Commenting Guidelines

    • The HSLF invites comments—pro and con. Keep them clean. Keep them lively. Adhere to our guiding philosophy of non-violence. And please understand, this is not an open post. We publish samplers of comments to keep the conversation going. We correct misspellings and typos when we find them.

« December 2015 | Main | February 2016 »

January 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Presidential Files: Who Trumps the Field on Animal Issues in Race for White House?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have put a roadblock in place in New Jersey for the next Walter Palmer-wannabee who wanted to slay a lion and bring his head back to the states. New Jersey lawmakers had overwhelmingly passed legislation to block the shipment of big-game trophies of lions, tigers, leopards, Cape buffalo, elephants, rhinoceros, and other endangered animals through New Jersey ports. Christie, however, sided with the Safari Club International, which called for a veto of the bill.

White-house-Sean-Pavone-alamy-blog
Sean Pavone/Alamy Photo Stock

The furor over Cecil’s death and the political debates it has inspired provide a powerful reminder that many of the presidential hopefuls, both Republicans and Democrats, have records on animal protection issues, and have taken either positive or adverse actions that we can and should examine. With the first votes to be cast early next week in Iowa and then soon after in New Hampshire, animal advocates of all political persuasions want to know where the candidates stand on humane issues. HSLF has not made any recommendations in the presidential race, but here’s a summary of what we know about the contenders.

*****

First, the Democratic candidates:

Hillary Clinton: During her eight years in the U.S. Senate, Clinton was a strong and consistent supporter of animal protection policies, earning a 100 percent score on the Humane Scorecard in the 108th Congress, a perfect 100+ score in the 109th, and an 83 in the 110th. She cosponsored legislation dealing with horse slaughter and animal fighting, as well as bills to stop the processing of “downer” livestock and to crack down on abusive puppy mills where dogs are treated like production machines. She led efforts in the 108th and 109th Congresses to stop the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, which allow them to be crammed into overcrowded, stressful, and unsanitary factory farms. As a Senator, Clinton also signed letters requesting more funds for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to step up enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and the federal animal fighting law. During the 2008 campaign, she voiced concern over the slaughter of sick and injured cows whose meat was channeled into the national school lunch program. As Secretary of State, Clinton led international efforts to crack down on wildlife trafficking, and later through the Clinton Foundation, she helped to launch a major campaign to fight the illegal ivory trade and poaching of elephants, continuing her leadership on this issue. Earlier, as first lady, she often took Socks the cat along with her to visit children or senior citizens in local hospitals and to other events, and she wrote a children’s book on presidential pets featuring kids’ letters to Socks and the family’s dog, Buddy.

Martin O’Malley:  During eight years as governor of Maryland, O’Malley never distinguished himself on animal issues. He generally signed the animal protection bills sent to him by the legislature—on matters such as upgrading the cruelty law, protecting terrapins, setting up a spay and neuter fund, and ending breed discrimination against pit bull type dogs—but he never exhibited leadership or attentiveness on them. He is largely remembered by animal advocates for allowing a trophy hunting season on the small population of bears in western Maryland and never restraining the worst instincts of the state Department of Natural Resources when it came to trophy hunting and commercial trapping.

Bernie Sanders: Like Clinton, Sanders has been a steady and consistent supporter of animal protection during his time in Congress. As a House member, he earned a 58 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 103rd Congress, 75 percent in the 104th, 60 percent in the 108th, and a perfect 100 percent score in both the 106th and 109th Congresses. As a senator, he scored 100 percent in the 110th, 112th, and 113th Congresses, an 89 in the 111th, and an 86 percent in the most recent session. It’s clear that Sanders became more active on animal protection during his congressional career, and his generally high scores attest to that.  In the current session of Congress, Sanders is cosponsoring legislation to protect pets in domestic violence, ban horse slaughter for human consumption, create a felony penalty for malicious animal cruelty, and crack down on horse soring abuses. He supported strong enforcement of federal animal welfare laws, and opposed the weakening of the Endangered Species Act. In previous sessions, Sanders cosponsored bills to crack down on abusive puppy mills and animal fighting, to restrict the private trade in big cats and primates as exotic pets, and to ban barren battery cages for egg-laying hens. He helped to lead the effort in the 111th and 112th Congresses to end the wasteful use of chimpanzees in invasive research and retire them to sanctuaries. Sanders was the first presidential candidate to publish an animal welfare statement, and it’s a strong and compelling one that demonstrates his concern for the issues as well as his leadership.

*****

The Republican field is much larger, and one of the candidates who has withdrawn, Sen. Lindsey Graham, had perhaps the strongest record on animal issues among Republicans. He is currently leading efforts in Congress to ban horse slaughter for human consumption and crack down on wildlife trafficking

Here’s some background on the remaining Republicans in the race:

Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina : Since they have not held public office before, there is not much to point to in terms of their philosophies or policy actions on animal issues. When Trump owned the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, he reportedly was involved in canceling an inhumane horse-diving act. On the down side, he has defended his sons’ trophy hunting of African wildlife, including giraffes, buffaloes, and even lions, and it’s remarkable, especially after the Walter Palmer incident, that the press have not pushed harder on Trump about his sons and their globe-trotting killing sprees for wildlife. Trump also recently lamented Ringling Bros.’ decision to phase out its performing elephants. Fiorina has the backing of millionaire businessman Forrest Lucas, who runs an anti-animal Super PAC and has spent lavishly to defend puppy mills, factory farming, and other cruelties; Fiorina did, however, post a video about her love of dogs so that voters could learn something of her personal feelings about animals. Carson has said little about animal welfare issues throughout his career, but he says  in interviews that he is mostly vegetarian, and in a 1990 interview with Vegetarian Times he shared his belief that “eventually there will no longer be a reason for most people to eat meat. And animals will breathe a sigh of relief.”  

Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio: These sitting U.S. senators have had records consistently at odds with animal protection sensibilities. Rubio and Paul were among a handful of senators who opposed a floor amendment to ban attending and bringing children to animal fights, and Paul wouldn’t talk about the issue even after it became high-profile in the Republican primary in his home state between Mitch McConnell (who supported the amendment to crack down on animal fighting) and Matt Bevin, who attended a pro-cockfighting rally. Rubio and Paul each scored 28 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 112th Congress; Cruz, Paul, and Rubio each received a score of 12 percent for the 113th Congress; all three have zeros for the first session of the 114th Congress. On the positive side, Rubio did cosponsor legislation to strengthen enforcement of the federal law against horse soring in the previous Congress (but has yet to do so in the current session), and when he previously served in the Florida state legislature, he sponsored a successful bill to strengthen the animal fighting statute. On the negative side, Paul is backing an alternative sham reform bill that would maintain the status quo for the horse soring crowd, and it’s basically just him, Sen. McConnell, and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Smith pushing that pro-soring bill. None of these Republican presidential candidates are cosponsoring any current animal protection legislation even though the major bills all have Republican authors.

Jeb Bush: As governor of Florida, Bush signed a number of animal protection bills sent to him by the legislature, but like O’Malley, never distinguished himself as a leader or an advocate in that office. During his tenure, Florida upgraded its laws on animal fighting, horse tripping, dog and cat fur, downer livestock, and pets in disaster planning. On the campaign trail, Bush has floated the idea of relocating the Interior Department to the West, and his Iowa Farm Team includes two past presidents of the National Pork Producers Council who have opposed animal welfare reforms in Congress and in the corporate sector.

Chris Christie: As noted above, Christie recently vetoed legislation to block imports of big-game trophies, although he had previously signed bills to crack down on wildlife trafficking by banning the trade in elephant ivory, rhino horns, and shark fins. As governor of New Jersey, Christie signed bills upgrading a number of animal protection laws on horse slaughter, animal fighting, pets in disasters, and other issues. He is most remembered, however, for twice vetoing legislation to ban the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in metal gestation crates, which had passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan votes. The issue made national headlines and was largely viewed as a sop to Iowa’s pork industry in light of Christie’s presidential ambitions. Christie has also been a booster of the state’s trophy hunting season for the state’s modest population of bears. In short, Christie’s record is mixed, where he’s taken some very good actions for animals but lined up with special interests like the Farm Bureau and NRA when it’s served his political ambitions. In New Jersey, one of the most pro-animal states in the nation, state lawmakers are pushing a number of reforms toward his office—some politically impossible not to sign because they are so popular, and others that stir the passions of trophy hunters, pork producers, and other animal-use interests he’s been courting in Iowa and elsewhere on the rest of the presidential trail.

Mike Huckabee: As governor of Arkansas, Huckabee sat on the sidelines and was silent during the legislative effort and ballot measure campaign to establish felony-level penalties for malicious animal cruelty. The policy was enacted after he left office, under the tenure of Gov. Mike Beebe. News reports also questioned Huckabee’s personal involvement in the handling of animal cruelty allegations against his son in 1998.

John Kasich: As governor of Ohio, Kasich acted swiftly in response to the tragic release of dozens of bears, lions, tigers, wolves and other exotic animals in Zanesville, setting a moratorium on the sale of exotic animals and advocating for the state’s first restrictions on the private ownership of dangerous wildlife as pets. Kasich has signed other bills sent to him by the Ohio legislature, upgrading the state laws on animal cruelty and puppy mills, and allowing pets to be included in domestic violence protective orders. He came into the governor’s office on the heels of a landmark agreement between The HSUS, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and Gov. Ted Strickland, and he’s generally done a creditable job of handling the provisions—including the phase-out of veal crates for calves, gestation crates for breeding pigs, and tail-docking of dairy cattle, and protections for “downer” cows—although there is concern that the state has not yet established felony penalties for cockfighting and may allow the expansion of a new battery cage egg-laying facility run by the notorious Hillandale Farms (thereby falling short, so far, on two elements of the eight-point agreement between The HSUS and the Farm Bureau).

Rick Santorum: Of all the Republican candidates still in the race, 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. 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. Santorum 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.

*****

You can help put humane issues in front of all the presidential candidates and make animal protection part of the political discourse. Please join us at ChangePolitics.org, a new, nonpartisan, elections platform that allows you to ask questions about animal protection issues that are important to you, and “upvote” other users’ questions to give them a higher ranking.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Did Your Members of Congress Make the Grade?

We’ve started a new year and a new session of the 114th Congress (which runs from January 2015 to December 2016), and despite plenty of gridlock last year, there were several important victories for animal protection. We want you, as an animal advocate, to have a simple and efficient way to determine how your federal lawmakers sided on crucial animal protection legislation. To that end, today we’re publishing the final version of the 2015 Humane Scorecard, which covers the first session of the 114th Congress and shows you how your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative performed on animal protection issues. 

2015-humane-scorecard-cover-blog
hslf.org/scorecard

Think of the Humane Scorecard as a handy tool to see where your federal legislators stand on our movement’s key policy issues. It demonstrates the level of support animal protection ideas hold in various regions of the country and with the two major political parties. It also helps us evaluate where we’ve been effective, and where we need to focus our energies in the months and years ahead.

In this report, we score lawmakers on key votes to weaken the Endangered Species Act and erode protections for imperiled wildlife, to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s modest rule to crack down on the commercial ivory trade that is wreaking havoc on elephant populations, and to enact the omnibus funding package containing many crucial advances for animals. We also evaluate their support for adequate funding to enforce federal animal welfare laws, and their co-sponsorship of priority bills to protect animals including pets, horses, and animals in laboratories. We provide extra credit for legislators who took the lead on one or more animal protection issues.

We recognize the limitations of trying to judge legislators based on a few votes, co-sponsorships, and joint letters, and no instrument of this type is ever going to be perfect. We can’t count co-sponsorship of every worthy bill, so we try to give a balanced snapshot looking at a few priority bills across a spectrum of concerns, each with a critical mass of support and a reasonable chance of enactment.

Legislators sometimes must miss votes for unavoidable reasons such as illness or a death in the family. Advocates should also consider such unrecorded matters as performance on committees, positions of congressional leadership, and constituent service. But our movement must strive for some objective yardstick to evaluate performance on our issues.

We hope the Humane Scorecard will be useful to you all year. If you’re a member of HSLF (I hope you are!), please enjoy the complimentary printed copy you’ll receive in the mail as one of your membership benefits. And please help to spread the word about the important work we are doing.

Here are some of the highlights from the first session of the 114th Congress:

  • A bipartisan group of 39 Senators and 142 Representatives covering 37 states, Guam, and the District of Columbia led as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislative or regulatory efforts and/or scored a perfect 100—more than one-third of the Senate and more than one-quarter of the House.
  • The average Senate score was a 47, with Senate Democrats averaging 79, Senate Republicans averaging 20, and Senate Independents averaging 65.
  • The average House score was a 48, with House Democrats averaging 83, and House Republicans averaging 21.
  • Twenty-one Senators scored 100 or 100+.
  • Eighteen Senators scored zero.
  • One hundred and eight Representatives scored 100 or 100+.
  • Fifty-three Representatives scored zero.
  • The New England region led the pack with an average House score of 94 and an average Senate score of 90, followed by the Mid-Atlantic region with a House score of 70 and a Senate score of 77, and the West with a House score of 63 and a Senate score of 61.
  • The Rocky Mountains and the Southeast were at the bottom, with average House scores of 34 and 31 respectively, and each had an average Senate score of 23.
  • Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey had an average Senate score of 100.
  • In Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, and Nebraska, both Senators scored 0.
  • Rhode Island had a House average of 100, and Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York had House averages above 80.
  • Wyoming had an average House score of zero, and Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, and West Virginia had average House scores in single digits.

For all the details, please check out (and hold onto) the Humane Scorecard and use it to talk to your lawmakers about their grades for last year. If they scored high, thank them for their support of animal protection. If they didn’t, let them know you’re watching and you hope they’ll do better in 2016.

It’s important to let your legislators know that you and other constituents care about treating animals humanely, that you want to see common-sense policies enacted to protect animals, and that you’ll be keeping them informed throughout the year so they can do well on the next Humane Scorecard right out of the gate. 

We need your help, and theirs, to advance a mainstream agenda for animal protection in this final session of the 114th Congress, taking on horse soring and slaughter, poaching and wildlife trafficking, animal testing for cosmetics and chemicals, domestic violence against family pets, and other cruelties.

P.S.—Special thanks goes to the following Senators and Representatives who took the pro-animal position on every scored item and earned extra credit for leading on one or more animal issues:

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Sen. Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Rep. Don Beyer (Va.), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Rep. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.), Rep. Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Rep. Susan Davis (Calif.), Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.), Rep. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Rep. Sam Farr (Calif.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), Rep. Jared Huffman (Calif.), Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.), Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.), Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.), Rep. Grace Meng (N.Y.), Rep. David Price (N.C.), Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.), Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Rep. Dina Titus (Nev.), Rep. Paul Tonko (N.Y.), Rep. Niki Tsongas (Mass.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Look Back at the First Session of the 114th Congress

Editor's note: This post was originally published on December 29, 2015 at 12:17 p.m. and has been updated to include the list of legislators who led the way on these important measures and the updated cosponsor numbers on our priority bills for 2016.

Federal lawmakers have concluded their work for 2015, and will pick up where they left off in mid-January. Washington saw plenty of gridlock this year, but there were also several important victories for animal protection, including bills that made it over the finish line or have the momentum to do so next year. Here’s my rundown of the advances for animals during the 2015 session:

Omnibus (Consolidated Appropriations Act) Highlights:

A number of the victories for animals came with the $1.1 trillion omnibus funding package (P.L. 114-113), signed into law just before Christmas. With a number of critical animal issues in play, the bill was essentially a clean sweep on all of them, with gains in the following areas:

SWEETHEART_APR_15_303848
Language in the omnibus prevents the resumption in the United States of horse slaughter for human consumption.Photo by Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Horse slaughter – The omnibus retains “defund” language that’s been enacted over the past several years to prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from spending funds for inspection of horse slaughter plants.This effectively prevents the resumption in the United States of horse slaughter for human consumption – a practice that is inherently cruel, particularly given the difficulty of properly stunning horses before slaughter, and dangerous because horses are routinely given drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans.
Leads: Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Reps. Sam Farr, D-Calif., Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.

Federal protections for wolves and other endangered species – The omnibus rejects all the new riders in the House and Senate Interior Appropriations bills that would have undermined the Endangered Species Act, a bedrock environmental law that has prevented 99 percent of species under its care from going extinct and that calls for science-based decision making to protect wildlife and plants in danger of extinction. Recent polling shows that the ESA is supported by 90 percent of American voters. With the extinction of species on earth now at its highest rate since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, this law is needed more urgently than ever. 
Leads: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.

ARS research on farm animals – The omnibus contains strong language to address abuses uncovered by a New York Times exposé of the Agricultural Research Service’s Meat Animal Research Center. Language directs ARS to ensure that all of its research facilities comply with federal Animal Welfare Act standards, provides $400,000 for inspections, and withholds five percent of the ARS budget until specified animal welfare reforms are fulfilled. 
Leads: Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Udall, Feinstein, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Booker, D-N.J., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Farr, Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Buchanan.

Alternatives to animal testing and stopping pointless experiments – The omnibus provides a $52.7 million increase for the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which works on developing alternatives to animal testing that are more humane, faster to perform, less costly to industry, and can provide more reliable results than animal experiments not predictive of the human experience. 
Leads: Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Reps. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., David Price, D-N.C., and Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Maternal deprivation – The omnibus incorporates by reference House committee report language calling on the NIH to review (in consultation with outside experts) its ethical policies and processes for nonhuman primate research, language that already helped spur NIH to develop a plan to close down one of its primate facilities in Maryland where decades-long research had occurred involving maternal deprivation for infant monkeys.
Leads: Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Farr.

ELEPHANT-ISTOCK_000021013241_282554
The omnibus rejects the House Interior Appropriations bill rider that would have blocked the Fish and Wildlife Service from moving forward on efforts to reduce trafficking in ivory products. Photo by iStockphoto

Ivory rule – The omnibus rejects the House Interior Appropriations bill rider that would have blocked the Fish and Wildlife Service from moving forward on efforts to reduce trafficking in ivory products. Illegal poaching of elephants has reached epidemic proportions, and extinction in the wild looms unless strong action is taken to curb demand. The United States is the second largest market for ivory products after China, and the U.S. and Chinese presidents committed publicly in September to take action in both countries to crack down on the ivory trade.
Leads: Sen. Feinstein, and Reps. Grijalva, Peter King, R-N.Y., McCollum, and Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Wildlife trafficking enforcement – The omnibus provides not less than $80 million (a $25 million increase) under the U.S. Agency for International Development to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and trafficking, and bars any expenditures to train or assist military units or personnel that the secretary of state determines are credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking, unless the secretary reports that such expenditure is in the national security interests of the United States. Wildlife trafficking has become one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises internationally, helping finance organized criminal syndicates and terrorist groups such as the Janjaweed and Lord’s Resistance Army. 
Leads: Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Coons.

Class B dealers – The omnibus denies funds for the USDA’s licensing or relicensing of Class B animal dealers who sell “random source” dogs and cats, often obtained fraudulently and kept in horrible conditions before being sold for laboratory experiments. These dealers have a long history of trafficking in stolen pets, misrepresenting themselves at animal shelters and in responding to “free to good home” ads.  The vast majority of research facilities long ago stopped relying on such dealers, and in recent years, NIH has prohibited funds for research involving cats and dogs acquired that way. The number of Class B dealers has gone from hundreds two decades ago to only two remaining currently.
Lead: Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.

Animal welfare enforcement – The omnibus maintains funding for the USDA to enforce and implement key animal protection laws, including the Animal Welfare Act that provides oversight for millions of animals at more than 10,000 sites, including puppy mills and other commercial breeding facilities, laboratories, zoos, and circuses; the Horse Protection Act dealing with cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds (deliberately inflicting pain on horses’ legs and hooves to achieve an artificial high-stepping gait and win prizes); the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act; the federal animal fighting law; and a program that encourages veterinarians, through student loan repayment assistance, to locate in underserved rural areas and USDA inspection positions.
Leads: Sens. Boxer David Vitter, R-La., and Merkley, and Reps. Chris Smith, Blumenauer, and Farr.

Wild horses – The omnibus restates the long-standing ban on the killing of healthy wild horses and burros and sale for slaughter, and directs the Bureau of Land Management to continue implementing reforms recommended by the National Academy of Sciences for more humane wild horse and burro population management, including reducing the number of animals rounded up and transferred to long-term holding pens and increasing the use of available humane fertility control methods.
Leads: Reps. Calvert and McCollum.

ORCA_AT_ANGLE_HAKAN_KARLSSON_ISTOCK_000001642159SMAL_172887
The omnibus incorporates language directing the USDA to issue its long-delayed proposed rule to establish more humane standards of care for captive marine mammals. Photo by iStockphoto

Marine mammals – The omnibus incorporates by reference Senate committee report language directing the USDA to issue its long-delayed proposed rule to establish more humane standards of care for captive marine mammals, including orcas, dolphins, and beluga whales.
Leads: Sens. Feinstein and Merkley.

Land and Water Conservation Fund – The omnibus contains a 47 percent increase in funding for this program that protects and improves habitat for wildlife and recreational access for nature lovers.

Pet food – The omnibus provides full funding to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, which includes needed reforms for safe pet food.
Leads: Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Reps. DeLauro, Farr, and Pingree.

Authorizing Bill Highlights:

Alternatives to animal testing – The Senate passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act by voice vote in December, reauthorizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time since it was signed into law almost 40 years ago. The Senate bill contains landmark provisions to reduce – if not eliminate – the use of live animals for chemical testing.  Each year, tens of thousands of animals are killed to test industrial chemicals, including those found in common household products. These animals suffer terribly, as harsh chemicals are rubbed into their skin, forced down their throats, and dropped in their eyes, sometimes over a prolonged period, causing horrific deaths.  If these provisions are enacted, it will benefit animals, consumers, industry, and the environment by spurring the use of modern, science-based alternatives that are much more efficient and yield better safety decisions than antiquated animal toxicity testing. The House had already passed its version of TSCA, so we hope House-Senate conferees will hammer out their differences quickly in 2016 and, no matter what, retain the vital Senate language on animal testing.
Leads: Sens. Booker, Udall, and Vitter.

Amtrak and pets – Congress enacted a transportation package with an amendment directing Amtrak to develop a program that allows passengers to carry their cats and dogs on board certain trains. This will create more opportunities for pets to remain with their families when they have no one to care for them during travel or need to permanently relocate.
Leads: Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Kirk, and Feinstein, and Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.  

CECIL-LION-116693919_293157
House and Senate bills named after Cecil the lion were introduced to stop imports of trophies from endangered or threatened animal species. Photo by 500px Prime

Military working dogs – Congress also enacted a defense authorization bill with an amendment to facilitate the adoption of retired military working dogs by their former handlers and their families, law enforcement agencies, or other individuals who will humanely care for these animals. This provision honors the special bond between service members and their trusted dogs.
Leads: Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.

Wildlife trafficking – The House passed the Global Anti-Poaching Act by voice vote in November to make wildlife trafficking violations predicate offenses under the Travel Act, Money Laundering, and RICO statutes; designate major wildlife trafficking countries; authorize the U.S. Department of Defense to provide training and equipment to fight poaching on the front lines; and promote other needed reforms. Related bills introduced in the Senate have bipartisan support – the Wildlife Trafficking Enforcement Act and the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act. In the House, the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants and Rhinoceros (TUSKER) Act would provide for trade sanctions against countries involved in illegal trade of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. House and Senate bills named after Cecil, the lion killed by a U.S. trophy hunter, were also introduced to stop imports of trophies from endangered or threatened animal species. We are hopeful that both chambers will reach agreement to pull together key elements of these various bills and enact needed reforms early in 2016.
Leads: Sens. Feinstein, Graham, Coons, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Menendez, and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., DeFazio, Grijalva, and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

New and reintroduced priority bills – We are halfway through the 114th Congress, and there is already overwhelming bipartisan support for other priority animal protection legislation. With the momentum building for these bills, we are hopeful they will get over the finish line in 2016, including:

  • Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act – to strengthen the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010 (which banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, or impaling of live animals) to prohibit those same extreme acts of malicious animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, or on federal property (213 House cosponsors and 31 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Blumenauer.
  • Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act – to make it harder for abusers to prey on their battered partners and their pets by: 1) allowing pets to be protected across state lines when restraining orders are issued in domestic violence and stalking cases; and 2) authorizing grant money so that domestic violence shelters can accommodate pets (currently only three percent of these shelters allow pets) or help arrange for pet shelter (185 House cosponsors and 27 Senate cosponsors). 
    Leads: Sens. Ayotte and Peters, and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. 
  • Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act – to amend existing federal law to better crack down on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses and certain other breeds to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows (246 House cosponsors and 50 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Fitzpatrick, Cohen, David Jolly, R-Fla., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
  • Humane Cosmetics Act – to phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the United States, as is the case for more than 1.7 billion consumers who live in countries that have already undertaken such action, including the European Union and India (145 House cosponsors).
    Leads: Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif.
  • Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act – to protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption (184 House cosponsors and 29 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Menendez, Graham, Mikulski, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Guinta, Schakowsky, Buchanan, and Lujan Grisham.
  • Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research (AWARE) Act – to permanently close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that exempts farm animals used for agricultural research at federal government facilities, and ensure that these animals receive the basic care required under the law (83 House cosponsors and 10 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Booker and Blumenthal, and Reps. Blumenauer, Fitzpatrick, Slaughter, and Buchanan.
  • Big Cats and Primates as Pets – to protect public safety and animal welfare, the Captive Primate Safety Act (66 House cosponsors) would bar the interstate trade in chimpanzees and monkeys as pets, and the Big Cat Public Safety Act (50 House cosponsors) would prohibit private ownership of dangerous big cats such as tigers and lions as pets. 
    Leads: Reps. Fitzpatrick, Blumenauer, and Walter Jones, R-N.C.

There were dozens of other bills introduced demonstrating the broad interest in animal protection among lawmakers and the public. This year’s results demonstrated that it is still possible to get good things done for animals and that our issues continue to transcend the partisan divide. We look forward to a robust second session of the 114th Congress beginning in January and to the renewed engagement of advocates across the country.  It is this engagement that makes all the difference to our success.

Ask your lawmakers to act on these priority bills»

Monday, January 11, 2016

Manatees Slated to Lose Protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recently made some important advances toward protecting imperiled species from harm—including the listing of African lions under the Endangered Species Act, upgrading captive chimpanzees to an endangered listing, and closing loopholes in the domestic ivory trade to crack down on elephant poaching.

Manatee-Andrew-Pearson-Alamy-Stock-Photo-240x270
Andrew Pearson/Alamy Stock Photo

Unfortunately the agency has started off 2016 with an action that goes in the wrong direction, proposing to downgrade the West Indian manatee, which includes all Florida manatees, from endangered to the lesser status of threatened under the ESA. The FWS says that even with a threatened listing it would continue to implement plans for recovery of the species, and we urge it to follow through on that intent. Changing the manatee’s status to threatened, however, opens the door for the loosening of restrictions on future proposals for coastal development and other human activities that could cause harm and risk to the species. And it sends a signal to local and state decision-makers that protections are no longer needed and can be weakened.

This proposed reclassification was spurred by a property rights and boating interest group petitioning, then suing, the federal government to reduce protections for manatees. Ignoring the evidence of hundreds of manatee deaths in 2010 due to cold weather, the group objected to strict speed limits in areas where manatees congregate—in estuaries, bays, and rivers along the Florida coast.

Manatees are slow-moving animals, and in the past two years, boat strikes were one of the top two causes of death for them. Despite posted speed limits, 87 manatees were killed by watercraft in 2015 alone, with almost 400 dying in collisions over the past five years, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It’s rare to see a manatee who doesn’t bear scars or mutilations from collisions with watercraft.

When a species makes substantial progress towards recovery, decreasing the species’ status from endangered to threatened may in some cases be supported by science, and a species designated as threatened may benefit from the flexible management scheme such listing affords. The HSUS and other groups, for example, proposed that gray wolves be designated as threatened to allow wildlife managers more opportunity to address conflicts with wolves while retaining needed federal oversight of the species’ continued recovery. But the manatee still faces many serious threats, and the downlisting is premature and risk-laden.

Warm water habitat in the manatee’s range is being lost, and the USFWS itself predicts that populations will still decline in some parts of Florida. Human activities have continued to encroach on manatee habitat, limiting their access to natural springs that provide warm water in winter. To avoid freezing, around 60 percent of Florida manatees now rely on warmer waters near power plants—most of which are slated to be closed in the next 50 years.

Manatee-Cultura-RM-Alamy-Stock-Photo-300x200
Cultura RM/Alamy Stock Photo

Other serious threats to manatees continue to emerge. Record-breaking cold snaps and harmful algae blooms (or red tides, which can be exacerbated by pollution) contributed to the deaths of 1,600 Florida manatees over the past three years. These toxic algal blooms don’t just poison manatees; they can also destroy their food sources. More than 47,000 acres of sea grass beds were killed off in the Indian River Lagoon alone. Water resources may also become scarce: cattle ranchers recently applied for a permit to pull 1.12 million gallons of water per day near a manatee habitat in the St. John’s River region.

Manatees are a national treasure, a major tourist draw, and an important part of the southeastern ecosystem. After four decades of federal protection, many threats still face these gentle giants swimming in Florida waters, and they have struggled to survive the damaging effects of increasing human activities. Are we so miserly as a species that we can’t slow down when boating in certain areas, or exercise some restraint on further development in manatee habitat?

As Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said in response to this proposed rule, “Manatees have become an iconic symbol for the wilderness and beauty of Florida. They are an engine in our economy even as they are a restorative presence in our tranquil waters. We must do everything possible to protect this treasured species.”

 

If you have a moment, please add your voice and contact the USFWS to urge that the agency keep manatees listed as endangered under the ESA and ensure their protections remain strong.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

FBI Takes Important Action Against Animal Cruelty

In too many communities throughout the nation, there are horrific and malicious cases of animal cruelty occurring. A horse neglected and starved to death. A cat and her kittens set on fire. Dogs forced to fight to the death in a pit.

Dog_chain_240x270_Larry_French
One of 21 dogs The HSUS rescued from a
suspected dog fighting ring in West Virgina.
Larry French/AP Images for The HSUS

In a move that will improve society’s ability to hold offenders accountable and to prevent such cruelty and abuse, this year the Federal Bureau of Investigation will begin collecting data on animal cruelty crimes. The change in reporting signals from the highest levels of government the importance of protecting animals and our communities. We applaud the FBI for addressing the documented connection between animal cruelty and violence to people.

With this decision, cruelty to animals—including abuse, neglect, animal fighting, and bestiality—will now have its own category in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report so that trends in these illegal activities can be identified and prioritized for intervention. The original announcement took place late in 2014 but this year starts the critical process of local agencies reporting their data for this nationwide collaborative effort.

Just as the FBI tracks hate crimes and other important categories, we will now have much needed critical data on animal cruelty. The Humane Society Legislative Fund, Doris Day Animal League, The Humane Society of the United States, and the National Sheriffs’ Association joined with members of Congress to push for this critical change which was years in the making. Now, no longer will extremely violent criminal acts escape the attention of the FBI simply because the victims were animals.

Before this expansion of the FBI’s focus, there was no process for capturing animal cruelty data on the statewide or national level. It’s been especially difficult because animal cruelty laws are enforced by a very large number of police and sheriffs’ departments, local humane society agents, and animal control officers.

But now that animal cruelty is included in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report there is a real incentive for law enforcement agencies to pay closer attention to such incidents. With accurate data, law enforcement agencies will also be better able to allocate officers and financial resources to handle these cases, track trends, and deploy accordingly.

Our movement is making progress in the battle against animal cruelty in so many ways. We are fortifying the legal framework for animals and closing gaps in state and federal laws. South Dakota recently became the 50th state to enact felony penalties for malicious cruelty, Utah became the 42nd state to make cockfighting a felony, and Congress banned attendance at animal fights. The HSUS and its partners work with law enforcement on thousands of cases of animal cruelty and we also travel across the country to train law enforcement officials on how to investigate these crimes.

This new development, which has been a goal of the animal protection movement for years, is a practical way of cracking down on cruelty. It is also significant in affirming that animal cruelty is a vice just like so many other violent crimes. It is the latest tangible gain in our effort to make the protection of animals a universal value in our society.

Now, we urge local law enforcement agencies to provide ongoing data to the FBI to ensure we have a robust category in the UCR. The success of this endeavor is directly linked to the numbers of jurisdictions that regularly forward information to the national database, and they and the communities they serve will benefit from it down the road.

Get Political
for Animals




Powered by TypePad