with trophy hunting enthusiasts, celebrity hunters, and industry lobbyists, and the two public proceedings they have held so far have demonstrated how it’s imbalanced and outside the mainstream of American views on conservation and wildlife protection. The council takes the Orwellian approach that the only way to save wild animals from going extinct is to shoot them.

A 2017 analysis found that trophy hunting has relatively low economic value as a wildlife-related activity. While tourism contributes to at most 5.1 percent of the GDP among the eight African study countries, the total economic contribution of trophy hunting is at most about 0.03 percent of that figure. Foreign hunters make up less than 0.1 percent of tourists on average and they contribute 0.78 percent or less of the $17 billion in overall tourism spending. Trophy hunting’s contribution to tourism employment is only 0.76 percent or less of average direct tourism employment.       

Moreover, the trophy hunting of imperiled species is biologically unsustainable. Trophy hunters target the biggest and strongest animals with impressive tusks, horns, manes, and other distinguishing characteristics. Science has shown that trophy hunting alters the biological characteristics and population dynamics of the hunted species, too.   

In a terrible coincidence, just days before the Atlanta meeting, we learned of the alleged killing of a male lion named Skye in the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Reportedly, the lion was baited to facilitate the hunt; in any event, Skye has not been seen since June 7 when the hunt took place, according to local sources, and it’s possible that an American hunter could be responsible for his death. 

Skye, with his stunning mane and majestic posture, is a favorite subject of wildlife photographers and tourists. He’s a dominant male who heads a pride known to frequent both the Kruger National Park and Umbabat; the pride consists of three cubs, three sub-adults, and six lionesses.

One of the pride’s young cubs has reportedly been killed by a competing pride following Skye’s disappearance. If the cub’s killing is confirmed, it is a somber reminder that trophy hunting of lions carries a significant ecological price tag affecting not just the animal hunted but also the pride members left behind.  

The Umbabat Private Nature Reserve and the Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency, the provincial authority that grants permits for trophy hunts, have vehemently denied that the hunted lion was Skye. However, they have not publicly presented photographic evidence of the hunted animal to verify this; nor have they granted third party requests to view and examine the skin of the hunted lion. Photographs are especially critical to establishing a hunted animal’s identity. Skye, for example, has a distinguishing scar under his left eye and S-shaped scar on his right flank.

Even if the killed lion is not Skye, it is a cause for alarm that lions protected in Kruger National Park could fall victim to senseless and bloody trophy hunting when they step over its invisible geographical boundaries into the adjoining private reserves. More than 1.4 million visitors flock to Kruger National Park each year to view wildlife, including lions, bringing in tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. In South Africa, trophy hunting brings in only 1.2 percent of the income brought in by tourism. Math makes the indictment real: trophy hunting is robbing South Africa of the very thing that tourists will pay to see, over and over again: live lions and other animals. A lion or elephant can be enjoyed alive by hundreds or thousands of photographers and tourists—but only killed once by a trophy hunter.

It’s a long way from Atlanta to Umbabat, but there is a direct connection between the formation of the International Wildlife Conservation Council and the growing threat to threatened and endangered animal species in Africa and elsewhere. The United States has long been the world’s largest importer of lion hunting trophies—even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed African lions as threatened and endangered in 2016, the agency continues to allow American hunters to import lion trophies from certain African countries, including South Africa. The Service is responsible for forging an intelligent conservation policy and it would be unlawful for it to rely on advice from a council stacked with big-game trophy hunters. South Africa has approximately 2,800 of the 20,000 lions in the world, and we need to do what we can to keep every one of them alive.

Please take a minute to send a letter to USFWS and ask them to deny any application to import wild lion trophies from South Africa.

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