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Pets & Cruelty

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Federal law has big impact on animal fighting

The original federal law to curb some aspects of animal fighting (adopted in 1976) did not prompt a single prosecution for more than a quarter century, even though dogfighting and cockfighting went on in thousands of dark corners and even some brightly lit arenas every year in the U.S. That’s why HSLF went to work to strengthen the law and make it more viable and effective. We’ve upgraded the law four times in the last 15 years, the latest upgrade in 2014. I’m pleased to report on a clear example of the new, stronger framework—criminalizing the act of bringing a minor to a fight. This improvement to the law is making a difference in the real world:

Last month, a Virginia man was sentenced to two years in prison for taking a minor to cockfight in Kentucky. This is a direct result of the passage of the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which was strongly backed by The HSUS and HSLF and included as a provision in the 2014 Farm Bill. 

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Heather Severt/The HSUS
Example of a cockfighting ring in
WV busted by The HSUS

The law made it a federal crime to attend a dogfight or cockfight, and a federal felony to bring a child to one. In prior years, we also convinced Congress to outlaw the sale of fighting birds, upgrade animal fighting to a felony offense, and ban the possession of fighting animals.

These upgraded federal laws are rooting out this despicable behavior. Last year, a cockfighting pit in Citronelle, Alabama, was shut down by federal authorities, after multiple undercover investigations conducted by the FBI and The HSUS. During the execution of the search warrant, authorities uncovered a huge arena with bleacher seating, concession stands, trophies, cockfighting paraphernalia, and rental holding spaces for participants’ birds with space for more than 1,000 animals.

Also last year, a federal investigation into suspected dogfighting operations led to the rescue of 66 dogs and the seizure of dogfighting paraphernalia at properties in New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C. The case was led by the U.S. Department of Justice, with assistance from The HSUS, and nine individuals were charged as part of a coordinated effort across numerous federal judicial districts to combat organized dogfighting.

The recent case, however, is especially noteworthy as the first time anyone has been prosecuted under the federal statute for bringing a child to a cockfight. (There have been previous prosecutions for attending dogfights.) And there’s more. The man sentenced for his role in cockfighting at the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club in McDowell, Kentucky, also pleaded guilty to distribution of hydrocodone. Of course we’ve known that animal fighting goes hand in hand with other crimes, and the adults who bring children to these spectacles expose them to drugs, violence, and bloodletting.

The children, of course, pay a high price for witnessing the cruelty of animal fighting first hand. Research shows that regularly being exposed to animal cruelty puts children at serious risk. When children become accustomed to the pain and suffering they witness, they become desensitized. Not only are they at risk of becoming animal fighters themselves, they are at risk of becoming involved in crimes against people.

Also, with the FBI now tracking animal cruelty crimes in the uniform crime reporting database, and organizations like the National Sheriffs Association speaking out forcefully against animal cruelty, we should see more enforcement of all animal fighting laws. The HSUS is also training thousands of law enforcement agents across the country on how to enforce laws against cockfighting and dogfighting. 

It was less than 20 years ago that cockfighting was still legal in five states. The HSUS and HSLF marched state by state to close the gaps in the legal framework on animal fighting. And because many of the dogfights and cockfights are multi-state and multi-jurisdictional, we worked with our allies in Congress to fortify the federal statute as a complement to the state laws. We are now seeing the results of all that work paying off for animals and for communities around the country, and we are grateful to all the lawmakers who advocated for tougher laws to crack down on the scourge of animal fighting.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Next Ag Secretary has a big role to play on animal welfare

The cabinet post with perhaps the most relevance for animal welfare within the incoming administration was one of the last to be filled—with former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue getting the nod from President-elect Donald Trump as the nominee for Secretary of Agriculture.

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Shaun Lowe/iStock

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a major role not only on agricultural policy, but also in the enforcement and implementation of key animal protection laws, including the Animal Welfare Act, which provides oversight for millions of animals at more than 10,000 sites (including puppy mills and other commercial breeding facilities, laboratories, roadside zoos, and circuses); the Horse Protection Act, which deals with cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses (deliberately injuring horses’ legs and hooves to achieve an artificial high-stepping, pain-based gait to win prizes); the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act; and the federal animal fighting law.

What do we have in the way of insights about Sonny Perdue’s record on animal welfare? As governor, he signed a law in 2008 strongly backed by The HSUS and HSLF to make dogfighting a felony and close loopholes on owning fighting dogs and being a dogfighting spectator. "I am pleased today to make it clear that dogfighting is an activity that we will not tolerate here in Georgia," said Perdue in signing the bill.

Perdue is a licensed veterinarian, who graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, and a few years ago volunteered his time to perform a surgery at the Atlanta Humane Society to raise awareness for the spaying and neutering of pets and a special dog and cat license plate that supports Georgia’s statewide spay and neuter program. "I'm here today to help the Humane Society call attention to the serious problem we have in Georgia with the overpopulation of cats and dogs," said the then-governor. "We need to encourage pet owners to be responsible so that we don't have unwanted animals finding their way to shelters and having to be euthanized."

In 2010, Perdue also signed a bill banning the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter pets.

In recent weeks, a number of players within Big Ag have championed his appointment. As governor, Perdue signed a pro-agribusiness bill to preempt local ordinances related to agriculture, and similar effort could be advanced at the federal level to block states and local communities from having a say on agriculture policy. Certainly, we hope that Secretary Perdue will stand up for states’ rights and local decision-making authority.

Georgia is the top state for production of broiler chickens (those raised for meat) and is also home to the United Egg Producers. Perdue is undoubtedly familiar with these issues, and with the trends in these industries, including the fact that, increasingly, American consumers have higher expectations for animal welfare. Most of the major egg producers are transitioning toward cage-free production, and some of the biggest brand names in the world of chicken production—such as Perdue (no relation to the designee)—are moving toward slower-growing birds to prevent their immense suffering and implementing other reforms. The next Secretary of Agriculture can play a role in helping the marketplace transition to higher welfare practices. The ground has shifted on these issues not just among consumers, but even among so many producers. We hope that Governor Perdue sheds the old canards about agriculture and brings the balance that consumers expect and that so many food businesses have already committed to honor.

The incoming administration is reportedly working on plans to cut the size of government. If cost-cutters are looking to downsize the USDA, we have some suggestions: The agency’s Wildlife Services program is an outdated and inefficient model of lethal predator control, essentially operating as a government subsidy for private ranchers, and wasting millions of dollars each year killing wolves, mountain lions, bears, and other wildlife with cruel methods such as poisoning, aerial gunning, and steel-jawed leghold traps.

The USDA can also stop the multi-million dollar subsidies for big pork and other factory farm products, and let the free market take the place of government hand-outs. It can rein in the National Pork Board, which is funneling check-off dollars—a tax paid by every pig farmer supposedly for marketing efforts—to a D.C. lobbying group. The $60 million boondoggle has come under fire from conservative Sen. Jeff Flake, who writes, "In a very unusual deal, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is bringing home the bacon from a government sponsored board for the sale of the slogan ‘The Other White Meat,’ which was put out to pasture years ago." Flake notes that the "deal guarantees payments to a lobbying organization over two decades" for a slogan that is no longer even being used. You could not find a stronger example of crony capitalism taking advantage of government benefits.

In recent years, the USDA has been responsible for progress on a number of animal welfare issues, including banning the slaughter of downer cows and veal calves who can’t stand up or walk on their own, strengthening enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to crack down on illegal soring, setting animal welfare standards for the organics industry, strengthening the care of captive marine mammals, and working to address problems with puppy mills, Class B dealers, and tiger cub petting operations. We urge the incoming Secretary of Agriculture to continue the progress on these issues and make animal welfare a priority for the agency. If he wants to "drain the swamp," he’ll have to resist the polarizers and the provocateurs who want to fight old battles, settled already in so many states and even in the business community.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The 2016 congressional year in review for animals

The 115th Congress convenes today, and it’s set to be a busy next few months as legislators take up appropriations for FY17 and FY18, as well as many other presidential and congressional priorities. It’s going to be hectic, and at times contentious, but we’ll be there every day on the front lines driving change for animals.

Capitol
iStock Photo

As we gear up for the new year, let’s take a look back and reflect on some of the key victories for animals during the 2016 session. That list should include key rulemaking actions, where lawmakers advocated for executive agencies to take action and strengthen the regulations associated with major laws for animals.

Animals in Research and Testing: Signed into law in June 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (P.L. 114-182) phases out archaic, costly, and non-predictive animal testing protocols in favor of 21st century technology. It reauthorized the 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with new landmark provisions to reduce, and ultimately replace, the use of live animals for testing tens of thousands of chemicals in the marketplace, potentially saving millions of dogs, rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pigs, and other animals over time. This language was supported by the chemical industry, environmental and animal protection organizations. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency moved to phase out some of the especially cruel and obsolete animal testing practices used by pesticide manufacturers for hundreds of new pesticide products brought to market each year.

Leads: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Tom Udall, D-N.M., David Vitter, R-La., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.

Wildlife Trafficking: Congress passed the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act (P.L. 114-231, signed into law in October 2016) to support global anti-poaching efforts, require greater collaboration with NGOs and governments of countries affected by wildlife trafficking, and allow serious wildlife crimes to trigger substantial penalties under money-laundering statutes. Separately, bipartisan letters signed by 108 Representatives and six Senators helped set the stage for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a final rule to curtail the commercial ivory trade in the United States, estimated to be the world’s second largest market for ivory product sales behind China. House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports for FY17 also reiterated the need for agencies to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking and highlighted the role of this trade in financing armed insurgencies and terrorist organizations.

Leads: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Peter King, R-N.Y., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Farm Animals: After an appalling exposé of abuse and neglect at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and both chambers prevailed on the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to cover all its research practices under the standards of the Animal Welfare Act and institute regular inspections of all its animal research facilities. In addition, a bipartisan group of 92 Representatives and 14 Senators successfully pushed the USDA to close a loophole in the agency’s 2009 regulation, which previously banned the slaughter of downer cattle (those too sick, weak, or injured to stand on their own) but did not cover downer veal calves, leaving them vulnerable to abuse. The USDA also made clear in its final rule that the humane handling regulations apply to all animals as soon as they arrive at slaughter facilities.

Leads: Sens. Merkley, Udall, Feinstein, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Booker, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Chris Smith, R-N.J., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y.

Horses: Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved bipartisan amendments in their FY17 Agriculture bills to sustain language preventing horse slaughter plants from reopening in the United States. The continuing resolution passed in December 2016 will keep these despicable operations shuttered through April 28, 2017, the deadline Congress set to complete action for FY17 appropriations. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees also included language in their FY17 Interior bills to ensure that healthy, unadopted wild horses are not sent to slaughter and directed the Bureau of Land Management to continue researching viable, humane solutions, such as fertility control, to be used on the range to curb the ever growing wild horse numbers. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum also joined efforts to end the cruel practice of injuring horses to induce an artificial, pain-based, high-stepping gait known as the “big lick” in Tennessee Walking Horse shows. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act garnered 323 Senate and House cosponsors, and 42 Senators and 182 Representatives voiced support for the USDA’s still pending rule to fix its outdated regulations to eliminate the corrupt system of industry self-policing and the use of devices integral to soring (mirroring key provisions in PAST).

Leads: Sens. Udall, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Graham, Feinstein, Coons, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Farr, Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Fitzpatrick, Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., David Jolly, R-Fla., and Schakowsky, D-Ill.

Animal Cruelty: In December 2016, the Senate gave unanimous approval to the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, which would create a federal anti-cruelty statute, complementing the state cruelty laws by prohibiting malicious animal abuse on federal property or in interstate commerce. While it was too late for the House to act, this priority legislation will start the 115th Congress with strong momentum, thanks to the Senate’s action. A bipartisan letter signed by 14 Representatives helped ensure inclusion of a provision in an executive order amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice to explicitly establish an animal cruelty standard on military bases. Though animal abuse is thankfully rare among military personnel, this provision will help deter tragedies like some high-profile cases of animal cruelty on military bases in the news in recent years.

Leads: Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Blumenauer, and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

Reintroducing Priority Bills: We saw a lot of support for several important bills in 2016, which we’ll seek to get reintroduced as soon as possible. Those included:

  • Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act—The PACT Act would amend and strengthen the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010 by prohibiting those extreme acts (animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse) when they occur on federal property or in interstate commerce, regardless of whether an obscene video was produced (253 House cosponsors and 39 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Toomey and Blumenthal, and Reps. Lamar Smith, Deutch, Marino, and Blumenauer.

  • Pet and Women Safety Act—The PAWS Act would make it harder for abusers to prey on battered partners and their pets by allowing pets to be protected across state lines when restraining orders are issued in domestic violence and stalking cases and authorizing grant money so that domestic violence shelters can accommodate pets or help arrange for pet shelter. Currently, one-third of those subjected to domestic violence delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, and only three percent of domestic violence shelters allow pets; up to 84 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet (224 House cosponsors and 36 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Ayotte and Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

  • Safeguard American Food Exports Act—The SAFE Act would protect both horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given hundreds of drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. Horses destined for slaughter are often seriously injured or killed in long-distance transit, and the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths as they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horsesthey buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions (200 House cosponsors and 31 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Menendez, Graham, Mikulski, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Schakowsky, Buchanan, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.

  • Humane Cosmetics Act—The Humane Cosmetics Act would phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the United States. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in countries that have already undertaken such action, including the European Union and India. There are many alternative methodsfaster to perform and less costly to industry than expensive animal testingto ensure that products are safe for human use, and 195 companies including Paul Mitchell, Coty, Lush, and The Body Shop support this legislation (174 House cosponsors).
    Leads: Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif.

  • Prevent All Soring Tactics Act—The PAST Act would amend the 1970 Horse Protection Act to more effectively rein in the use of caustic chemicals, chains, weights, sharp objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to inflict pain on the hooves and legs of certain breeds to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping, pain-based gait. The bill incorporates reforms recommended by the USDA’s Inspector General in 2010 and by a broad cross-section of horse industry and veterinary groups, to end the failed industry self-policing scheme, ban devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all who participate in the abuse (273 House cosponsors and 50 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Ayotte and Warner, and Reps. Yoho, Schrader, Fitzpatrick, Cohen, Jolly, and Schakowsky.

With a new Congress and a new president, we can expect to face new challenges, but the advances made in 2016 remind us that animal protection reflects shared American values and transcends partisan politics. In the 115th Congress, it’s likely that the Farm Bill a major rewrite of our agricultural lawswill be taken up, and that presents both concerns and opportunities for us.

At the Humane Society Legislative Fund, we stand ready to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum to advance a common-sense animal welfare agenda, and at the same time, to fight harmful policies that threaten animals. We welcome the incoming class, and thank you for all your support and advocacy that made these 2016 achievements possible, and for your continued efforts in 2017 and beyond.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

HUD Needs a Clause on Claws

Public housing can be extremely difficult to obtain, with many families in need stuck on waiting lists for months or even years. For those with cats, the relief of acquiring public housing is quickly replaced by dread when they face an unthinkable choice: have their cat declawed or find kitty another home. Forcing tenants to declaw their cats is one of the most extreme pet policies on the books, and increasingly rare in apartment buildings. It’s not only an inhumane mutilation of the cat, but also creates a financial burden and takes choices about responsible pet care away from public housing residents.

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iStock Photo

A bipartisan group of 51 members of Congress, led by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, is working to make sure that families and their beloved cats won’t be put in these situations. They wrote to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro, urging him to prohibit public housing authorities (PHAs) from requiring residents to declaw their cats. HUD does not mandate declawing, but individual PHAs may legally do so in their pet policies. The fact that some PHAs are forcing residents to choose between a costly, cruel mutilation or giving up their companion leads to a patchwork of inconsistent rules, and can be easily remedied with a change to current HUD regulations.

Declawing is a cruel, expensive, medically unnecessary, and painful procedure, involving the amputation of the last bone on each toe. Despite common misperceptions, declawing a cat is not analogous to a snake that sheds its skin or a tarantula that molts its shell. To put it in human terms, it would entail amputating a finger at the last knuckle. Moreover, veterinarians recommend it as medically necessary only in the most drastic circumstances, such as when certain types of cancer are present.

Further, declawing is an ineffective and often counterproductive method for protecting property. Left with sensitive paw pads, many cats develop other destructive behavior issues, such as biting or urinating outside the litter box. Instead of spending their time ensuring that all resident cats are declawed, housing managers at PHAs would save themselves considerable time and grief by instead referring residents to animal welfare groups that can provide residents with appropriate scratching equipment and behavior advice.

For the majority of people living in public housing, this policy serves as a de facto ban on cats as scarce resources mean that they can’t find other affordable, cat-friendly housing nor can they pay for the expensive declaw procedure.

With the growing public concern over the cruelty of declawing, the procedure has been banned in 28 countries including Australia, Brazil, and much of Europe. In the U.S., several cities have banned declawing, California prohibits landlords from imposing declawing as a requirement for residents, and the New York state legislature is considering a declawing bill in 2016.

This would not be the first time HUD has stepped in and banned PHAs from requiring veterinary procedures that are cruel and medically unnecessary. HUD regulations already prohibit PHAs from requiring dogs to be devocalized, and that existing policy could easily be extended to prevent PHAs from requiring cats to be declawed.

We are grateful to the members of Congress who are standing up for cats and the families who love them, and we urge HUD to adopt this policy swiftly. Without any legitimate property protection purpose, a formal notice to PHAs that they cannot force residents to put their pets through an inhumane, painful, and expensive procedure should be an easy call for HUD.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Political Progeny in the Limelight on Animal Issues

When it comes to the children of politicians, the less said the better. They didn’t sign up for this kind of media glare. Who deserves privacy more than kids?

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Sean Pavone/Alamy Photo Stock

But when they grow up and start making headlines as adults, for good or ill, well that’s different. The adult children of three would-be presidents fit that definition, on the topic of their treatment and concern for animals. 

Two of these political progeny are the daughters of leading American politicians, and they’ve chosen to enter the public arena and use their family names, money, and celebrity to make ours a kinder, better world for the creatures who are at our mercy.

Then, there are the sons of another presidential hopeful—two men who freely spend their share of a family fortune to travel the world and kill majestic animals, smile about it for cameras, cut off a tail here, pose with bodies there... the usual in-your-face arrogance of fat-cat trophy hunters who don’t seem to care much about anything but themselves.

"Dad, can I borrow a jet? I want to save some dogs." I can almost imagine the conversation as Georgina Bloomberg asked her father, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to use his private Dassault Falcon jet to fly to Puerto Rico and rescue 10 stray dogs.

Because of the stray dog problem and lack of spaying and neutering in Puerto Rico, Georgina said on returning home with dogs in tow, they "don’t have a shot getting adopted there." After the first 10 dogs were adopted, she went back to Puerto Rico a few weeks later and brought back 56 more.

This was not some election-time stunt. Georgina has a well-established record as an animal advocate and has been an active, roll-up-her-sleeves volunteer for The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection groups for years. A dog lover and avid equestrian, she’s taken on puppy mills, horse slaughter, and other issues.

Right now, Michael Bloomberg says only that he is considering a late entry into the presidential fray. For the time being, he must be proud of his daughter’s commitment. A few happy, and very lucky dogs have a new chance at life thanks to this remarkable young woman.

Since the 1990s, Chelsea Clinton has been making news in the global campaign to stop poaching of Africa’s majestic elephants. She has traveled to Africa with both her mother, Hillary, and father, Bill, and she’s spoken out forcefully for saving elephants.

The Clinton commitment runs deep. Chelsea serves as vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, where the Clinton Global Initiative announced an $80 million campaign two years ago to help protect the continent’s elephants, who are under merciless assault by ivory poachers.

"My mom and I both realized independently that we were facing a real poaching crisis," Chelsea told the Washington Post. "We knew we had to do something."

Bravo. What a call to action, eh? "We knew we had to do something."

That spirit of giving back and concern for animals stands in stark contrast, unfortunately, to the behavior of the Trump boys.

Maybe you’ve seen the dreadful pictures of the carnage wrought by Donald Jr. and his brother Eric when they went to Africa three years ago. There’s Eric proudly holding the limp body of a leopard he shot. Eric is standing next to his brother, and both are grinning for the camera like boys who got a full-size candy bar in their trick-or-treat bag. Oh and there’s Don Jr. in a macho pose, a knife in one hand and a severed tail of an elephant in the other—with his rifle resting on the carcass of the animal. What a trophy, huh? An animal’s tail.

Had enough? Well they didn’t. They went on to kill and kill again, recording it all in smiling, posed photographs. A dead Cape buffalo. A waterbuck. And there they are next to a dead 12-foot crocodile strung up by its neck from a tree.

Wow. The dentist who killed Cecil the lion might find himself looking up to these guys. Donald himself brushed off questions. The lads like hunting, he explained, and one of the boys "I would say he puts it on a par with golf, if not ahead of golf."

With their famous names and oversized fortunes, the two Trump brothers could have gone anywhere and done almost anything to help those who "don’t have a shot."

They took different shots.

They had an opportunity "to do something."

And this is what they did.

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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»

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Top 10 State Legislative Victories for Animals

As the year winds down to a close, I’m pleased to report that 159 new animal protection laws have been enacted this year at the state and local levels. That continues the surge in animal protection policymaking by state legislatures, and in total, it makes about 1,200 new policies in the states since 2005, across a broad range of subjects bearing upon the lives of pets, wildlife, animals in research and testing, and farm animals.

That is tremendous forward progress, closing the gaps in the legal framework for animals, and ushering in new standards in society for how animals are treated. I’d like to recap what I view as the top 10 state victories for animals in 2015.

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Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Animal Fighting
We continued our successful campaign to fortify animal fighting statutes around the country, with Utah becoming the 42nd state to enact felony penalties for illegal cockfighting—further shrinking the number of states where cockfighting penalties are merely a slap on the wrist and the cost of doing business. After a multi-year battle in one of the toughest cockfighting states, the Tennessee legislature nearly unanimously increased penalties for attending an animal fight or bringing a child to an animal fight. And both Pennsylvania and Vermont closed a loophole in their laws by banning the possession of cockfighting weapons and paraphernalia such as the razor-sharp knives strapped to roosters’ legs.

Wildlife Trafficking
California closed a loophole in its longstanding ban on the trade in elephant ivory and also banned trade in rhino horns, helping to crack down on international wildlife traffickers and dry up the demand for illegal wildlife products in the U.S., the world’s second largest retail market for ivory after China. Washington state voters overwhelmingly passed an even more comprehensive wildlife trafficking initiative, banning the trade in the parts of ten imperiled species, including elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, and pangolins; the ballot measure passed in all 39 counties and with more than 70 percent of the statewide vote. And we succeeded in stopping an attempt to repeal California’s longstanding ban on importing or selling kangaroo parts.

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The HSUS

Puppy Mills
New Jersey and Virginia passed consumer protection laws that prohibit pet stores from selling puppies from some of the worst puppy mill operators in the United States. The new rules ban the sale of dogs from large-scale commercial dog breeders with severe Animal Welfare Act violations. The Virginia law also cracks down on the unregulated sale of dogs and cats at flea markets, parking lots and rest stops. Louisiana, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania also strengthened their statutes regulating puppy mills, and a number of cities and counties restricted the sale of puppy mills dogs.

Dogs in Research
California, Connecticut, and Nevada all passed legislation requiring that healthy dogs and cats used in laboratory experiments must be made available for adoption by rescue groups rather than euthanized.

Gas Chambers
North Carolina’s ban on the use of gas chambers to euthanize homeless dogs and cats in animal shelters took effect in 2015, and the Kansas legislature mandated that regulations banning the use of gas chambers be promulgated. At least ten chambers closed in 2015, many of them through the work of The HSUS and its volunteer advocates, including the last known operational chambers in Nevada, Michigan, and West Virginia. Since we began our campaign to end the use of gas chambers on dogs and cats in shelters across the United States back in 2013, more than two-thirds of the chambers in existence have been closed, and there are now only seven states with known chambers still in active use.

Shark Finning
Texas became the tenth state (along with three U.S. territories) to ban the trade in shark fins. These state laws help to dry up consumer demand and crack down on the brutal practice of hacking off the fins of sharks, often while they’re still alive, and throwing the mutilated animals back overboard to die slowly in the ocean—just for a bowl of soup.

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Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Horse Tripping
Virginia passed legislation to ban a cruel rodeo event called horse tripping, which involves roping the front legs of a galloping horse, causing it to crash violently into the ground. Utah passed a law requiring the state agriculture department to educate the public about the hazards of horse tripping, and requiring that a report be filed with state officials whenever horse tripping occurs on publicly-owned facilities, such as county fairgrounds.

Captive Wildlife
With Nevada being one of only five states in the country with no restrictions on the private ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets, the state’s largest county—with two million residents, more than 70 percent of the state’s population—has taken action. Clark County now bans the possession of tigers, bears, chimpanzees, and other dangerous wild animals. We hope this sets the stage for a statewide policy regulating the reckless individuals who keep dangerous predators in their bedrooms and basements and threaten the safety of the animals as well as the community at large. Arizona also banned the private ownership of primates as pets, and the West Virginia legislature adopted implementing regulations to ban wild and dangerous animals as pets. The cities of Austin, Texas and Richmond, Virginia both passed ordinances banning the use of bullhooks on elephants.

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Shaun Lowe/iStock

Large Carnivores
A number of western states took action to reduce or prevent the trophy hunting of cougars. South Dakota reduced “harvest limits” on the declining mountain lion population, Nebraska halted its plans for a mountain lion trophy hunt for 2016, and Colorado rejected proposals that would have killed up to 50 percent of mountain lions in certain areas of the state, and would have allowed electronic calls to be used by trophy hunters in order to lure in and shoot mountain lions at close range. We defeated bills in Oregon and Washington that would have resumed hound hunting of cougars, and Gov. Jay Inslee nixed a Washington plan that would have raised cougar hunting quotas by up to 100 percent in some areas. The California Fish and Game Commission voted to ban the trapping of bobcats statewide for their fur pelts.

Antibiotics
California became the first state to crack down on the overuse of antibiotics to keep livestock in unsanitary, crowded conditions on factory farms. Unnecessary use of antibiotics has been linked to the development of antibiotic resistant infections, which affect at least 2 million Americans each year and cause at least 23,000 deaths. This legislation, backed by the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, requires a veterinarian’s order for all antimicrobials sold over the counter for use in farm animals via the Veterinary Feed Directive.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Are Your Lawmakers Making the Grade?

One of the core objectives we have at the HSLF is to make it simple and efficient for voters to determine how federal lawmakers have sided on crucial animal protection legislation across a range of issues. With the end of the first term of the 114th Congress approaching, HSLF has posted a preview version of the 2015 Humane Scorecard, so you can see how your U.S. senators and U.S. representatives have performed so far in this Congress on animal protection issues. If they’ve done well, please thank them; if they have room for improvement, please let them know you’re paying attention, and that there is still time for them to do better before the final scorecard is wrapped up at the end of the year.

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iStock Photo

In this preliminary report, we hold lawmakers accountable on key votes to weaken the Endangered Species Act and erode protections for imperiled species, putting our nation’s wildlife at risk, and 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. 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.

Already in the last few weeks since we notified offices about which bills would count on the scorecard, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in the co-sponsor counts for each of these key bills, and we need to keep the momentum going with your help. A bill to protect victims of domestic violence and their pets has 160 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate; a bill to prevent animal cruelty and torture on federal property and in interstate commerce has 174 co-sponsors in the House and 25 in the Senate; the bill to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring has 217 co-sponsors in the House and 49 in the Senate; the horse slaughter bill has 173 co-sponsors in the House and 28 in the Senate; and the bill to phase out cosmetic testing on live animals has 125 co-sponsors in the House.

Building the number of co-sponsors on a bill is an important way to show that there is a critical mass of bipartisan support for the policy, warranting floor consideration, and to help push the legislation over the finish line. This is especially important as we enter the second half of a two-year session.

Please check the scorecard charts and call your two U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Thank each of them for their support of the bills that they’re already co-sponsoring and urge them to join on any of the animal protection bills being counted on the 2015 Humane Scorecard that they’re not yet co-sponsoring. This preview will be updated online periodically throughout the fall, and legislators will have until the end of the first term of the 114th Congress to receive credit on the final version of our Humane Scorecard that will be printed in January.

You can look up your federal legislators here, and then call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to each of your legislators. Here are the animal protection bills that will count on the scorecard and we hope will gather additional co-sponsors before year’s end:

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The HSUS

Pets and Domestic Violence —S. 1559 and H.R. 1258, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. Introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Reps. Katherine Clarke, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., this bill will make it harder for abusers to prey on their battered partners and their pets by allowing pets to be protected across state lines when restraining orders are issued in domestic violence and stalking cases; and authorizing grant money so that domestic violence shelters can accommodate pets (currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets) or help arrange for pet shelter. This legislation will help an estimated one-third of domestic violence victims escape from an abusive partner—these are victims who delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety. Violence toward humans is closely related to animal cruelty; up to 84 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners abused or killed their family pet.

Animal Cruelty —S. 1831 and H.R. 2293, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act. Introduced by Sens. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., this bill will 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 animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals. This legislation would complement the states’ anti-cruelty laws in the same way that the federal animal fighting statute complements state animal fighting laws, providing an additional tool to be employed when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or otherwise in interstate commerce.

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Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Horse Soring —S. 1121 and H.R. 3268, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., David Jolly, R-Fla., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., this bill will 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 with caustic chemicals, heavy chains, sharp objects, and other gruesome techniques to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. This legislation would amend the Horse Protection Act to end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and make illegal the actual soring of a horse.

Horse Slaughter —S. 1214 and H.R. 1942, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. Introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., this bill would protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given numerous drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. Kill buyers round up horses from random sources, and these companion animals or working animals are shipped for long distances and are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At the slaughter plant, the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths.

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Alamy

Animal Testing for Cosmetics—H.R. 2858, the Humane Cosmetics Act. Introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., this bill would phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of newly animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. While most manufacturers no longer test finished products on animals, some animal tests are still conducted on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice for assessing ingredients. Animals have substances forced down their throats, dripped in their eyes, or smeared onto their skin, usually without pain relief. These tests are not predictive of the human experience so their results are unreliable for consumer safety. There are many alternative methods to ensure that products are safe for human use. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in countries that have banned cosmetics testing on animals and the sale of cosmetics tested on animals. H.R. 2858 will help the U.S. remain competitive in the global market and create a key incentive for cosmetics to be tested here with cutting-edge technologies that are more humane, faster to perform, and less costly to industry than animal testing.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Anti-Cruelty Bill Gathers Steam, to Protect Animals and People

It’s well established that malicious animal cruelty indicates a broader social pathology and lack of empathy, and the perpetrators often are indiscriminate in choosing victims – one day it’s a dog or a horse, another day it’s a neighborhood child or just some innocent passerby. Media reports revealed that days before the recent mass shooting in a Louisiana movie theater, the suspect bragged about bashing a cat “on the head with a piece of rebar,” and ranted about his desire to drug sick pets and “finish them off with an ax.”

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The National Sheriffs’ Association is backing the PACT Act, which will make our communities safer for humans and for animals. Photo by iStockphoto

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill today called on their colleagues in Congress to pass the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, to help keep animals and people safe in our communities.

S. 1831 and H.R. 2293, sponsored by Senators Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Representatives Lamar Smith, R-Tex., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., would establish a federal crime for extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce. It would complement the federal animal fighting and crush video statutes and the felony cruelty laws in all 50 states.

As Senator Toomey said today, “There should be no tolerance in our society for this kind of behavior, and it’s our job as legislators to ensure that the laws that we pass reflect the values of our society. So I think there’s a strong moral obligation to protect innocent animals from such appalling cruelty.”

Congressman Smith, former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, added that these acts of animal cruelty are “more horrific than almost anything imaginable.”

There is already a federal ban on the trade in obscene video depictions of live animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other forms of heinous cruelty in perverse “snuff” films, which was recently upheld on appeal. But while the images and video depictions of cruelty are illegal under federal law, the underlying conduct of the cruelty itself is not.

The PACT Act would close this gap in the law, and also provide prosecutors with a valuable additional tool when animal cruelty is occurring in a federal facility or in interstate commerce. For example, federal prosecutors would be empowered to take legal action on malicious cruelty to animals on federal property or in a federal building, or if they found it in the course of investigating another interstate crime (say, in pursuing a drug smuggling or human trafficking ring). 

As we’ve seen with animal fighting, the state and federal laws are complementary and provide the widest set of tools to crack down on that brutal bloodsport and its associated criminal activities. Some animal fighting raids are multi-state and multi-jurisdictional, and sometimes the perpetrators are charged under state law, or federal law, or both.

With animal cruelty, too, most cases can be handled under the existing state statutes. The federal law wouldn’t interfere with those of the states but would provide an additional overlay when necessary.

The National Sheriffs’ Association is backing the PACT Act, and its deputy executive director, John Thompson, said in advocating for the bill, “We need our federal partners and federal prosecutors to stand with us at the local level and have some horse power, which they don’t have now.”

Senator Blumenthal, who previously served as a federal prosecutor and state attorney general, said today, “We are really measured in our society by how we treat animals. It says something about us as human beings.”

The PACT Act will make our communities safer for both human and animal residents. Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the PACT Act today.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

House Action is a Mixed Bag for Animals

Yesterday was a mixed day of results for animals on Capitol Hill, with some setbacks and some progress on a number of different fronts for companion animals, wildlife, and farm animals. 

What good news there was came in the Agriculture Appropriations Bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee.

A provision of the bill sends a strong message that grisly, taxpayer-funded experiments on farm animals at federal research facilities will not be tolerated. It prevents the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from receiving five percent of its appropriations ($56 million in federal funding) until it certifies in writing to both the House and the Senate that it has updated its animal care policies and that its facilities will be subject to regular inspections.

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A provision of the bill sends a strong message that grisly, taxpayer-funded experiments on farm animals at federal research facilities will not be tolerated. Photo by iStockphoto

The New York Times exposed gruesome experiments at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska, including pigs locked in steam chambers until they died, calves born with “deformed vaginas” and tangled legs, and sheep bred to produce lambs without any human assistance, with the newborns left to starve, freeze, or, get battered to death by hail. The congressional committee, in a report that accompanied the legislation, said that it was “disturbed” to read the Times article and “continues to be deeply disappointed in the department’s response and must take action to ensure the welfare of all animals used in research at ARS facilities.”

In another victory, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., succeeded in including language in the bill to deny funds for USDA’s licensing or relicensing of Class B animal dealers who sell “random source” dogs and cats for use in research, often obtained from animal shelters, flea markets, or “free to a good home” ads (and sometimes from pet theft). The 1966 Animal Welfare Act was intended to stop the illegal sale of family pets for use in experimentation. However, nearly 50 years after the passage of this landmark legislation, the AWA still fails to reliably protect either pet owners or animals from Class B dealers. The animals are routinely deprived of veterinary care, sufficient food, clean water, safe and sanitary cages, and protection from extreme weather, as well as being subjected to experimentation.

The House committee bill also contains good news for animals in terms of funding for critical animal welfare laws. Thanks to strong bipartisan support, funding for USDA to enforce and implement these key laws was sustained and even modestly increased in some cases. In such a tough budget climate with so many programs competing for finite dollars, we are pleased that lawmakers understand it’s possible to achieve macro-level cuts while still taking care to ensure that specific small and vital accounts such as these have the funds they need.

Here’s a rundown of what the House committee bill provides for key programs:

  • Animal Welfare Act: $28,410,000 ($400,000 increase) for USDA enforcement of the important law that sets basic standards for care of animals at more than 10,000 sites across the country—including puppy mills, research laboratories, roadside zoos, traveling circuses, and airlines.  The increase is designated for inspections and oversight of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service facilities involved in research on animals.
  • Horse Protection Act: $697,000 (current funding level) for USDA enforcement to end the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee walking horses and related breeds  (deliberately inflicting severe pain and cooking chemicals into the horses’ legs and feet to make it hurt for them to step down, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes). 
  • Investigative and Enforcement Services: $16,224,000 (current funding level) for this USDA division whose responsibilities include investigation of inspectors’ findings regarding alleged violations of the AWA and HPA and the initiation of follow-up enforcement actions. 
  • Office of Inspector General: $95,643,000 ($617,000 increase) for this office that handles many areas, including investigations and audits of USDA’s enforcement efforts to improve compliance with the AWA, HPA, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and regulations to protect downed animals.
  • Humane Slaughter: Helpful committee report language (restated from previous years) directing the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that funds provided for Humane Methods of Slaughter Act enforcement will be focused on overseeing compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas, and that all inspectors receive robust national training.
  • Veterinary Student Loan Repayment: $5,000,000 (current funding level) for this program that helps ease the shortage of veterinarians practicing in rural communities and in government positions (such as those overseeing humane slaughter, AWA, and HPA rules), by repaying student debt for those who choose to practice practice in underserved areas and in the vital government divisions devoted to veterinary inspection and oversight.

Without adequate funding for enforcement, the laws and rules we work to enact are mostly just exhortations. The HSUS and HSLF have been steadily working to build the enforcement budgets for these and doing this work provides a critical service to the broader movement to protect all animals. Over the past 17 years, for example, we’ve succeeded in boosting the annual funding for enforcement of the AWA by 205 percent (a cumulative total of more than $157 million in new dollars to the program). Today, there are 123 AWA inspectors, compared to about 60 during the 1990s, to help ensure basic humane treatment at thousands of facilities with animals under their care.

There was a major setback in this same committee, however, when it failed to adopt an amendment to prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption on U.S. soil. The amendment, offered by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., resulted in a tie vote, 24-24, with the measure not passing. Several longtime Republican supporters of this provision reversed their votes in committee and instead sided with the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

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We will not waver in our efforts to protect American horses. Photo by The HSUS

The fight is not over, as we prepare for similar amendments on the House floor and in the Senate Appropriations Committee, and we will not waver in our efforts to protect American horses. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. They 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.

In other bad news, the Interior Appropriations bill which was on the House floor this week, includes harmful riders that would block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from any rulemaking to address the ivory trade and elephant poaching, and would force the removal of wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming from protections under the Endangered Species Act. Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., offered an amendment to strike the ivory rider, and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., sponsored one to block the weakening of the Endangered Species Act for wolves and other species. Both amendments unfortunately failed on largely partisan votes.

It’s shameful that so many lawmakers pandered to the NRA and sided with ivory sellers and elephant poachers, when close to 100 elephants are being butchered every day for their tusks. There is an epidemic of elephant poaching in Africa, claiming as many as 35,000 elephants each year throughout their range, and threatening extinction of the species. The biggest ivory-selling markets in the world are in China and the United States, and these sales are fueling the slaughter of elephants thousands of miles away.  African armed militia groups massacred hundreds of elephants with the sale of the animals’ tusks financing murderous activities of al-Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the Janjaweed, so this is a national security issue as well as a humane issue.

It’s also shameful that lawmakers continue to try to punch holes in the Endangered Species Act, and strip protections from wolves, with the public and the courts being shut out of the process. They would hand over wolf management to states in which more than 1,700 wolves have been killed in the last few years with the aid of leghold traps, snares, packs of hounds, bait site, clubs, and firearms. If members of Congress can dictate wolf management by legislative fiat, it opens the door for any politician or special interest group to do the same for a species they don’t like.

See how your U.S. representative voted on the ivory amendment and the wolf amendment. If they voted “aye” please thank them for standing up for animals, conservation, and national security, and if they voted “no” please let them know how disappointed you are. Also, please ask them to oppose the final passage of the Interior bill, which includes these harmful provisions.

We will continue to watch the appropriations process closely and keep you posted on the fights over horse slaughter, ivory trade, wolves, and other critical animal issues. 

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