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April 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Legislation Would Protect Animals in Maine Laboratories from Severe Suffering

There are important bills in Congress to address some of the worst problems in animal research, such as the costly invasive research on chimps  and the trafficking in stolen pets for research. But the state legislatures, too, have been working to address important laboratory animal welfare issues. Yesterday, The Humane Society of the United States testified in support of new Maine legislation that would protect animals used in experiments in the state from severe suffering. LD 779, sponsored by Denise Harlow, D-Portland, would prohibit severe pain and distress caused to animals during experimental procedures, their handling and care, or any other conditions in Maine research institutions.

Brown rat
iStockphoto

Rep. Harlow spoke of the importance of protecting animals and recounted how a friend’s experience working in an animal research lab reinforced her interest in sponsoring this legislation. We applaud her leadership on this issue. If passed, this would be the first state law in the nation to protect laboratory animals from extreme pain and distress.   

During yesterday’s hearing in front of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, my colleague Kathleen Conlee, senior director of animal research issues for The HSUS, recounted her past experiences working in a primate breeding and research facility where she witnessed suffering that could have been avoided or alleviated with anesthetics, pain killers, palliative care, behavioral management, and other measures. Conlee recalled witnessing monkeys in prolonged pain following major operations; monkeys mutilating themselves and suffering from anxiety as a result of maternal deprivation as infants and social isolation as adults; and other monkeys who were debilitated and in chronic pain due to an unknown wasting disease.

As expected, those who testified in opposition to the bill tried to argue that animals are adequately protected under federal laws—but that simply isn’t the case. Federal laws, including the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Public Health Service Policy, place no restrictions on the level of suffering caused to animals. Furthermore, certain institutions have no federal oversight at all, such as those that rely on private funding and use species not regulated by the AWA. Astoundingly, mice and rats bred and used for research aren’t protected by the AWA, even though they make up 95 percent of the animals used. Congress never intended the AWA to stand as a roadblock to local animal protection laws, and specifically included a provision in the AWA making clear that the Act "shall not prohibit any state (or a political subdivision of such state) from promulgating standards" of care on their own.

For these reasons, state legislation to restrict the worst levels of animal suffering is appropriate and essential. LD 779 would provide protection to all vertebrate animals from the worst levels of suffering. Opinion polls show that 75 percent of the public opposes animal research that causes severe suffering—so LD 779 would help to narrow the gap between institutional research practices and public sentiments.

We urge Maine lawmakers to pass this bill to provide this basic protection to the estimated millions of animals used for research in the state. Animals in laboratories deserve protection from the worst levels of suffering. If you live in Maine, please contact your representatives today and ask them to support LD 779.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Missouri House Votes Against Dogs, Democracy

This week the Missouri House of Representatives voted to repeal most of Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, just five months after Missouri voters approved common-sense standards for the care of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding facilities. These politicians decided to defy the will of the voters and dismantle Prop B piece by piece, stripping away the requirements such as clean water, veterinary exams, and space for exercise, and reverting to the weak law that allowed thousands of dogs to be crammed into rows of stacked, wire cages.

Puppymill The vote was fairly close, with a margin of 85-71 (like the Senate vote, which was 20-14). Twenty-six Republicans and 45 Democrats in the House voted to stop the repeal and to keep Prop B intact. Several lawmakers spoke out against overturning the will of the people, such as Reps. Scott Sifton, D-96, Eileen McGeoghegan, D-77, Margo McNeil, D-78, and Jill Schupp, D-82, and offered amendments to restore some basic animal welfare standards, such as space requirements and making sure cages are cleaned once a day. Their amendments were voted down by legislators who essentially wanted complete deregulation for puppy mills, but we are grateful to these representatives who stood up and fought hard on the House floor for the will of the people to be upheld.

Not only did a narrow majority of lawmakers choose to overturn a statewide vote, but some of them even voted against their own districts. Thirteen representatives whose districts favored Prop B voted to repeal the ballot measure:

  • Jamilah Nasheed, D-60, 80.8% for Prop B
  • Jerry Nolte, R-33, 70% for Prop B
  • Noel Torpey, R-52, 65.5% for Prop B
  • John McCaherty, R-90, 62.8% for Prop B
  • Kurt Bahr, R-19, 61.7% for Prop B
  • Paul Wieland, R-102, 61.5% for Prop B
  • John Diehl, R-87, 61.4% for Prop B
  • Doug Funderburk, R-12, 60.5% for Prop B
  • T.J. Berry, R-35, 57.1% for Prop B
  • Terry Swinger, D-162, 56.3% for Prop B
  • Paul Curtman, R-105, 54.7% for Prop B
  • Bill White, R-129, 53.4% for Prop B
  • Melissa Leach, R-137, 51.5% for Prop B

If you live in one of their districts, please call them at the House switchboard at (573) 751-3659 and let them know how disappointed you are that they went against their own constituents and decided to repeal your vote. You can see how your own representative voted—“aye” to repeal Prop B, or “no” to stop the repeal and keep Prop B intact—and call them through the House switchboard as well.

It’s outrageous that a handful of politicians can substitute their judgment for the wisdom of nearly one million Missouri voters who favored Prop B. It’s this type of arrogance that makes people lose faith in the political process, mistrust politicians, and question the value of even voting or participating in the first place. It’s one of the reasons a broad coalition of groups from across the political spectrum—such as The HSUS, ASPCA, Citizens in Charge, Americans for Tax Reform, and Americans for Limited Government—have filed the Voter Protection Act to amend the Missouri state constitution and require a higher threshold for legislators to repeal citizen initiatives, a protection that already exists in other states such as Arizona and Michigan. You can get involved with this effort by visiting protectvoters.com and help to qualify this constitutional amendment for the November 2012 ballot and provide greater protections for the citizen decision-making process.

The Voter Protection Act could protect citizen initiatives in the future, but Prop B is in jeopardy right now. It’s now up to Governor Jay Nixon to stop this assault on voting rights, and he has 15 days to sign or veto the repeal bill. It’s time for every person who cares about protecting dogs in substandard puppy mills and protecting the will of the people to contact Governor Nixon at (573) 751-3222, and ask him to veto SB 113.

If the repeal bill is enacted, we are prepared to immediately begin gathering signatures for a referendum to bring this issue back to Missouri voters in 2012 and allow the people to have the final say. Cracking down on puppy mills has never been easy, but the battle is far from over. Thank you for standing with us in this critical fight for the welfare of dogs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Great Ape Protection & Cost Savings Act

I just concluded a press conference on Capitol Hill with Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and other animal advocates to announce today’s introduction of the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act. The legislation, led by Representatives Bartlett, Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Dave Reichert, R-Wash., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Ed Towns, D-N.Y., and Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would phase out invasive research on chimpanzees, retire federally-owned chimps to sanctuaries, and save taxpayers about $30 million annually. The House bill already has more than 40 original cosponsors.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., calls for an end to the use of
chimps in research. photo: Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Bartlett, a physiologist who conducted primate research with NASA and the military, spoke passionately about the need to protect chimps from abuse and phase out research that is fiscally irresponsible and scientifically ineffective. My colleague Kathleen Conlee, senior director of animal research issues for The HSUS, also spoke about her past experience working in primate laboratories and the need to protect these highly intelligent and social creatures.

At a time when our federal government is looking for ways to cut spending and put an end to wasteful programs, here is a perfect opportunity to help animals and the bottom line. Taxpayers are footing the bill for the cost of millions of dollars in invasive research; the breeding of federally-owned chimps (despite a 1995 National Institutes of Health prohibition on producing more infants for labs); and the long-term warehousing of chimps when they are no longer used in active research protocols, including those they don't even own. There are only 1,000 chimps in six U.S. labs, and half of them are owned by the federal government—most are not being used in research but are languishing in isolation in cages. At an estimated cost of $20,000 per chimp per year, and chimps living up to the age of 60, every chimp born into the system represents a hefty $1 million bill for taxpayers.

In 2009, The HSUS released the results of a comprehensive undercover investigation of New Iberia Research Center, part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the largest chimp lab in the world with more than 325 chimpanzees. This investigation revealed the psychological and physical suffering that chimps are forced to endure every day in the laboratory—some for more than 50 years.

One elderly chimp, Karen, was captured in the wild in the 1950s and has been languishing in the lab since Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.

We have since uncovered what appears to be illegal breeding at this very facility—with 123 infants born in violation of NIH policy and likely in violation of federal contracts. We have filed legal petitions with the Attorney General and other agencies to investigate and prosecute possible contract fraud. Most heart-wrenching, however, are the deaths of 14 infants at the facility due to trauma by other chimps—likely the result of overcrowding, negligence, and poor management practices. Chimps are long-lived, expensive, and dangerous, and perhaps that’s why the U.S. is the last developed nation that still uses them in research.

We can do better for these creatures, and we can do better for U.S. taxpayers. Please email your members of Congress today, or call (202) 224-3121, and ask them to take swift action and pass the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Endangered Gray Wolves Fall Prey to Budget Deal

Congress and the White House averted a government shutdown Friday night, but the casualties in the deal are endangered gray wolves. A provision snuck into the budget compromise and supported by lawmakers of both political parties will strip wolves in the Northern Rockies of their federal protections for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011, clearing the way for Montana and Idaho to open sport hunting and trapping seasons on these creatures. It’s the first time a species has been “de-listed” by legislative fiat, and it sets a terrible precedent for the gutting of environmental laws—allowing any group of lawmakers from any state who don’t like a particular species to simply strike them off the list.

Wolves Proponents of wolf killing have failed numerous times to demonstrate in court that wolves have recovered and that the states had sound wildlife management plans to keep from pushing them back to the precipice of extinction. So rather than basing the decision on sound science, it’s now been based on politics. Republicans and Democrats from western states have been party to this end-run around scientific wildlife management decisions and the Endangered Species Act, and have crammed this political power grab into a must-pass budget bill. This article by Phil Taylor of Greenwire explains the situation further.

Friday, April 08, 2011

What Would a Government Shutdown Mean for Animals?

A government shutdown is looming if Congress and the White House don’t reach agreement on the budget crisis or pass another short-term extension to fund federal operations by midnight tonight. In a shutdown, “non-essential” federal workers are furloughed, while some “essential” operations continue. Several people have asked how a government shutdown would affect animals, either by suspending critical animal welfare functions or providing a temporary reprieve from government killing programs. Here’s a brief rundown on some of the effects that we expect a shutdown could have on animals:

Dog at a Tennessee puppy mill
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

  • Animals in research, puppy mills, and zoos and circuses

Under the Animal Welfare Act, USDA is charged with ensuring that minimum standards of care and treatment are provided by regulated entities (approximately 12,000 sites currently), including research facilities, commercial dog breeders and dealers, and exhibitors of exotic animals. Without federal government funding, USDA will not be able to inspect these facilities to ensure humane care or provide enforcement against violators, meaning puppy mills, research labs, and the like could cut corners and operate recklessly while no one is watching. In addition, USDA momentum on important rulemaking provisions to strengthen Animal Welfare Act protections for puppy mill dogs and other creatures will grind to a halt if a shutdown occurs.

  • Wildlife Services

Annually, USDA’s Wildlife Services program kills tens of thousands of predators on both public and private lands. Predominantly coyotes are killed—regardless of whether they cause any harm to livestock or other property—but also wolves, bears, and mountain lions, as well as non-target victims including endangered species and family pets. WS also poisons millions of starlings and other “nuisance” birds (ironically, often for eating the seeds being grown for bird food). We assume that WS operations will cease during a shutdown, which will provide some relief to wildlife typically targeted through aerial gunning, poisoning, and other inhumane methods. We are extremely concerned, however, about the potential for harm to animals caught in traps and left to suffer for prolonged periods of time if traps lines remain unchecked by furloughed government trappers. If a shutdown occurs, we encourage USDA to disable all traps to prevent animals from suffering and dying of blood loss, exposure to the elements, or predation. 

  • Tennessee Walking Horses

Under the Horse Protection Act, USDA is mandated to ensure that Tennessee Walking Horses are not subjected to the abusive practice of soring—the intentional infliction of pain to a horse’s legs or hooves with chemicals or other substances in order to force an artificial, exaggerated gait. Without federal government funding, USDA oversight and inspection will not be provided at Tennessee Walking Horse shows; USDA will not be able to impose penalties upon violators; and USDA will not be able to move forward rules that the agency is currently drafting to strengthen its horse protection program to prevent cruelty to these horses.

  • Humane slaughter

Slaughter plants cannot conduct slaughter operations without the presence of USDA inspectors overseeing that food safety and humane handling regulations are followed. USDA has told meat industry representatives that front-line inspectors will be designated “essential” if a government shutdown occurs tonight, but most management personnel will be furloughed. When serious humane handling violations occur, inspectors are supposed to notify upper-management, who make the decision to suspend slaughter plant operations. So a shutdown could mean that plants with ongoing violations would continue to operate without this high-level enforcement function in place—potentially allowing serious cruelty to go uninterrupted during the slaughter process. 

  • Wild horses

The Bureau of Land Management has stated that it will not make any determination on whether round-ups of wild horses from the range will occur until a budget for fiscal year 2011 is passed. This includes the wasteful round-ups of horses to place them in long-term government holding pens, but also the more humane and fiscally responsible short-term round-ups needed for the application of fertility control and release of horses to live on the range. We were pleased to hear that even if the government does shut down, the agency has contingency plans in place to feed and care for the more than 40,000 horses already in short and long-term holding facilities.

  • National wildlife refuges

In response to our concerns about poaching of wildlife at national wildlife refuges, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explained that law enforcement staff will be considered “essential” employees during a government shutdown. There will be at least one agent on duty at every refuge that normally has an officer (currently, there are only 400 officers for 553 refuges). Patrolling vast amounts of land with scarce resources, these officers are the last line of defense to prevent illegal killing of wildlife.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Spending that’s Worth Every Penny

As Congress focuses on cutting federal spending, we have proposed several ideas for easing the burden on taxpayers while simultaneously helping animals. There’s plenty of indefensible spending that should be curbed—such as massive subsidies for well-off operators of huge factory farms, taxpayer-financed poisoning of wildlife, rounding up wild horses to keep them in long-term holding pens, and warehousing chimpanzees in costly laboratories.

Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif.
A dog rescued from a puppy mill in Tennessee.
Animal welfare funding would help strengthen oversight of puppy mills.

But Congress can achieve macro-level cuts and still take care to ensure that specific small and vital accounts have the funds they need. Whether an animal welfare law will be effective often turns on whether it gets adequately funded. Having legislators seek that funding is crucial, especially when there are strong competing budget pressures as there are now. Our fortunes are intertwined with those of animals, and proper enforcement not only helps these creatures but also helps to improve food safety, public health, disaster preparedness, and other social concerns.

Congressmen Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) are circulating a letter to the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which seeks funds to improve enforcement of key animal welfare laws in Fiscal Year 2012, and they are asking their colleagues to co-sign this letter and lend their support. The funds requested in the letter are modest, but are critically needed to implement and enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act, the federal animal fighting law, and programs to help prepare for the needs of animals in disasters and to address the shortage of veterinarians in rural and inner-city areas and public health practice.

Your representative needs to hear from you today. Click here to find your representative’s name and contact information.

Please urge your U.S. representative to co-sign the House animal welfare funding group letter being circulated by Representatives Smith and Blumenauer, or include these items among his/her own individual requests, before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee’s deadline of April 14th.

This is just the latest installment in a multiyear effort. The HSUS and HSLF have been steadily building the enforcement budgets for these laws, recognizing that laws on the books won’t do animals much good if they’re not enforced. Over the past twelve years, for example, we’ve succeeded in boosting the annual funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act by 139.5% (a cumulative total of more than $84 million in new dollars to the program). Today, there are 130 USDA inspectors, compared to about 60 inspectors during the 1990s, to help ensure basic humane treatment at thousands of puppy mills, research laboratories, zoos, circuses, and other facilities.

Thanks to your work, Congress can help sustain our efforts to protect animals from cruelty and abuse. It’s an investment in the animals’ future—and our own.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Bond: On Sale Today

Today marks the release of Wayne Pacelle’s book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, published by William Morrow/Harper Collins. It draws on Wayne’s quarter-century of leadership in the animal welfare movement, and seeks to disentangle the contradiction between the love and celebration of animals in our society and the tolerance for businesses, enterprises and individual practices that harm pets, wildlife, and farm animals on a massive scale.

The-bond It’s also a marker of progress for animal welfare, as The Bond is one of the first major political books for animals, looking back on major political activity in the movement and calling folks to action on political advocacy for animals in the future. A quarter-century ago, the legislative activity and political organizing on behalf of animal protection had been scarce. Few groups focused on public policy issues, either at the state or federal level. Congress had passed laws such as the Humane Slaughter Act in 1958 and the Animal Welfare Act in 1966, but then had stalled on giving serious consideration to the emerging animal welfare issues of the day with few exceptions. The 1990s and 2000s, however, saw a raft of federal policies enacted dealing with animal fighting, retirement of laboratory chimps, pets in disasters, the trade in big cats, animal crush videos and more.

The ballot initiative process, too, had not been used frequently or successfully by animal advocates before the 1990s, even while the process itself had been available in many states and gaining popularity through the twentieth century. Only a handful of animal issues qualified for the ballot—dealing with vivisection, steel-jawed leghold traps, moose hunting, veal crates, and other issues—and all of them failed, except for a dove hunting ban passed by South Dakota voters in 1972 and repealed just eight years later. Beginning in 1990, however, under Wayne’s leadership, initiative and referenda have been used to usher in a series of public policy reforms for animals at the state level, dealing with cockfighting, puppy mills, factory farming, wildlife abuses, and more. The HSUS, HSLF, and The Fund for Animals have been involved in 42 statewide ballot campaigns and have won 30, for a win rate of 72 percent—the highest of any social movement that uses the initiative process—and the election outcomes have triggered other policy advances and corporate reforms around the country.

With the formation of groups such as HSLF and new political organizations at the state level, our movement finally has the tools available not only to influence legislation on animal issues but also to influence the election of candidates and work to elect humane-minded people to public office. In order to compete with well-heeled industries that put profits before animal welfare, it’s not enough just to have good ideas. We need to have a powerful political force for animals.

The HSUS and HSLF have always attacked the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms. While vital to our mission, rescuing individual animals is not enough. Our most important goal is to prevent cruelty to animals and stop animals from getting into situations of distress in the first place. That’s why it is critical that we work to pass local, state, and federal laws, make sure existing animal protection laws are properly enforced, and conduct public awareness campaigns and undercover investigations calling on corporations and individuals to be better citizens to animals, so that we can prevent large-scale cruelties. 

An early news story about The Bond by Ben Goad of the Riverside Press-Enterprise recounts The HSUS’s undercover investigation into the torment of spent dairy cows at a Chino slaughter plant that was the number two supplier of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program, which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history and a series of federal reforms on humane handling and slaughter enforcement. It also jolted the American conscience on factory farming issues in the run-up to California’s vote on Proposition 2, which phases out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens. Goad writes:

Pacelle also credited the investigation with helping to pass Prop. 2.

Though the initiative had nothing to do with slaughter practices, it helped put a spotlight on animal treatment in agricultural plants, he said. He recalled watching the 2008 election results from the same Los Angeles hotel where, coincidentally, he writes, the California Democratic Party was celebrating the victory of President Barack Obama.

"The first county returns I looked for were those of the Inland Empire,” he writes. “In the end, Prop. 2 got 62.5 percent of the vote in Riverside and 62 percent in San Bernardino. They proved to be the bellwethers we thought they’d be.”

It was nearly unthinkable a quarter-century ago that states and food retailers would phase out the confinement of farm animals, that the United States would have a national ban on dogfighting and cockfighting, that we would see stronger regulation of puppy mills and the exotic pet trade, and The Bond chronicles this progress in the political arena. You can order The Bond online or pick it up at your local bookstore starting today, see Wayne on his nationwide book tour in the coming weeks and months, and be part of the movement to achieve even more political gains for animals in the next few decades.

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