Editor's note: This post was originally published at 7:34 p.m. on Tuesday, January 6, 2015
As the gavel comes down on the 113th Congress (which spanned January 2013 to December 2014), and the new 114th Congress begins its work today, it’s a good time to take stock of what was achieved and what lies ahead for animals in the New Year. The 113th may be remembered for its relative lack of productivity and growing polarization. In terms of general lawmaking, it appears this Congress enacted fewer laws, by a wide margin, than any other since at least 1947, the date to which the House clerk’s records go back.
Despite two years of gridlock, some major setbacks and disappointments, Congress produced a number of important results for animals.
The successes in the areas of animal fighting, chimpanzee sanctuaries, horse slaughter, wildlife trafficking, fending off the King amendment, and more demonstrate that even when little else is getting done, animal protection can bridge partisan divides in Congress.
In part, this is because the public demand for a more humane future for animals is strong enough to generate real results in Washington.
Together, we can and must keep the momentum going—and gear up for the new session of Congress, where we will once again advance a mainstream and common-sense agenda to close the gaps in the legal framework and protect animals from cruelty, suffering, and abuse.
The final Farm Bill signed into law in February 2014 (P.L. 113-79) includes a provision to strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to knowingly attend or bring a child to an organized animal fight.
The language of the freestanding animal fighting spectator bill (S. 666/H.R. 366, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.) was part of the Senate Farm Bill from the beginning, as introduced in the Agriculture Committee, thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
For the House, related language was approved as an amendment offered by Rep. McGovern during committee markup with a strong bipartisan vote of 28-17. It had already won approval in 2012 by the House Agriculture Committee and twice by the full Senate, but final action on the Farm Bill stalled that year. This legislation was supported by nearly 300 national, state and local law enforcement agencies (covering all 50 states), including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and is the fourth upgrade to the federal animal fighting statute since 2002.
Forty-nine states already had penalties for animal fighting spectators, but the provision was needed to sync up the federal and state laws since many of these animal fighting raids are multistate and multijurisdictional. Closing this gap in the legal framework will help law enforcement crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting, including those who finance the activity with admission fees and gambling wagers, provide cover to animal fighters during raids, and expose children to the violence and bloodletting.
In late 2013, Congress passed a bill (P.L. 113-55) to help hundreds of chimpanzees warehoused in barren laboratory cages and facilitate their retirement to natural sanctuaries. Earlier that year, the National Institutes of Health announced its plans to retire about 90 percent of government-owned chimps from laboratories to sanctuary—where they can live the rest of their lives in peace—and to significantly scale back funding for chimpanzee research.
But there was a hitch that had to be overcome: the law Congress enacted in 2000, establishing the national chimpanzee sanctuary system, imposed a cumulative ceiling on the funding that NIH could devote to it. NIH was due to reach that limit in mid-November 2013, which not only jeopardized the retirement of chimps in labs slated for transfer to sanctuary, but also funding for the continued care of chimps already living at Chimp Haven in Louisiana.
This would be terrible for the animals and also for taxpayers, since retirement to sanctuary is less costly than warehousing chimps in labs. Fortunately, there was bipartisan support in Congress to solve this problem. On November 14—just under the wire before the cap was reached—the Senate gave final approval to a legislative fix passed by the House a few days earlier, and it was signed into law the day before Thanksgiving. P.L. 113-55 amends the 2000 CHIMP Act to allow NIH the flexibility to continue using its existing funds for sanctuary care.
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., led this effort. Horse Slaughter: For fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Congress reinstated a vital “defund” provision that had been in place from 2007 to 2011 barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding inspections at horse slaughter plants, effectively making it illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption in this country.
The agency itself requested this provision for the first time in the president’s recommended budget for FY14 and then renewed the request for FY15. The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills followed suit, with successful amendments offered by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during committee markup in both chambers.
The omnibus spending package signed into law in mid-December 2014 (P.L. 113-235) will sustain this protection for horses until the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2015. It is urgently needed, as some companies have been poised to open horse slaughter plants in the United States. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility.
Horses suffer in long-distance transport and in the slaughter process. Rounded up from random sources, they have also been given drugs and medications throughout their lifetimes that are not intended for and are actually prohibited from being introduced into the human food supply. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise.
Its agents don’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. Combined with the recent announcement from the European Commission that it will ban the import of horsemeat from Mexico, maintaining the defund provision is a major one-two punch against the North American horse slaughter industry.
We will seek to renew the defund provision and press the new Congress to enact a permanent and comprehensive ban via legislation like the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094, sponsored by Sens. Landrieu and Graham and Reps. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.).
Ivory and Wildlife Trafficking:
The National Defense Authorization Act for FY15, also enacted in mid-December 2014 (P.L. 113-360), contains a Senate provision offered as an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., adding authority for the Department of Defense to partner with civilian law enforcement on joint task forces to combat wildlife trafficking.
The FY15 omnibus spending bill dedicates $55 million to combat wildlife trafficking, with at least $10 million of that directed to programs to protect rhinos from being poached for their horns, and it prevents the United States from assisting certain countries and military groups if they are found to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking.
Harmful language that had been part of the House Interior Appropriations bill—to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from cracking down on the illicit trade in elephant ivory—was kept out of the final omnibus package, thanks to the efforts of many legislators including Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
And the Senate committee reports accompanying the appropriations bills for the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security included language sought by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., highlighting the seriousness of this problem and directing those agencies to report back on their actions to address it. We hope these provisions will provide some relief for many imperiled species by curbing the illegal trade in wildlife parts that has become a source of cash to finance terrorist networks and transnational organized crime.
More than 30,000 African elephants are killed each year by poachers who typically hack the animals’ faces off, since that’s the easiest way to run off with the ivory. This vicious cruelty is destroying elephant populations.
The FY15 omnibus includes language championed by Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Jim Moran, D-Va., in the House and Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., in the Senate to encourage the Bureau of Land Management to consider new, more humane methods of wild horse population management, including $1 million for a related study, so that the agency can move beyond its current inhumane and costly system of round-ups and long-term penning.It also contains language prohibiting the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros for human consumption.
Animal Welfare Enforcement:
For both fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Congress again came through with needed funding for the USDA’s enforcement and implementation of key animal welfare laws—the Animal Welfare Act (which requires minimum standards of care for animals at breeding facilities, research laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses, and other regulated facilities), Horse Protection Act (regarding “soring” of Tennessee walking horses), Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal animal fighting law, as well as for programs to address the needs of animals in disasters and to incentivize veterinarians to practice in rural and inner-city areas and to apply for USDA inspection positions.
The omnibus package just signed into law preserves funding for each of these programs without any cuts, despite intense competition for budget dollars. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., marshaled the bipartisan support of 38 Senators and 166 Representatives on joint letters calling for these funds, and the subcommittee leadership—Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Ranking Member Sam Farr, D-Calif.—responded to their colleagues’ appeals.
Alternatives to Animal Testing:
The committee reports accompanying the FY14 and FY15 House Interior Appropriations bills contain language provided by Chairman Calvert that encourages continued development of non-animal alternatives for chemical testing.
Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act:
Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 113-143, signed into law in August 2014) introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Angus King, I-Maine, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport, administer, and dispense medications outside of their registered locations.
This will ensure that veterinarians can provide proper care to animal patients in rural or remote areas, including pets in disasters, cruelty cases, mobile spay and neuter clinics, animal sanctuaries, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and more.
Endangered Species Conservation:
Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 113-165, signed into law in September 2014) led by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Tom Udall, D-N.M., that will provide funding for endangered species without using taxpayer dollars through the “Tiger Stamp.”
Since its inception, the Tiger Stamp has raised $2,567,000.00 for the Multinational Conservation Species Fund, which benefits the African Elephant Conservation Fund, the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, the Great Ape Conservation Fund, the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, and other international wildlife conservation funds authorized by Congress.
DEFENDING AGAINST HARMFUL MEASURES
The final Farm Bill nixed the destructive provision that had been folded into the House bill during committee, with minimal debate, at the behest of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa—Sec. 11312 of H.R. 2642.The King amendment aimed to gut state laws protecting farm animals.
By negating most state and local laws on the production or manufacture of agriculture products, it could have preempted laws addressing intensive confinement on farms and a host of other animal protection concerns such as puppy mills, sale of horse meat, and shark finning, as well as laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish and standards for fire-safe cigarettes.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., led the charge in the Senate to keep this out of the final bill. Opponents were denied the opportunity to have a floor vote on an amendment led by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., to strike it during House floor debate.
Hundreds of public officials and organizations representing sustainable agriculture, consumer, health, fire safety, environment, labor, animal welfare, and religious concerns opposed the measure.
This included nearly 200 Senators and Representatives who cosigned letters led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Schrader, and Gary Peters, D-Mich., the National Conference of State Legislatures, the County Executives of America, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Mississippi and Arkansas attorneys general, the Iowa Farmers Union, the Safe Food Coalition, professors from 13 law schools, and editorials in a number of papers such as USA Today, the Des Moines Register, and the Washington Post.
This strong and unified opposition successfully fended off this controversial attack on states’ rights, food safety, and animal welfare.
This sweetheart deal for millionaire trophy hunters and special interests was defeated in the Senate on a procedural vote.
The Sportsmen’s Act would have carved out the latest in a series of loopholes in the law for wealthy hunters to import sport-hunted trophies of threatened polar bears (encouraging the killing of rare species around the world), opened sensitive federal lands to sport hunting and trapping, and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to protect wildlife, habitat, and people from lead poisoning through exposure to toxic ammunition despite the ready availability of non-toxic alternatives (unfortunately Congress subsequently enacted a harmful provision on lead ammunition in the omnibus).
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, played a key role in opposing this legislation, as did Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who sought an amendment to strike the polar bear provision but was denied the opportunity to offer it on the House floor. Otters: Language sought by commercial fisheries and the Department of Defense, to provide an exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act that would allow them to harm sea otters off the southern California coast, was kept out of the final National Defense Authorization Act.
As noted above, Congress rejected a harmful rider—based on the so-called “Lawful Ivory Protection Act,” S. 2587/H.R. 5052 by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Reps. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Jeff Miller, R-Fla.—that would have prevented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from restricting the devastating trade in elephant ivory.
This crisis cannot be resolved without our country adopting strong policy reforms, since the United States is considered the second largest retail ivory market in the world after China.
Of course, along with the successes, there were some major setbacks, with Congress caving in to extreme segments of the trophy hunting and factory farming lobbies, and working to block common-sense reforms.
The omnibus package recently enacted includes terrible provisions seeking to block the EPA from regulating toxic lead content in ammunition, to interfere with Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse, and to discourage the USDA from trying to reform the corrupt beef check-off program that finances agribusiness lobbying against animal welfare improvements.
That same massive spending bill also blocked the EPA from requiring reporting or the issuance of Clean Air Act operating permits for greenhouse gas emissions from animal agricultural sources—an act that the Los Angeles Times panned in an editorial. We must redouble our efforts to correct these problems in the new Congress.
And some crucial measures were left unfinished. A prime example is the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., to end the cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds. With the overwhelming bipartisan support of 308 House cosponsors and 60 Senate cosponsors and endorsements by an extraordinarily broad coalition of veterinary, horse industry, animal welfare, and other groups, the PAST Act was more than ripe for final action.
It was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee but blocked from Senate and House floor consideration by a few legislators doing the bidding of the horse sorers, who don’t want Congress upsetting the status quo that has been so profitable for them. There’s no excuse for not passing the PAST Act. It must be addressed as a priority in the new year.
Congressional leaders also failed to allow votes on other critical reforms, such as the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments (H.R. 1731/S. 820, introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.), which would codify an agreement between animal welfare groups and the egg industry to improve the treatment of laying hens and provide a stable and secure future for egg farmers nationwide.
Despite having the support of all major stakeholders, including veterinarians, consumers, and the industry actually impacted by the reform, lawmakers allowed petty caterwauling by the pork and beef lobbies to prevent egg producers from controlling their own destiny.
OTHER ANIMAL PROTECTION MEASURES IN THE 113th CONGRESS
Many more issues were tackled during the previous two years.
Some of these efforts raised awareness about important animal issues and spurred agency actions to address them, and some are unfinished business that we expect to be reintroduced in the 114th Congress. They include:
- Puppy Mills: Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 847/S. 395 to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations by requiring that large-scale commercial dog breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year directly to consumers via the Internet or other means be licensed and inspected, as breeders who sell to pet stores already are; and to require that breeding dogs at commercial facilities be allowed to exercise daily.
The broad bipartisan support for this legislation helped spur the USDA to finalize regulations in September 2013 to extend federal oversight to thousands of puppy mills that do business online. Sens. Durbin and Vitter and Reps. Gerlach and Farr also urged the agency to finalize its long-awaited regulations to implement the 2008 ban on puppy imports, and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., led a letter to USDA cosigned by 37 representatives urging action; the agency followed through on August 14, 2014.
- Pets on Trains: Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., introduced H.R. 2066/S. 1710 to require Amtrak to propose a pet policy that allows passengers to travel with cats and dogs on certain Amtrak trains.
Their legislation prompted Amtrak to undertake a pilot project allowing travelers to bring their pets on certain routes from Chicago. In its press release, Amtrak’s president said, “Amtrak is supportive of accommodating pets on trains, and through direct collaboration with the Illinois Department of Transportation and a working group led by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California, we are optimistic a plan can be reached to address the needs and concerns of all our passengers."
- Safe Airline Transport: Sen. Robert Menendez, D.-N.J., helped encourage the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand the definition of “animal” in the agency’s regulations requiring airlines to report incidents involving animal loss, injury, or death, so consumers can compare the safety records of different carriers. On July 2, 2014, DOT decided to broaden the reach of the reporting requirement to cover more airlines and to cover cats and dogs regardless of whether they are already identified as someone’s pet—so the requirement now applies to commercial shipments of animals by breeders, research facilities, and other commercial entities.
- Domestic Violence: Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., introduced H.R. 5267, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to expand federal domestic violence protections to include safeguards for the pets of abuse victims on a national level and to provide grant money for domestic violence shelters to better accommodate families with pets. Many abusers will harm or threaten the beloved dog or cat of a spouse or partner as a way of exerting control over that person, and as many as one-third of domestic violence victims delay their departure from an abusive relationship for up to two years out of fear that their pets will be harmed if they leave.
- Veterans Dog Training Therapy: Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 183 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.
- Wounded Warrior Service Dogs: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., introduced H.R. 2847 to require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly establish a K-9 Companion Corps Program that will award competitive grants to nonprofit organizations to assist them in the planning, designing, establishing, and operating of programs that provide assistance dogs to covered military members and veterans.
- Disaster Preparedness: Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., introduced H.R. 4524 to ensure that entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (including commercial breeding facilities, research laboratories, zoos, and circuses) have contingency plans in place, and all their employees are trained on emergency procedures, to safely evacuate and care for animals in an emergency or disaster situation. In December 2012, USDA had published a final rule requiring regulated entities to take additional steps to prepare for potential disaster situations, both natural and manmade, but in July 2013, just before the rule was to go into effect, the agency put its implementation on hold indefinitely.
- Euthanasia Methods at Shelters: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Lou Barletta, R-Pa., introduced H. Res. 208/H. Res. 433, respectively, to voice opposition to the use of inhumane and dangerous gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals and express support for state laws that require the use of more humane euthanasia methods.
- Horse Racing: Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., introduced S. 973/H.R. 2012 to ensure the integrity and safety of horse races that are the subject of interstate off-track wagers. Their legislation would ban doping of racehorses and give the U.S.
Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, the authority to oversee and enforce the new rules.Rather than having different rules with respect to medicating of horses in every state where tracks operate, there would be a consistent national policy.
A powerful New York Times exposé examined 150,000 horse races from 2009 to 2011, reporting that minimal oversight, inconsistent regulations, and rampant doping of horses has led to a stunning “average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week.”
This is tragic for the horses and also often the jockeys, who can suffer serious injuries, paralysis, or death from being thrown.
- Transport: Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., introduced S. 1459 to prohibit and establish penalties for the transport of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another (except a vehicle operated exclusively on rail or rails).
- Horse Therapy: Reps. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced H.R. 1705 to expand the Department of Defense managed health care program for military beneficiaries to include coverage of rehabilitative therapeutic exercises that utilize horses.
- Corolla Wild Horses: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., introduced H.R. 126 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement to provide for management of the free-roaming wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The bill passed the House by voice vote in June 2013, but did not get a vote in the Senate.
- Non-Therapeutic Use of Antibiotics: Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1150/S. 1256 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.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Feinstein, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Slaughter introduced S. 895/H.R. 820 to require the Food and Drug Administration to improve both the collection and public reporting of information on how antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs are used in food animal production. Rep. Slaughter and Sen. Feinstein also secured helpful committee report language accompanying the Agriculture Appropriations bills for FY14 and FY15 encouraging steps by FDA to address this problem.
And additional legislators—Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.—joined Rep. Slaughter and Sens. Feinstein and Gillibrand on various letters to FDA urging specific actions on this topic.
- Poultry Slaughter: Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Jim Moran, D-Va., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., led a group letter cosigned by 68 Representatives to USDA calling on the agency to withdraw a proposed rule that it claimed would “modernize” poultry slaughter practices but would actually jeopardize food safety, animal welfare, and worker safety.
Fortunately, the final rule issued in July 2014 ditched one particularly troubling element of the original proposal—allowing increased line speeds at poultry slaughter plants that already process birds at an exceedingly fast pace not conducive to humane treatment or worker safety—but other problems remained, including the removal of hundreds of federal inspectors in an unwarranted shift to industry self-regulation.
- Downer Calves: Reps. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., led a joint letter cosigned by 72 Representatives and Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., led a letter cosigned by a dozen Senators calling on USDA to prioritize and expedite a long-awaited rulemaking to close a loophole in federal regulations that allows downer calves—those too sick, injured, or weak to stand on their own—to be slaughtered for food (whereas adult downer cattle must be euthanized humanely).
The loophole encourages abuse as workers drag, kick and prod the calves in an attempt to get them to stand for inspection. In March 2013, the USDA granted a 2009 HSUS legal petition to close this loophole, and in May 2014 following the congressional letters, it signaled a further step forward, though the agency has yet to issue the proposed rule.
Animals in Research:
- Alternatives Development in Research and Testing: Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, included report language for the FY14 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to prioritize federal funding for non-animal methods in the BRAIN initiative and through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
And as noted above, Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., included report language for the FY14 and FY15 House Interior Appropriations bills encouraging continued development of non-animal alternatives to chemical testing. The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., also included provisions in S. 1009 calling for a reduction in animal testing.
- Alternatives to Live Animal Use in Military Training: Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act, H.R. 3172/S. 1550 to require the Secretary of Defense to employ alternative methods that are more effective and humane than live animal use for training members of the Armed Forces in the treatment of severe injuries.
Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., also reached out to the Air Force regarding the use of live goats for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school training. Though some unnecessary and inhumane practices continue, the Department of Defense recently announced its plans to halt the use of animals in a variety of medical training programs.
- Class B Dealers: Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, H.R. 2224, to prohibit the use in research of dogs and cats obtained through Class B dealers from random sources such as pet theft and free-to-good home ads. In an important breakthrough on this long-standing issue, the National Institutes of Health announced it would no longer fund research involving dogs from random source Class B dealers as of October 1, 2014, following a similar announcement for cats in 2012.
- Humane Cosmetics: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 4148 to phase out cosmetics testing on live animals in the U.S. as well as the sale of any cosmetics in interstate commerce if the final product or any component was developed or manufactured using animal testing. India and the European Union—home to a combined 1.7 billion residents—already have such policies, and the U.S. can help the global cosmetics industry continue moving toward non-animal alternatives that are safer and more effective.
- Primates: Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., pressed the Department of Defense to facilitate the retirement of the chimpanzees housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility on Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., sent a letter to NIH expressing concern about taxpayer-funded projects involving maternal deprivation and other highly stressful psychological experiments on baby monkeys at an NIH laboratory.
- Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, led a joint letter cosigned by 10 Senators, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Langevin, Jim Moran, D-Va., Aaron Schock, R-Ill., and Dina Titus, D-Nev., sent individual letters to NIH requesting implementation of the recommendations of an advisory group convened by the agency to report on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research.
Sens.Cantwell and Collins also sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services supporting the agency’s proposal to list all chimpanzees, both wild and captive, as endangered. Doing away with the “split listing” that distinguishes chimpanzees in the pet and entertainment trade and in biomedical research from those in the wild will significantly enhance conservation efforts for this imperiled species.
- Shark Finning: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., introduced H. Res. 285 to raise awareness of the dangers of shark finning and express the view of Congress that, in order to even the playing field for U.S. fishermen and prevent the overfishing of sharks on a global scale, the U.S. should end the importation of shark fins from foreign fisheries that practice shark finning.
These lawmakers, with Reps. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., mobilized letters cosigned by more than 70 representatives and senators calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to reverse its interpretation of the Shark Conservation Act that may preempt state laws barring the trade in shark fin products.
The Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also pressed the agency to rethink its position. NMFS has responded by replacing its blanket preemption with a state-by-state analysis of the laws in question and, to date, it has not found any of the state shark fin bans to be preempted.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, introduced H.R. 5308 to prohibit foreign assistance to countries that do not prohibit shark finning in the territorial waters of the country or the importation, sale, possession, or consumption of shark fins obtained as a result of shark finning.
- Captive Marine Mammals: Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Jared Huffman, D-Calif., successfully offered a floor amendment to the FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bill directing the USDA to study the effects of captivity on marine mammals and finalize a much-needed upgrade of its Animal Welfare Act regulations for captive orcas and cetaceans—a reform that has been languishing for nearly 20 years—so these rules will better address the animals’ physical and behavioral needs. Unfortunately, since the House did not complete action on this bill, the amendment was not incorporated in the final omnibus spending package, but we hope the agency will heed its message.
- Captive Primates: Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 2856/S. 1463 to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the exotic pet trade. This would extend to dangerous primates such as chimpanzees, who can be easily purchased over the Internet and from out-of-state dealers, the protections afforded by Congress to big cats in the Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003.
- Primate Imports for Sanctuary: Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 3556 to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a rule allowing the importation of primates for the purpose of placement of abused, injured, or abandoned primates in certified animal sanctuaries.
- Big Cats and Public Safety: Reps. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced H.R. 1998/S. 1381 to better address the exotic pet trade by limiting the breeding of lions, tigers, and other big cats to accredited zoos, and preventing unqualified individuals and facilities from possessing these dangerous predators, who suffer from being kept in abusive and unsafe conditions and threaten public safety.
- Wildlife Services: Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., called on the USDA Office of Inspector General to conduct an audit of the agency’s Wildlife Services lethal predator control program, including its use of poisoning and aerial gunning. The results of this OIG audit, which could lead to important recommendations to reform the outdated and mismanaged Wildlife Services program, are expected in 2015.
Also, Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 2074 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress, and make available to the public on the Internet, a report on the animals killed under the Wildlife Services program.
- Dangerous Constrictor Snakes: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jim Moran, D-Va., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., and Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., sent letters urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move swiftly to add five species of dangerous constrictor snakes to the list of injurious species whose trade is banned under the Lacey Act.
All five species were identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing a medium or high risk of establishing breeding populations in the United States, jeopardizing native wildlife and pets, as well as human health and safety. Together, these five species including boa constrictors make up 70 percent of the large constrictor snakes in the U.S. pet trade. Thankfully, the agency has proposed finishing the job of adding them to the list.
- African Lions: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., led a letter cosigned by 44 Representatives to the Department of Interior in support of a petition by a coalition of wildlife protection and conservation organizations calling for the African lion to be listed as an endangered subspecies.
In October 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing African lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and is currently accepting public comments on the proposal.
- Wolves: Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., sent a letter to the Department of Interior voicing support for the agency’s withholding publication of a proposed rule to remove ESA protection from gray wolves in the lower 48 states (except in the Southwest), and urging the Department to cancel the scientifically flawed delisting proposal.
When the proposed rule was published, Reps. Grijalva and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., led a letter with 86 cosigners opposing the delisting. After the agency performed an independent peer review of the science used to make the rule, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., led on a letter to DOI with 74 cosigners calling attention to the review’s findings that the proposed rule is not based on the best available science and undermines decades of conservation work to protect the gray wolf.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also sent DOI a letter expressing concern with this potential delisting and requesting that a decision not be made without additional independent scientific peer review. • Manatees: Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., sent a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service calling for continued protections for Florida manatees under the ESA.
- Circus Animals: Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., introduced H.R. 4525, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, to amend the Animal Welfare Act to restrict the use of exotic and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses and exhibitions.
- Elephant Ivory: Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 5454, the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range (TUSKER) Act, to provide for trade sanctions against countries involved in illegal ivory trade.
- Refuge from Cruel Trapping: Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., introduced H.R. 3513 to end the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
- Bird-Safe Buildings: Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., introduced H.R. 2078 to require federal agencies to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features into existing public buildings, and to address the impacts of interior and exterior lighting on native bird species.
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers: Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, introduced H. Res. 651 to recognize the importance of experienced and accredited wildlife rehabilitation centers and their contributions to the humane treatment of animals.