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December 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Where do the GOP Candidates Stand on Animal Issues?

Dog by capitol building - iStockphoto

The Humane Society Legislative Fund has not yet made any recommendation in the 2012 presidential race, but over the coming months we will be evaluating President Obama’s animal welfare record during his first term and looking at where the major Republican candidates stand on animal issues. Three of the major candidates remaining are current or ex-governors, one is a former U.S. Senator and House member, two serve in the U.S. House, and one served in the House and was Speaker of the House.

In short, each one has a record on animal welfare issues, and it’s an especially good time to examine the issues with the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday evening, and primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina later in January. Animal advocates should factor animal issues when they evaluate the candidates and make a final decision.

Michelle Bachmann: Bachmann has generally gotten low marks on animal issues in Congress, earning an 8 percent (out of 100) on the Humane Scorecard for the 110th Congress, a 13 percent for the 111th Congress, and she’s on track to get 13 percent again for 2011. She has supported only a handful of animal protection bills during her congressional career, voting for measures to make animal fighting a federal felony, to ban commerce in animal crush videos, and to pair veterans with service dogs for therapy. She also supported an amendment in the House this year to limit agriculture subsidy payments to factory farms. She has, however, opposed most animal welfare measures, including modest reforms to ban the trade in dangerous primates as pets, to stop the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses from public lands, to prohibit the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada, and to assist conservation programs that protect rare cats and dogs, cranes, marine turtles, and sea otters. She also voted to use tax dollars to kill wildlife as a subsidy to private livestock ranchers, and to block the Environmental Protection Agency from collecting data on greenhouse gases from factory farms.

Newt Gingrich: Gingrich earned a 21 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 103rd Congress, but did not have scores for subsequent sessions since the Speaker of the House typically does not vote. He did vote to allow sport hunting in the Mojave National Preserve, and to allow foreign aid dollars to be used to promote trophy hunting of elephants and other species. On the positive side, he cosponsored legislation to strengthen the Endangered Species Act, and when he was Speaker helped to prevent the weakening of endangered species protections. Gingrich is, so far, the only presidential candidate who has actively talked about the importance of the human-animal bond while on the campaign trail. He launched a web site called “Pets with Newt,” and he is widely known to be a fan of zoos. Gingrich wrote the foreword to the guidebook “America’s Best Zoos,” and often stops by to visit the local zoo when he’s in a new city.

Jon Huntsman: During his time as governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009, Huntsman signed a number of animal protection bills into law, including measures to create a dog and cat spay and neuter fund, to allow out-of-state veterinarians to assist during emergencies, and to ban the remote-controlled shooting of live animals over the Internet. He did more than sign bills, and actively used his leadership position to move an important policy toward enactment: At a time when Utah was one of a handful of states that did not have felony-level penalties for animal cruelty, Huntsman called a special session of the legislature in 2007 to address, among other issues, a felony animal cruelty bill known as Henry’s Law, named after a tortured dog. His spokeswoman said the governor supported the bill and that “Gov. Huntsman believes this legislation is very important and a progressive step in the right direction in how we can all better treat animals.” When he signed a bill in 2008 creating a first-offense felony penalty for abusing dogs or cats, he praised the animal advocates for their persistence in advocating for the new law, and stated, “As we treat our animals, so do we treat our fellow human beings. There is a connection there that I think is undeniable.”

Ron Paul: Like Bachmann, Ron Paul has consistently received low marks on animal issues in Congress: He earned a 10 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 108th Congress, a 14 percent in the 109th Congress, a zero in the 110th Congress, a 7 percent in the 111th Congress, and he’s on track to get a 25 percent for 2011. He has voted to allow the slaughter of American horses for food exports, the killing of Yellowstone National Park bison, the trophy shooting of bears over piles of bait on federal lands, the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses from public lands, the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies, and the slaughter of downer livestock too sick or injured to walk on their own. He voted to block EPA from collecting data on factory farm emissions and voted against conservation legislation to protect rare cats and dogs, cranes, marine turtles, and sea otters. He was one of only a handful of lawmakers who opposed legislation to ban commerce in animal crush videos, to provide for pets in disaster planning, to ban the trade in dangerous primates as pets, to make dogfighting and cockfighting a felony, and to fund the enforcement of the federal animal fighting law. He has supported a handful of animal protection measures, to bar the trade in big cats as pets, to pair veterans with service dogs, and to cut funding for several government programs that harm animals, such as agriculture subsidies, lethal predator control, trapping on national wildlife refuges, and trophy hunting programs in foreign countries

Rick Perry: During his time as governor of Texas over the last decade, Perry has amassed a very strong record on animal protection, signing a number of animal protection bills into law, including measures to strengthen the animal cruelty and animal fighting laws multiple times, to regulate the private ownership of dangerous captive wildlife, to require the inclusion of animals in disaster plans, to protect bats, to allow the establishment of pet trusts, and to restrict the tethering of dogs, among others. The most recent legislative session was a banner year for animal protection lawmaking in Texas, and Perry signed bills in 2011 to regulate large-scale commercial dog and cat breeders, to ban attendance at cockfights and possession of cockfighting weapons, to require people convicted of cruelty to reimburse shelters for the costs of holding animals, and to allow pets and companion animals to be included in protective orders. The cockfighting industry and large-scale dog breeders urged him to veto these bills, and he tossed aside their concerns. He did veto a bill that would have allowed counties with populations greater than 450,000 to adopt ordinances regulating the roadside sale of animals. Perry famously paused while on a morning jog last year to shoot a coyote, and the state recently authorized the shooting of feral hogs from helicopters as well as the shooting of feral burros in Big Bend State Park. His staff members, however, are working with HSUS staff on the burro issue, and they have indicated that they are open to non-lethal approaches.

Mitt Romney: Romney attracted the ire of animal advocates when they learned that during a 1983 vacation, he put the family’s Irish setter, Seamus, in a carrier and strapped him to the roof rack of the station wagon. When the terrified dog urinated and defecated during the 12-hour drive, Romney pulled over, hosed down the dog, and continued the voyage from Boston to Ontario. As chief executive of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney also came under fire from animal protection groups for allowing a rodeo exhibition that included calf roping. His term as Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007 was mixed, and Romney did not distinguish himself on animal issues. He appointed a raft of animal-unfriendly people to the state Fisheries and Wildlife Board, even though Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure calling for more balanced wildlife policy. He vetoed a bill that would have given students the right to choose alternatives to animal dissection in the classroom. He did, however, sign a number of animal protection bills into law, including measures to strengthen the animal cruelty and animal fighting laws and prevent a convicted animal abuser from getting the animal back. 

Rick Santorum: Of all the candidates who have served in Congress, Santorum was arguably the most active on animal protection issues. He earned a 60 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 108th Congress, and an 80 percent for the 109th Congress. But more importantly, he was the lead sponsor of the Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS) to crack down on large-scale commercial puppy mills, and held a hearing on the bill when he was the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition and General Legislation. He was also a leader in the Senate urging adequate funding for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the federal animal fighting law, and other animal welfare programs. He cosponsored legislation to establish federal felony penalties for dogfighting and cockfighting, cosponsored legislation to require the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant to prevent the poisoning of pets, and voted to stop the slaughter of American horses for food exports.

It’s clear that Santorum, Perry, and Huntsman have the strongest animal protection records. They showed leadership and active support for our issues, and HSLF commends them for their past performance. Bachmann and Paul have demonstrated a consistent hostility or indifference to these concerns. Romney has largely been indifferent and has not been an active supporter. Gingrich has been a bit enigmatic, but he understands the power of the human-animal bond and has taken action to protect some of the most charismatic species.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The 2011 Congressional Year in Review for Animals

As the first year of the 112th Congress draws to a close, the Humane Society Legislative Fund takes stock of how animal protection fared in 2011. Despite congressional gridlock, budget standoffs, and deepening partisan divides, we were able to win some important victories for animals, set the stage for further progress in 2012, and demonstrate again that animal welfare is a core American value. We will soon publish our final 2011 Humane Scorecard, which rates members of Congress on their individual performance, but today I will provide a round-up of the year’s achievements, setbacks, and work that lies ahead.

Achievements

270x224_king_charles_tn_puppy_mill_kmilaniIt was undoubtedly a very tough budget climate to seek funding increases, with many lawmakers focused on deficit reduction this year. Nevertheless, thanks to a concerted lobbying push by The HSUS and HSLF and our supporters, Congress approved some record-level boosts for key animal welfare programs in fiscal year 2012:

  • Almost a 20 percent jump (more than $5 million increase) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s annual budget to strengthen inspections and enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act at about 12,000 sites, including puppy mills, laboratories, zoos, circuses, and other facilities. This is on top of $4 million in reprogrammed FY 2011 funds approved in October by Agriculture Appropriations leaders—Reps. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.—specifically to improve oversight at puppy mills. A bipartisan group of 125 representatives and 34 senators—led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La.—joined in seeking the FY 2012 boost for the Animal Welfare Act, along with funding for other key animal welfare programs. 
  • A nearly 40 percent jump ($196,000 increase) for USDA’s enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, which had been stuck at the woefully inadequate ceiling of $500,000 since 1976. These funds will help USDA crack down on the cruel and illegal practice of “soring” show horses, the intentional use of caustic chemicals and sharp objects on horses’ hooves and legs to make it painful for them to step down and give them an artificial, high-stepping gait in show competitions—in other words, deliberate infliction of severe pain in order to cheat and win prizes. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., championed this funding request.
  • A 17 percent jump ($2.32 million increase) for USDA’s Investigative and Enforcement Services, which does follow-up work on a range of cases including those under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. All of the FY 2012 increase is dedicated for animal welfare activities.
  • Maintaining $4.8 million (same as last year) for the veterinary student loan forgiveness program that helps ease the shortage of veterinarians practicing in rural areas and in government positions (such as those overseeing humane slaughter and Animal Welfare Act rules), by forgiving student debt for those who choose to practice in one of those underserved areas.
  • At least $20 million to help ensure implementation of labor and environmental provisions—including for wildlife protection programs—under free trade agreements with countries of Central America, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. 
  • Thanks to the work of the Center for Biological Diversity and others, $4 million to study and combat white-nose syndrome, a lethal disease that has had a devastating impact on millions of bats in North America.
  • In addition to funding animal welfare programs, the appropriations committees also included helpful report language directing the federal agencies and expressing concern about a number of important issues: 
    • Humane Slaughter—directing USDA to ensure that funds intended to strengthen oversight of humane handling rules are being used that way.
    • Animal Fighting—expressing strong concern and urging USDA to work with relevant agencies to investigate and enforce laws against dogfighting and cockfighting.
    • Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture—urging the Food and Drug Administration to take several specific actions to move forward on addressing the overuse of antibiotics in livestock for non-therapeutic purposes, a common practice on factory farms. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., led efforts on this. 
    • Pet Theft for Research—directing the National Institutes of Health to expedite its phase-out of Class B dealer-acquired dogs and cats in research (such dealers obtain animals through random sources, which can include theft of family pets and fraudulent response to “free to good home” ads). Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, played the key role on this.
    • Alternatives Development—requiring the NIH to prioritize funding for transition to computational, molecular and other non-animal tests for chemical risk assessment and drug testing, and report to Congress on progress; also requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to move to computational toxicology and other non-animal testing for the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Sen. Harkin championed these efforts.

And there were other bright spots for animal protection in 2011:

  • 270x224 white hen istockAs part of the final funding bill for USDA, Congress agreed to prohibit agribusiness subsidy direct payments to millionaires (individuals or legal entities with an average Adjusted Gross Income in excess of $1 million). Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., offered an amendment that was approved by an overwhelming 84-15 vote and then incorporated into the House-Senate conference package. Earlier in the year, similar amendments were offered in the House by Reps. Blumenauer and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.—those were defeated, but helped build momentum for this effort. Massive factory farms, which thrive on taxpayer giveaways that keep animal feed artificially cheap, jeopardize public health, the environment and animal welfare, while also driving smaller and more humane, sustainable family farms out of business. We hope Congress will enact further reforms to end wasteful handouts that support factory farms.
  • An anti-wildlife rider in the committee bill funding the Interior Department was removed, thanks to an amendment offered on the floor by Reps. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, which was approved by a vote of 224-202 in July. The “extinction rider” would have prevented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from implementing some of the most crucial sections of the Endangered Species Act, such as protecting any new species and designating critical habitat for currently listed species.
  • The final funding bill for the Interior Department contained a good provision barring the Bureau of Land Management from killing healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros or selling them for slaughter, as in past years.
  • The Senate’s Defense Department authorization bill would have inadvertently eliminated a prohibition in the Uniform Code of Military Justice against acts of bestiality by service members, as the Senate dealt with the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. After we contacted the key members of the House-Senate conference committee, the conferees restored the ban on bestiality.
  • The Army agreed to halt testing on monkeys of nerve agents meant to simulate a nerve gas attack, as urged by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.

Setbacks

Congress unfortunately took some adverse actions for animals this year, including the failure to renew language that has been in each of the annual funding bills for USDA since 2005 regarding horse slaughter. This “defund” language barred the agency from conducting inspections at or approving meat from horse slaughter plants. The language was incorporated into the House Agriculture Appropriations bill in May, thanks to a successful amendment offered in committee by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., but it was dropped in the final House-Senate conference negotiations in November. Americans don’t eat horses, and they don’t want them inhumanely killed, shrink-wrapped, and sent to Belgium or Japan for a high-priced appetizer. Nor do they want taxpayers to have to subsidize such a cruel industry. The omission of the defunding provision makes even more urgent our push to enact S. 1176 / H.R. 2966, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (led by Sens. Landrieu and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.) to prohibit the transport—within the U.S., as well as export to Mexico and Canada—of horses for slaughter for human consumption. The House bill currently has 153 cosponsors, and the Senate bill 27 cosponsors.

270x224_wolf_istockphotoIn another step backwards, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., led the charge against wolves by making an end run around the Endangered Species Act on the “continuing resolution” enacted in April to fund the federal government through FY 2011. Putting politics before science, they removed ESA protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. This delisting of a species by congressional fiat opened the door for reckless sport hunting and trapping of wolves in large numbers in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and sets a dangerous precedent for future politically motivated attacks on the ESA.

The House also defeated an amendment offered by Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., to cut $11 million in lethal predator control as a subsidy for private livestock ranchers. USDA’s Wildlife Services program routinely uses tax dollars to poison wildlife, shoot them from helicopters, and use other costly, cruel and indiscriminate methods that also kill pets and endangered species—and that don’t work effectively, since other predators move into the vacant territory. According to USDA, less than 1 percent of livestock are killed by predators. Non-lethal, cost-effective and humane control methods are available, yet the federal government continues to waste millions of tax dollars on inhumane killing methods.

Key Issues Ahead

We are halfway through a two-year congressional session, and there are a number of other animal protection issues which are still making their way through the process. We built critical momentum in 2011 on key issues like animal fighting, puppy mills, horse slaughter, and chimps in research, and all of those bills have large numbers of bipartisan cosponsors going into 2012. Here are some of the key issues that lie ahead:

Pets and Cruelty

  • Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act—To create a pilot program for training dogs, including shelter dogs, as a form of therapy to help treat combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment mental health conditions, and then have the animals become service dogs for veterans with disabilities. H.R. 198 introduced by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. / S. 1838 introduced by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and John Boozman, R-Ark. The House unanimously approved H.R. 198 as part of a package (H.R. 2074) of veterans’ health care bills, and it’s now pending in the Senate. 
  • Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act—To close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act by requiring that large commercial breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year directly to consumers via the Internet or other means be licensed and inspected; and to require that dogs used for breeding at commercial breeding facilities be provided the opportunity to exercise daily. H.R. 835 introduced by Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Farr, Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif. / S. 707 introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Vitter. The House bill currently has 192 cosponsors, and the Senate bill 32. Sens. Durbin and Vitter also sent a letter encouraging USDA to issue a regulation covering breeders selling directly to the public.  
  • Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act—To establish misdemeanor penalties for knowingly attending an organized animal fight and felony penalties for bringing a minor to such a fight. H.R. 2492 introduced by Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Betty Sutton, D-Ohio / S. 1947 introduced by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Scott Brown, R-Mass. The House bill currently has 179 cosponsors, and the Senate bill was just introduced.

Equine Issues

  • Horse Transportation Safety Act—To prohibit the use of double-decker vehicles to transport horses in interstate commerce. S. 1281 introduced by Sens. Kirk and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
  • Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act—To prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in horseracing, which jeopardizes the health and safety of both horses and jockeys, creates an unfair playing field, and corrupts the integrity of the sport. H.R. 1733 introduced by Rep. Whitfield / S. 886 introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Animals in Research

  • Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act—To phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, retire all (approximately 500) federally-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary, and prohibit the breeding of chimpanzees for invasive research. H.R. 1513 introduced by Reps. Bartlett, Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Dave Reichert, R-Wash., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Ed Towns, D-N.Y. / S. 810 introduced by Sens. Cantwell, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. Adopting these reforms for chimpanzees would save taxpayers $300 million over the next decade. 270x224_Chimp_Looking_iStockThe National Academies’ Institute of Medicine issued a report in December concluding that chimpanzees are largely unnecessary for research, and alternatives are readily available. Sens. Harkin, Tom Udall, and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., had requested the IOM study. The House bill currently has 152 cosponsors, and the Senate bill 13 cosponsors.
  • Animal Testing—As Congress looks for ways to reduce the federal deficit, we are pushing to replace outdated, costly, and time consuming animal tests that the National Toxicology Program still relies on, though they often yield unusable results, with much more efficient molecular, cellular and computational tests. For one-fifth the cost of a multi-year NTP carcinogenicity study, the NIH Chemical Genomics Center reports that it is able to screen up to 1,000 chemicals in 200 different robot-automated cell or gene tests in as little as two weeks. Shifting away from conventional animal testing to better test methods would save at least $500 million over the next decade.
  • Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act—To require the Secretary of Defense to use only human-based training methods for training members of the Armed Forces in the treatment of combat trauma injuries, and prohibit the use of animals in such training. H.R. 1417 introduced by Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif.

Farm Animals

  • Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments—To phase out barren battery cages for all 280 million laying hens in the United States, provide them with nearly twice as much space, mandate labels on egg cartons to inform consumers about how the eggs were produced, and make other needed reforms jointly agreed upon by The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers, which represents 87 percent of the egg industry in this country. This legislation will establish a uniform, mandatory national standard that ensures a level playing field for all producers and certainty about what will be required in the coming years, so they can make the necessary investments in their businesses. Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and others plan to introduce this bill early in 2012.
  • Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act—To phase out the routine non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals—a common practice to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions on factory farms—in order to maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating sick people and animals. H.R. 965 introduced by Rep. Slaughter / S. 1211 introduced by Sens. Feinstein and Collins.
  • Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act—To codify the USDA ban on the slaughter of downed cattle and strengthen it to cover other species, as well as downed calves, and ensure immediate humane euthanasia and application to livestock auctions and markets. H.R. 3704 introduced by Reps. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., and Peter King, R-N.Y.

Wildlife

  • Wild Horses—The House approved a $2 million cut in Bureau of Land Management funding for wild horse and burro management, offered as an amendment to H.R. 1 (a continuing resolution to fund the government through FY 2011) by Rep. Burton. The purpose of the cut was to call attention to serious problems in the BLM’s current management program of round-ups and long-term holding in federally-financed pens, and the availability of a more fiscally-responsible alternative approach involving humane fertility control (immunocontraception) on the range. 270x224 santana duchess - jkunzWhile H.R. 1 was ultimately defeated in the Senate, the House action helped spur BLM—a week after the Burton amendment’s approval—to announce its intention to overhaul its wild horse and burro management and modestly increase plans for using immunocontraception. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., led a group letter (co-signed by 64 other representatives) to the Department of Interior opposing a planned round-up to spay and geld wild horses; the letter noted that immunocontraception is more humane, and BLM subsequently cancelled its spay/geld plan, instead using immunocontraception. We will continue pushing to overhaul the BLM’s current system with a more humane, effective program that could save taxpayers $180 million over ten years.
  • Large Constrictor Snakes—The Obama administration has been delaying action on a long-awaited rule that would list nine invasive species of dangerous giant snakes, including pythons, boa constrictors, and anacondas, as “injurious” under the Lacey Act, which would ban their import into the U.S. or transportation between states. These snakes, sold for the pet trade, jeopardize public safety, animal welfare, and fragile ecosystems. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Reps. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., Bill Young, Dicks, Gregorio Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands, Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., mobilized letters urging the White House to finalize the rule, and were joined by 17 other representatives. In addition to the regulatory effort, Rep. Rooney introduced H.R. 511. If the Obama administration issues a weakened rule, or fails to address all nine species of snakes, we will continue to work in Congress for a comprehensive policy.
  • Captive Primate Safety Act—To prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the pet trade. S. 1324 introduced by Sens. Boxer, Vitter, and Blumenthal. The release of dozens of exotic animals including primates from a private farm in Ohio—which led to panic in the community and nearly all the animals being shot to death—highlighted the urgency for this legislation, reminding the nation about the out-of-control exotic pet industry that puts animals and people at risk every day.
  • Wildlife Conservation—Several bills to reauthorize programs that protect wildlife are advancing. House subcommittee hearings have been held on H.R. 1761, introduced by Rep. Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico, to extend a grant program for marine turtle conservation; on H.R. 1760, introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., to do the same for great ape populations and their habitats; and on H.R. 50, introduced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to reauthorize the Multinational Species Conservation Funds for the protection of the African and Asian elephant, rhinoceros, and tiger. S. 538, introduced by Sen. Cardin to extend the grant program for neotropical migratory bird conservation, was approved in committee and placed on the Senate calendar (the House companion bill is H.R. 1456, introduced by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.).
  • Sportsmanship in Hunting Act—To prohibit the interstate transport of exotic mammals for the purpose of "canned hunts" (the killing of animals for trophies or entertainment in fenced areas smaller than 1,000 acres); and to ban remote-controlled hunting offered via the Internet. H.R. 2210 introduced by Reps. Cohen and Brad Sherman, D-Calif.
  • Anti-Wildlife Bills—The House Natural Resources Committee chaired by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., has passed several harmful pieces of legislation, including H.R. 3069, to allow the killing of sea lions in the Columbia River basin because they eat a tiny fraction of the fish there (notwithstanding the much larger take from commercial fishing, invasive species, and habitat destruction), regardless of whether the fish are listed under the ESA; H.R. 991, a bailout for 41 big game hunters who want to import polar bear trophies into this country from Canada; and H.R. 2834, which would prioritize sport hunting on federal lands, at the expense of other land users. But opponents on the committee, such as Reps. Markey, Grijalva, John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, challenged these harmful bills and laid important groundwork to stop them in the full House and in the Senate from becoming law.

In sum, the 112th Congress is a work-in-progress. While we made some critical breakthroughs for animals, particularly on the funding front, we also suffered some setbacks. Many critically important animal welfare bills are poised for action in the second session, and congressional support is also putting pressure on the federal agencies to take action for animal protection. We hope you’ll join us as we work harder than ever to advance an animal protection agenda in Congress in 2012.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ask Your Lawmakers to Cosponsor Key Animal Protection Bills

A new HSUS investigation released last week exposed Purebred Breeders LLC (PBB), thought to be the nation’s largest online seller of puppies, peddling sick dogs to unsuspecting consumers. The company owns nearly 800 Web domains for the purpose of leading online shoppers to believing that they are dealing with responsible local breeders. But the dogs often come from large-scale commercial puppy mills around the country, where they are stacked in cramped wire cages, with no exercise, veterinary care, socialization, or human companionship.

Puppy millPuppy mills selling directly to the public, such as through Internet brokers like PBB, exploit a loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act regulations to avoid being licensed or having to meet basic standards of care under federal law. It’s past time that the federal government close this loophole, and crack down on the worst puppy mill abuses in the country.

That’s one reason HSLF has made the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act one of our top congressional priorities, and it’s one of the bills we are counting for cosponsorship in the 2011 Humane Scorecard. As the first session of the 112th Congress comes to a close, we will evaluate lawmakers on their performance on animal protection issues by scoring a number of key votes, but also their support for adequate funding for the enforcement of animal welfare laws, and their cosponsorship of priority bills. Building the number of cosponsors on a bill is an important way to show that there is a critical mass of bipartisan support for the policy, and it provides much-needed momentum for these bills to move forward in the second session in 2012.

There are just a couple weeks left in 2011, and I am asking you to call your U.S. senators and U.S. representative and urge them to cosponsor the three animal protection bills in the Senate and four in the House whose cosponsors we're counting, in order to receive credit on the 2011 Humane Scorecard, which is mailed to all HSLF members and distributed online. (The animal fighting bill was just introduced last week in the Senate, so it won’t be counted on the scorecard this year, but it’s still a great idea to ask your two senators to cosponsor this new bill.) You can look up your federal legislators here, and then call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to ask them to join as cosponsors of the following animal protection bills. If they’re already cosponsoring all these bills, you can thank them for their strong support.

Puppy Mills—Cosponsorship of S. 707 and H.R. 835, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act – introduced by Sens. Durbin and Vitter, and Reps. Gerlach, Farr, Bill Young, and Capps – to crack down on abusive “puppy mills” in the United States, where breeding dogs are often stacked in wire cages for years to produce litter after litter. The legislation will close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations by requiring that commercial breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year online and directly to the public be licensed and inspected, just as breeders who supply to pet stores already must be.  It will also require that dogs used for breeding at commercial facilities be provided the opportunity to exercise daily.
 
Chimpanzees Warehoused in Laboratories—Cosponsorship of S. 810 and H.R. 1513, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act – introduced by Sens. Cantwell, Collins, and Sanders, and Reps. Bartlett, Israel, Reichert, Langevin, and Towns – to phase out use of chimpanzees in invasive research, retire the approximately 500 federally-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary, and make the current NIH moratorium on government-funded breeding of chimpanzees statutory.  Chimpanzees have proven to be poor research models for human diseases, so at any given time, about 80-90% of chimps in U.S. labs are not used in research, but simply warehoused in barren and costly laboratory cages at taxpayer expense.  It’s much less expensive to care for chimpanzees at sanctuaries (where they live with other chimps in a natural setting) than to warehouse them individually in labs; this legislation is estimated to save American taxpayers $300 million over ten years.  
 
Animal Fighting Spectators—Cosponsorship of S. 1947 and H.R. 2492, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act – introduced by Sens. Blumenthal, Kirk, Cantwell, and Brown, and Reps. Marino and Sutton – to establish misdemeanor penalties for knowingly attending an organized animal fight and felony penalties for bringing a minor to such a fight.  While Congress has strengthened federal animal fighting law in recent years, this bill will close a remaining gap:  prohibiting spectating, as 49 states have done, and helping take the profit out of animal fighting.  Spectators are more than mere observers at animal fights.  They are participants and accomplices who enable the crime, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling wagers, and helping conceal organizers and handlers who try to blend into the crowd when a raid occurs.  
 
Horse Slaughter—Cosponsorship of S. 1176 and H.R. 2966, the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act – introduced by Sens. Landrieu and Graham, and Reps. Burton and Schakowsky – to prohibit the transport (including export) of horses for slaughter for human consumption.  More than 103,000 American horses have been purchased so far this year by “killer buyers,” who often outbid legitimate adopters and rescue groups.  They are then trucked long distances to a cruel death in slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada that cater to the palates of European diners.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Stamping Out Animal Fighting Benefactors

Among the most important animal protection laws passed by Congress over the last few years have been those to crack down on dogfighting and cockfighting, closing loopholes on commerce in fighting birds and weapons attached to them, upgrading the penalties for all animal fighting to a felony offense, and barring the possession and training of fighting animals. There is near-consensus in our nation that animal fighting is a reprehensible and immoral activity which serves no legitimate social purpose, and The HSUS and HSLF have launched a full-scale attack to stamp out this organized cruelty to dogs and birds and the other crimes and social ills that accompany it.

Dog_pit_bull_blk_wht_270x224A new bill introduced this week in the U.S. Senate will help close a remaining gap in the law and bring us one step closer to eliminating dogfighting and cockfighting, a day that cannot come soon enough. The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, S. 1947, introduced by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Scott Brown, R-Mass., would prohibit knowing attendance at organized animal fights and impose additional penalties for causing a minor to attend such events. While 49 states (all but Montana) make it a crime to attend an animal fight, with 28 having felony penalties for spectators, there is currently no federal prohibition to address the people who make this criminal enterprise thrive with their admission fees and gambling wagers and who expose young children to the violence and bloodletting. A House version of the bill, H.R. 2492, was introduced in July by U.S. Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, and already has 130 cosponsors. More than 90 law enforcement agencies from 32 states have endorsed the legislation.

Like any underground crime, dogfighting and cockfighting only thrive because people spend money on it. These individuals don’t walk into a bar on Main Street and accidentally stumble across a dogfight. They knowingly seek out the criminal activity at clandestine locations, and they often whisper secret passwords to enter. They pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling bets, generating the bulk of the revenue for this illegal enterprise. And they provide cover for dogfighters and cockfighters, who blend into crowds at the first sign of a police raid to evade prosecution.

While all the states have laws against dogfighting and cockfighting, the nature of the industry has changed, and now a substantial share of fights involves interstate transport of the animals and parties from multiple states. Local authorities do not have the reach or the resources to go into other states to carry on an investigation. When an animal fighting ring involves players from several states, a sheriff’s department simply does not have the ability to root out the entire operation. Such animal fighting cases are a federal matter requiring a strong federal law that will close all loopholes. There are also times when the county sheriffs or prosecutors are not taking action (due to corruption or lack of interest) and it’s necessary for the feds to get involved.

If a federal prosecution is made, we want to have a comprehensive application of the law and see that everyone involved is brought to justice. That will have a greater effect in terms of ending animal fighting and also mean a bigger bang for the buck in terms of the federal investment, while federal agents are already on the scene. Why spend the time and resources to bust a dogfighting ring, and just arrest the couple people who were handling the dogs, rather than the hundreds who were actively engaged on the scene as their benefactors? Federal law enforcement must have the needed tools—as state law enforcement already has in 49 states—to take action against those who are fueling the industry with their blood money of admission fees and high-stakes gambling, and to make sure that they and the perpetrators who blend into the crowd when the feds arrive don’t get off scot-free.
 
Congress should act swiftly to pass this bill and crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting. The spectators are not innocent bystanders—they are willing participants in organized crime who are there for their own amusement and gambling profits and because they are titillated by the bloodletting. Take away the spectators and you take away the profit. Our laws should be tough enough to stop people from financing the torture of animals.

Please contact your U.S. senators and U.S. representative today and ask them to join as cosponsors of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. If they’re already cosponsoring this legislation, let them know how much you appreciate their support.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Another Family Pet Killed by Federal Agents

This past August in Gresham, Oregon, the McCurtain family’s 7-year-old Border collie named Maggie was strangled after being caught in a body-gripping kill trap that had been set for aquatic fur-bearing nutria along a lake front in an affluent residential neighborhood by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program. The trap was placed on neighborhood common property approximately 20 feet from the McCurtains’ property line—an area where the family’s children regularly looked for frogs, fed the ducks, or retrieved fly balls that went over the fence. The trap snapped down around Maggie’s head and neck and Denise McCurtain could only look on as her neighbor futilely tried to free her dog. It took nearly 30 minutes before Maggie could be freed, but by then she was dead. Denise relays the harrowing story in this video by Oregon-based Predator Defense.

Maggie
Maggie was a victim of a federal government wildlife-killing
program. photo courtesy of: Predator Defense

Maggie was a victim of a federal government wildlife-killing program that mostly benefits private livestock ranchers in the West, but occasionally intrudes into the heart of suburbia. Each year, with their arsenal of traps, poisons, and shooting from the air, federal agents kill tens of thousands of predators and other mammals. If birds are added to the total, the numbers soar into the millions. Many of the deaths include innocent or “non-target” individuals, including many family pets.

The federal Wildlife Services program has been in the business of killing wildlife for more than a hundred years, and was primarily responsible for the removal of charismatic species such as the gray wolf from the American landscape. It’s the U.S. taxpayers who foot a large share of the bill for the killing—spending millions of dollars each year on lethal predator control—just to benefit special interests. But tragedies such as Maggie’s death remind us of the true cost of these ill-advised killing campaigns and the reckless, inhumane, and indiscriminate methods that are used.

Click here to contact U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and tell him that USDA should stop killing wildlife and prohibit the use of deadly toxic poisons. There is a legitimate case to be made for a federal agency that helps to solve wildlife conflicts, providing training and research on best practices with an emphasis on innovation and non-lethal solutions. But Wildlife Services in its current form is a relic of the past, needlessly exterminating wildlife and killing and maiming family pets. It’s time to find a new way forward.

 

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