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April 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

House Ag Committee votes to keep dogs and cats off the menu but obliterates states’ ability to protect animals

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

Today, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed the 2018 Farm Bill on a straight party-line vote, and now the bill advances for a vote by the full House of Representatives.

Cow-blog
Leandro Hernandez/i.Stock.com

Despite one bright spot, the bill is fraught with peril for animals. The committee adopted a disastrous proposal that is nothing short of an assault on animal welfare and states’ rights. Members approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, based on his H.R. 4879, that could upend countless state and local laws across a wide range of concerns including animal protection, food safety, labor, and environmental protection.

King’s legislation is highly controversial—a diverse array of more than 180 groups opposes it—and it must be kept out of the final Farm Bill. It takes a “race to the bottom” approach by mandating that if any one state tolerates the way a particular agricultural product is manufactured or produced—no matter how hazardous the product or unacceptable the production process involved—every other state could be forced to accept it or to acquiesce. King’s amendment has the potential to wipe out state laws protecting animals used for food from intensive confinement, such as California’s Proposition 2, and could also negate state-level efforts to combat puppy mills and sales of foie gras, shark fins, and even meat from horses, dogs, and cats. It also could negate state laws on everything from pesticide exposure to child labor, fire-safe cigarettes, alcohol, and seed standards.

Representative Jeff Denham, R-Calif., offered a substitute to King’s amendment, co-led by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif, requesting a study of the impacts on interstate commerce of numerous state laws. Denham also spoke eloquently about the broad adverse impacts of King’s legislation. Unfortunately, his substitute amendment failed, despite bipartisan support.

"This proposal goes far beyond attacking California egg production and beyond its guise of protecting interstate commerce. Rather, it indiscriminately targets any and all state laws that can be deemed a burden to out of state entities. Even laws democratically passed by popular vote, which, in California, Prop 2 was passed by a popular vote of the people."  - Rep. Denham

Although we are outraged by the addition of the King amendment to the Farm Bill, and we’re preparing to fight it with all we’ve got, we did score an important victory for dogs and cats in committee, thanks to an amendment offered by Rep. Denham to protect these animals from the inhumane dog and cat meat trade. This provision, if enacted, will prohibit the domestic slaughter, trade and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. It would prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S., serve as a symbol of unity with countries that have already enacted bans, and give us greater standing to encourage other nations to follow suit.

The American public has vocally called for passage of the dog and cat meat ban—originally introduced as H.R. 1406 by Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich, and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.—which has bipartisan support of 239 cosponsors. Congress should ensure that this language is included in the final version of the Farm Bill.

We must and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the final Farm Bill includes strong protections for animals. Please call your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators (you can find his or her contact information here) and urge them to reject Rep. Steve King’s egregious Farm Bill amendment and support the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act. Furthermore, although the House Agriculture Committee did not include additional safeguards to prevent horse soring, animal fighting, and domestic violence against pets, please let your legislators know that the final bill should include these vital protections as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Recognizing Humane Legislators on Capitol Hill

Last night, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and The Humane Society of the United States co-hosted the annual Congressional Humane Awards to honor a bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the way for animals during the last year. Dozens of Senators and Representatives plus staff members from additional offices (and some charming office dogs) attended the event in the U.S. Capitol to celebrate the federal lawmakers who are working to make the world a better place for animals.

The top awards this year went to Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who were honored as the 2017 Humane Legislators of the Year. The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have initiated path-breaking animal protection legislation and demonstrably advanced these reforms.

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Bill Petros/For The HSUS
Rep. Smith with HSLF president, Michael Markarian
and acting HSUS president and CEO, Kitty Block.

For 18 years, Rep. Smith has been the lead Republican mobilizing his colleagues to seek needed funds and provisions to enforce key animal welfare laws. Working closely with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., he has steadily built bipartisan support, with a record 184 Representatives joining the effort in 2017 and 190 this year. Their joint annual letters to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee have been remarkably effective—for example, more than tripling funding for the Animal Welfare Act (which requires basic standards of care for millions of animals at breeding operations, laboratories, zoos, and other facilities) from $9 million per year in the 1990s to $30.8 million in FY18, despite challenging budget constraints. These letters have delivered results on a wide range of concerns, including enforcement of laws on animal fighting, humane slaughter, and soring of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds, as well as programs to ease the shortage of veterinarians in underserved areas and to address the needs of animals in disaster planning and response. Last year’s letter called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore inspection reports and other documents abruptly purged from the agency’s website in February 2017, leaving the public in the dark about violators of the AWA and the Horse Protection Act on soring. The House Appropriations committee report addressed this issue last July and the FY18 omnibus included even stronger language directing USDA to promptly restore online searchable access to this information. Smith led a letter to Agriculture Secretary Perdue last month protesting the agency’s plan to outsource AWA oversight to third-party inspectors in the regulated industries, including puppy mills, labs and roadside zoos.

Additionally, Smith co-led a letter to USDA in 2015 voicing support for a proposed rule—finalized the following year—to humanely euthanize downer calves (those too sick, injured or weak to stand and walk on their own) rather than sending them through to the food supply. In the wake of an exposé on cruel treatment at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Smith led a letter to Appropriations Committee conferees urging that the final FY16 legislation require federal facilities conducting research on farm animals to comply with AWA standards, something the omnibus did. Smith has for years been the lead Republican sponsor of the Pet Safety and Protection Act to end theft of pets sold into research by Class B dealers. He sponsored the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to improve research and treatment of rabies among other diseases, legislation approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee in November 2017. He has also voted in favor of animals consistently on the House floor, such as rejecting efforts to allow extreme trophy hunting methods of wolves and grizzly bears on National Wildlife Refuges and National Park Service land in Alaska. 

Hslf-humaneawards-Roybal-Allard-blog-300x240
Bill Petros/For The HSUS
Rep. Roybal-Allard with HSLF president, Michael Markarian,
acting HSUS president and CEO, Kitty Block,
and HSLF executive director, Sara Amundson.

Rep. Roybal-Allard has been an exceptionally strong voice for animals used in research, testing, and education. She won enactment of appropriations provisions in each of the past three years (FY16-18) barring USDA from issuing licenses for Class B dealers selling “random source” dogs and cats. These dealers are notorious for keeping dogs and cats in awful conditions and obtaining them through fraudulent means—such as pet theft and misrepresenting their intentions when responding to “free to good home” ads—to sell them to research facilities. Roybal-Allard began laying groundwork for this achievement in 2008, when she first obtained committee report language on the Class B dealer issue. In 2017, she secured appropriations committee report language encouraging the National Institutes of Health to expedite retirement of NIH-owned chimpanzees and consider expanding the national chimpanzee sanctuary system to better accommodate the many animals needing space. She persuaded the U.S. Coast Guard to suspend for at least six months its use of live animals for trauma training, following reports of cruel procedures on goats, pressing the service to utilize high-tech human simulators that offer a superior training alternative. In 2015, she obtained appropriations committee report language calling on NIH to review (with outside experts) its ethical policies and processes for primate research. This provision helped spur NIH to develop a plan to shut down one of its primate facilities in Maryland where decades-long research had subjected infant monkeys to maternal deprivation, an issue she mobilized colleagues to protest in a 2014 letter to NIH. She co-introduced the Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act in 2017 to improve reporting by the EPA, FDA, NIH, USDA and other government agencies on their efforts to replace live animal testing methods for chemicals, drugs, foods and other substances. 

Further, Rep. Roybal-Allard introduced an Appropriations Committee amendment and sought to co-lead a floor amendment in 2017 to prohibit USDA from spending tax dollars to oversee horse slaughter inspections, a provision that was incorporated in the final FY18 omnibus package and effectively blocks cruel horse slaughter operations from starting up this year on U.S. soil. She also worked to protect America’s wild horses and burros from slaughter for food consumption. She co-led a letter to President Trump objecting to USDA’s purge of inspection reports and other enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act and requesting that the records be restored for public access. She has been a consistent champion across the full range of animal protection legislation, earning a 100+ on the 2017 Humane Scorecard.    

In addition to honoring these extraordinary legislators, The HSUS and HSLF recognized a broader, bipartisan group of outstanding lawmakers based on their leadership on animal protection issues and their ratings on the 2017 Humane Scorecard. In total, 207 legislators—36 Senators and 171 Representatives and Delegates (representing 41 states and the Northern Mariana Islands)—were honored for their work in 2017. The animal protection community is grateful to all of these Members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership. Congratulations to the recipients of the 2017 Humane Awards.

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