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.

Pets & Cruelty

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.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The 2017 congressional year in review for animals

As we begin the second session of the 115th Congress, let’s take a moment to look back at the highs and lows from the first session. While there were several bright spots, the new Administration and Congress produced a particularly dangerous set of challenges for animal welfare in 2017. The general governing philosophy of deregulation—put into practice at the departments of Agriculture and Interior and also in Congress—resulted in the targeting or outright repeal of a series of immensely important animal welfare reforms.

Capitol
iStock Photo

With that said, there is also broad and deep support for animal welfare in the United States, and those bipartisan sentiments are particularly reflected among the rank and file in Congress. Six measures, all led by bipartisan teams, already garnered more than 200 House cosponsors, putting them in solid position to be considered on the suspension calendar reserved for relatively non-controversial items. More representatives—a whopping 184—joined in seeking animal welfare funding in 2017 than in any year since joint annual letters on this began in 2000. A few chairmen of key House committees have stonewalled even immensely popular policy reforms, while giving the green light to anti-animal votes. What positive measures got over the finish line were largely thanks to victories in the FY17 omnibus appropriations package signed into law in May. For 2018, we hope lawmakers will heed public demand to enact more legislation that protects animals and reflects our widely shared humane values.

Here’s a snapshot of major actions in 2017, with a list at the end detailing which legislators took the lead on the positive items.

Pro-Animal Measures Signed into Law

The FY17 omnibus bill (P.L. 115-31) contained a number of hard-won victories for animals, including:

  • Horse slaughter—Renewed the “defund” provision that effectively prevents horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil.
  • Wild horses—Restated the prohibition on sending wild horses to slaughter for human consumption, and clarified that the protection extends to those transferred to federal, state, or local governments to serve as work horses. Also directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to review proposals from non-governmental organizations regarding managing wild horses and burros, and gave BLM six months to create a plan to maintain long-term sustainable populations on the range in a humane manner.
  • Wolves—Maintained Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves, omitting a harmful rider that would have legislatively delisted them in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
  • Animal testing alternatives—Increased funding by $4.3 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Computational Toxicology program to develop replacements for traditional animal tests, as required in the 2016 reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act.
  • Organics—Included no harmful language blocking a USDA rule on animal welfare standards for organic products.
  • Animal welfare funding—Sustained funding and provided some increases: $400,000 more to oversee animal welfare standards at USDA facilities conducting research on farm animals, $1.5 million more for veterinary student loan repayment, and $2.5 million more for the Office of Inspector General that helps enforce animal fighting prohibitions and the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Class B dealers—Renewed the prohibition on USDA licensing of Class B random source dealers, who are notorious for keeping dogs and cats in awful conditions and obtaining them through fraudulent means such as pet theft to sell them to research facilities.
  • Wildlife trafficking—Sustained level funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)’s Office of Law Enforcement and the agency’s International Affairs division to fight wildlife trafficking.
  • ESA funding—Provided important resources for conservation of whales, bats, and other imperiled species.
  • Pet declawing—Included committee report language urging HUD to notify all Public Housing Authorities that cat declawing is not required in public housing.

In addition, although the final FY18 appropriations package has not yet passed Congress, the House Appropriations Committee did approve helpful report language (considered done once reported, unless explicitly reversed in the final bill) on a number of issues:

  • USDA data purge—Urged USDA to promptly restore and resume posting of online searchable Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act enforcement records.
  • Predator poisons—Encouraged USDA’s Wildlife Services program to evaluate alternatives to M-44 cyanide bombs for livestock protection and overall safety.
  • Chimpanzee sanctuary—Encouraged NIH to expedite retirement of their chimpanzees and consider expanding the national chimpanzee sanctuary system.
  • Animal testing alternatives—Strongly supported EPA’s Computational Toxicology program, which seeks to reduce, and ultimately replace, animal testing. Also supported FDA’s Organ on a Chip program to replace animals for drug and other testing.

Furthermore, Senate Armed Services Committee report language accompanying the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 115-91) called for a National Academies study on modeling and simulation techniques (such as sophisticated mannequins) for medical training. These methods could replace the Defense Department’s use of live animals for medical training.

Anti-Animal Measures Signed into Law

Among the worst actions of the 115th Congress so far were votes by both the House and Senate to revoke a well-crafted rule by the FWS to prevent extremely cruel and unsporting trophy hunting methods on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska (H.J. Res. 69). And in the tax package that passed in December (H.R. 1), Congress overturned decades of protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), authorizing oil drilling and putting at risk an extraordinary diversity of wild animals in the nation’s largest refuge.

Poised for Action

A number of bills highlighted in the 2017 Humane Scorecard have overwhelming bipartisan cosponsor lists and are ripe for floor action:

  • Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act—H.R. 1847 has 277 cosponsors.
  • Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act—H.R. 909 has 246 cosponsors; S. 322 has 36 cosponsors.
  • Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act—H.R. 1494 has 268 cosponsors; S. 654 has 37 cosponsors, and was unanimously approved by the full Senate in December.
  • Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act—H.R. 113 has 204 cosponsors; S. 1706 has 30 cosponsors.
  • Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act—H.R. 1456 has 230 cosponsors; S. 793 has 31 cosponsors, and passed by voice vote in May in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
  • Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act—H.R. 1406 has 224 cosponsors. In related action to this domestic bill, in November the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved by voice vote a resolution (H. Res. 401) condemning the global dog and cat meat trade and urging nations around the world to take action to end it.
  • Humane Cosmetics Act—H.R. 2790 has 167 cosponsors.

Several exciting new bills were also introduced in 2017:

  • Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, to ensure animal fighting prohibitions apply everywhere in the U.S., including U.S. territories.
  • Horseracing Integrity Act, to establish national standards and enforcement of rules against doping, which poses life-threatening risks for racing horses and jockeys.
  • Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, to prevent checkoff funds from being used to lobby against family farmer-supported policies including animal welfare initiatives.
  • Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act, to address the USDA purge by requiring the agency to resume posting online searchable inspection reports and other enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act.
  • Puppy Protection Act, to require stronger humane standards for dogs at breeding facilities.
  • Welfare of our Friends (WOOF!) Act, to prohibit licensing or relicensing of dog dealers (and those closely connected to them) who have had their licenses suspended or revoked.
  • Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act, to shift the costs of caring for animals seized in animal fighting cases from taxpayers to those responsible for harming the animals, and to expedite adoption of the rescued animals.

Congress deferred final action until January 19 on FY18 appropriations legislation that will determine a host of crucial issues including horse slaughter, wild horse management, ESA protections for gray wolves, extreme hunting methods on National Park Service lands in Alaska, funding to eliminate animal testing, and enforcement of key animal welfare laws. During floor debate on the FY18 bills, the House passed several positive amendments, which must also be resolved in the final House/Senate package:

  • A $2 million increase for the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program that awards grants to nonprofits providing therapeutic service dogs to veterans and active duty personnel facing physical injuries and emotional scars from their military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, blindness, loss of limb, and paralysis.
  • A $5 million increase for equine assisted therapy under the Veterans Affairs’ Adaptive Sports Grant Program for veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI, military sexual trauma, and other psychological wounds.
  • A prohibition on Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expenditures for any experiment that causes significant pain or distress to dogs.

Throughout the year, many legislators weighed in on behalf of animals via letters directed to the Trump Administration or congressional leaders. Their letters spanned a broad range of topics including horse soring, trophy hunting, USDA’s data purge, ESA and anti-environmental riders, horse slaughter, wild horse management, Marine Mammal Commission funding, Fur Products Labeling Act enforcement, the annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival, VA experiments on dogs, poultry slaughter line speeds, and relicensing under the Animal Welfare Act.

Farm Bill

Congress is due to take up the next multi-year Farm Bill, which presents a prime opportunity for animal protection provisions within USDA’s jurisdiction. A group of 40 Republican and 40 Democratic representatives wrote to House Agriculture Committee leaders in August urging that the bill include animal protection measures, as did each of the last three Farm Bills.

We are also on the lookout for hostile moves, particularly Rep. Steve King’s expected efforts to attach his anti-states’ rights legislation, H.R. 3599, which could nullify state laws covering everything from intensive confinement of farm animals to puppy mills and dog meat, along with food safety, environmental, labor, and other concerns. We will need to rally to defeat this enterprise-threatening legislation.

For that and all our work, we depend on you to make your voice heard. Each one of us must continue to show that these issues are important to Americans and deserve a vote. If they reach the floor, we can win resoundingly and demonstrate the potential for bipartisan action even in these fractured times. Thank you for staying engaged, and let’s keep urging Congress to get the job done.

Reference—Lawmakers Who Led on Animal Protection Efforts

Animal welfare funding: Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and John Kennedy, R-La., and Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., led sign-on letters; Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., played key roles in obtaining needed funds.

Horse slaughter defund: Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., and Charlie Dent, R-Pa., offered amendments in committee; Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., and Ed Royce, R-Calif., led sign-on letters; Reps. Royce and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., filed floor amendment.

Wild horses: Sen. Udall, and Reps. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn., secured positive FY17 provisions; Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., Peter King, R-N.Y., Lujan Grisham, and Jared Polis, D-Colo., filed floor amendment; Reps. Titus, Polis, and Lujan Grisham led sign-on letter.

ESA/wolves: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Raúl Grijalva led sign-on letters; Sens. Udall, D-N.M. and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., played key roles in keeping harmful anti-ESA riders out of FY17 bill; Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-AZ, offered floor amendment to remove anti-ESA provisions from Resilient Federal Forests Act; Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Reps. Buchanan and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., each wrote to DOI urging ESA protections for Florida panthers.

Alternatives development: Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., played key role in securing increased funding for EPA’s Computational Toxicology program.

Organics: Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Merkley, and Reps. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., led efforts to protect USDA rule establishing animal welfare standards for organic products.

Class B dealers: Rep. Roybal-Allard secured prohibition.

Wildlife trafficking: Sen. Leahy led efforts to secure needed enforcement funds.

Pet declawing: Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, successfully requested report language.

USDA purge: Reps. David Young, R-Iowa, Chris Smith, and Sanford Bishop played key roles in obtaining report language; Sens. Menendez and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., led a sign-on letter to USDA; Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Lou Barletta, R-Pa., Roybal-Allard, Buchanan, Blumenauer, and Beyer led a sign-on letter to President Trump; Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Calvert sent their own letters to USDA; Sen. Wyden and Rep. Blumenauer introduced Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act.

Predator poisons: Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, secured report language; Reps. DeFazio and Gaetz introduced Chemical Poisons Reduction Act.

Chimpanzee sanctuary: Rep. Roybal-Allard secured report language.

DoD medical training: Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., offered amendment calling for National Academies study.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act: Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., introduced H.R. 1847; Reps. Yoho, Schrader, Marino, Cohen, and Schakowsky led sign-on letter to President Trump urging him to finalize USDA rule to strengthen enforcement of Horse Protection Act and requesting his support for PAST Act.

Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: Sens. Peters and Dean Heller, R-Nev., introduced S. 322, and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Cohen, and Mimi Walters, R-Calif., introduced H.R. 909.

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act: Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal introduced S. 654, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., introduced H.R. 1494.

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act: Sens. Menendez, Graham, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced S. 1706, and Reps. Buchanan, Schakowsky, Royce, and Lujan Grisham introduced H.R. 113.

Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act/Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act: Sens. Booker and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., introduced S. 793, and Reps. Royce and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan introduced H.R. 1456.

Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act: Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Buchanan, Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., introduced H.R. 1406; Reps. Hastings and Buchanan introduced global resolution, H. Res. 401; Rep. Hastings introduced H. Res. 30 to condemn Yulin Dog Meat Festival; Rep. Hastings sent letters to President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, and Chinese Ambassador regarding Yulin; Reps. Hastings and Buchanan wrote to House leaders seeking floor vote; Rep. Royce secured committee approval of H. Res. 401.

Humane Cosmetics Act: Reps. McSally, Beyer, Royce, Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., introduced H.R. 2790.

Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act: Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Blumenauer, Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Nolan, Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Cárdenas, Steve Knight, R-Calif., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., and Buchanan introduced H.R. 4202.

Horseracing Integrity Act: Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Tonko introduced H.R. 2651.

Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act: Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Booker introduced S. 741, and Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., and Titus introduced H.R. 1753.

Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act: Sen. Wyden introduced S. 503, and Reps. Blumenauer and Susan Davis, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1368.

Puppy Protection Act: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., introduced H.R. 4693.

Welfare of our Friends (WOOF) Act/AWA licensing: Reps. Fitzpatrick and Crist introduced H.R. 4691; Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Fitzpatrick, Ryan Costello, R-Pa., Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Barletta, and Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., sent letters to USDA encouraging agency rulemaking to address problems with AWA licensing and relicensing.

Help Extract Animals from Red Tape (HEART) Act: Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., Judy Chu, D-Calif., Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introduced H.R. 398.

Wounded Warrior Service Dogs: Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., McSally, Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and LoBiondo successfully sought increased funding for current program; Reps. McGovern and Jones introduced H.R. 2625, the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Act; Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Booker introduced S. 1014, and Reps. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., introduced H.R. 2327, the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) Act; Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and Tim Walz, D-Minn., introduced H.R. 2225, the Veteran Dog Training Therapy Act.

Equine Assisted Therapy: Rep. Barr successfully offered floor amendment.

Veterans Affairs experiments on dogs: Reps. Brat, Titus, Ted Poe, R-Texas, Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Brian Mast, R-Fla., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., successfully offered floor amendment; Reps. Brat and Titus introduced H.R. 3197, the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act; Reps. Titus and Lieu led sign-on letter to the VA Inspector General.

Trophy hunting: Sen. Menendez led sign-on letter to Secretary Zinke challenging FWS plans to re-allow importation of elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, and Sen. Feinstein sent additional solo letter; Reps. Blumenauer, Buchanan, Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Gaetz, Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., led sign-on letter to President Trump.

Marine Mammal Commission: Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., led sign-on letters seeking needed funds.

Fur Products Labeling Act: Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. led sign-on letter to FTC calling for investigation and enforcement against 17 retail companies identified in Humane Society of the U.S. petition as having sold “faux fur” products really made with animal fur.

Poultry slaughter line speeds: Rep. DeLauro led a sign-on letter to Agriculture Secretary Perdue urging him to reject call to increase maximum line speeds in poultry processing plants from current 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute, which would exacerbate existing problems with worker injuries, animal suffering, and food safety risks.

Farm Bill: Reps. Buchanan and Blumenauer led a sign-on letter calling for inclusion of animal protection measures.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Bipartisan bills introduced in Congress to crack down on puppy mill abuse

There is a massive divide between how dogs in most American homes live versus how dogs in the nation’s thousands large-scale, commercial breeding facilities, known as puppy mills, live. Breeding dogs are treated like production machines, and can spend their entire lives in small, stacked, wire cages, often without veterinary care, exercise, socialization, or meaningful human interaction. Many of these inhumane facilities still meet the meager, bare minimum requirements outlined under the federal Animal Welfare Act regulations. In an effort to reduce the gap in that divide and offer much needed protections to our four-legged friends, U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla., recently introduced two important bipartisan bills and the lawmakers formally announced word of the bills today.

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-01-04/a2e0b304-f8d0-462e-afb4-bf0968e7e376.png
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

The Puppy Protection Act, H.R. 4693, would amend the Animal Welfare Act to mandate significant improvements to the standards of care for licensed dog breeders. Under current AWA regulations, breeding dogs can spend their entire lives in cramped, stacked wire cages. The regulations do not require licensees to ever let the breeding dogs outside of their cages for exercise, provide core vaccinations for each dog, or even give the animals water more than twice per day. No dog should live this way, and if this legislation is adopted, they won’t have to. The Puppy Protection Act would prohibit harmful practices such as cage stacking and wire flooring and require larger enclosures with spacious outdoor exercise runs. Dogs would be fed at least twice a day, have continual access to clean, unfrozen water, and would be protected from extreme sweltering or frigid temperatures. Hands-on annual veterinary exams and meaningful socialization with humans would also be required.

The Puppy Protection Act is a response to the public concern over dogs suffering needlessly in puppy mills, and also to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s lack of movement on the issue. In September 2015, The HSUS, ASPCA, and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association submitted a rulemaking petition to the USDA calling for significant upgrades to the weak standards of care for commercial dog breeders. More than two years later, the USDA has still not officially responded, other than to acknowledge that it received the petition. It’s time for Congress to step in.

The basic standards of animal care set forth in the legislation are similar to those proposed in the rulemaking petition to the USDA and in a new ballot initiative launched in Ohio, the nation’s second largest puppy mill state—standards endorsed by veterinarians and pet industry groups.

The second bill, the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, H.R. 4691, addresses the fact that the USDA allows licensees with severe and multiple Animal Welfare Act violations to continue to be licensed year after year. It closes a loophole in the current law allowing problem dealers who have had their licenses suspended or revoked to simply obtain a new license under the name of a spouse or other family member while still owning the same animals on the same property. The WOOF Act would prohibit the issuance or renewal of a license to breeders whose previous license has been revoked or suspended, or to their immediate family members at the same address. This legislation would help stop puppy mill cruelty by ensuring that puppy dealers who have been shut down due to poor animal care remain closed, as the spirit of the Animal Welfare Act intended.

While the Puppy Protection Act and the WOOF Act are important animal welfare measures, they are also consumer protection measures. If commercial breeders were required to adhere to humane standards of care, or lose their license if they don’t, fewer families would unknowingly support cruel puppy mills or be duped into buying sick and behaviorally challenged puppies.

“It’s crucial we stand up for animals—both as individuals and as a society. That means strengthening important regulations under the Animal Welfare Act to meet this goal,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “As a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I’m committed to ensuring our government is doing its part to promote animal welfare.”

“The Bible teaches us to care for all of God’s creatures, and that includes man’s best friend,” said Rep. Crist. “I’m proud to help introduce this bipartisan legislation that protects dogs from unprincipled dealers and breeders, providing a voice for the voiceless.”

No dog should spend her entire life in a tiny cage, her paws never touching grass, outside and exposed to frigid temperatures and winds, and bred so relentlessly that her body eventually wears out. Some puppy mill operators game the system and register their mill under a different name after they are cited for animal welfare violations. These two bills will prevent that trickery and also strengthen the standards of care for hundreds of thousands of dogs on commercial breeding facilities.

This nation has a puppy mill problem, and it’s time for the federal government to stop ignoring it. Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to support and cosponsor the Puppy Protection Act and the WOOF Act to help crack down on puppy mills.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Are your lawmakers making the grade on our interim report card?

Today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund releases its preview version of the 2017 Humane Scorecard for the first session of the 115th Congress. The Humane Scorecard is a snapshot of each federal legislator’s votes on key matters that affect the lives and well-being of animals, along with their efforts to help animals through cosponsorship of priority bills and support for adequate funding of animal welfare enforcement, as well as extra credit for pro-animal leadership. While the scorecard does not include every measure that relates to animals, it scores a cross section of key bills and votes on which HSLF has advocated and that significantly impact the state of animal welfare in America.

Capitol
iStock Photo

This year has seen redoubled attacks on animals, as reflected in votes to gut animal protection regulations and revoke rules that protect wildlife on federal lands from inhumane killing methods. The Humane Society Legislative Fund has been fighting hard to preserve existing animal welfare policies. At the same time, we have been working with members of Congress from both political parties to push new legislation.

For animal protection measures to advance, robust cosponsorship is vital. The more members of Congress publicly supporting a bill through cosponsorship—particularly when it’s solidly bipartisan —the more apparent it is to congressional leaders in both parties that the bill warrants consideration. Animal protection issues have long been bipartisan and that trend continues in 2017, with every bill scored having strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

Already, for example the PAWS domestic violence bill has 241 House and 30 Senate cosponsors, the animal cruelty bill has 251 House and 28 Senate cosponsors, the horse slaughter bill has 192 House and 28 Senate cosponsors, the shark fin trade bill has 198 House and 20 Senate cosponsors, the horse soring bill has 268 House cosponsors, the dog and cat meat bill has 195 House cosponsors, and the cosmetics testing bill has 141 House cosponsors.

But this is only the first year of a two-year Congress. That means there’s still time to encourage your federal legislators to cosponsor these important animal protection bills if they are not already on board, and to press them to do all they can to help get these reforms over the finish line in the coming months. Please contact your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators to thank them for supporting any of the bills listed below that they have already cosponsored and urge them to join on any that remain. You can use our Find Your Federal Legislators tool, or call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask your friends and family to do the same; the more constituents your legislators hear from, the more likely they are to take action in support of animal protection.

The following section summarizes the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2017 Humane Scorecard. Some bills may have counterparts in both the House and the Senate, while others may only be introduced in one chamber.

Dog_270x240
The HSUS

Pets and Domestic Violence—S. 322 and H.R. 909, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Mimi Walters, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. This bill will help protect battered partners and their pets by extending current federal domestic violence protections to include pets, and authorizing grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. Many victims delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, a legitimate fear considering that up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet. While 32 states have adopted similar legislation, PAWS would ensure such protections under federal law for all victims of domestic violence.

Animal Cruelty—S. 654 and H.R. 1494, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. 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 live animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse) by prohibiting those same extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether or not a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, and this legislation would complement these laws, providing an additional tool to be employed when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or otherwise in interstate commerce.

Horse Slaughter—S. 1706 and H.R. 113, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. This bill will 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 hundreds of drugs over the course of their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. Horse slaughter is particularly cruel, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses 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. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horses. Young and healthy horses are purchased, often by buyers misrepresenting their intentions, and killed to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. 

Horses_270x240_jkunz
Jennifer Kunz/The HSUS

Shark Fin Trade—S. 793 and H.R. 1456, the Shark Fin Trade/Sales Elimination Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif. and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands. This bill will help fight the precipitous decline in shark populations, better protect sharks from cruelty, and preserve fragile ocean ecosystems by prohibiting our nation’s trade, both domestic and international, in shark fins. The bill will strengthen existing U.S. bans on the practice of shark finning—cutting the fins off a live shark, then discarding the mutilated animal to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten alive by other fish—just for a bowl of soup. It will complement state bans on the shark fin trade and reinforce U.S. leadership in global shark conservation.

Horse Soring—H.R. 1847, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by  Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. This bill will 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 related breeds to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait in order to gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. Congress tried to rein in this abuse by enacting the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago, but rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA inspector general and HSUS undercover investigations of top trainers and owners in 2012 and 2015. H.R. 1847 will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring (including large stacked shoes and ankle chains), strengthen penalties and make illegal the actual soring of a horse—all without any additional taxpayer burden.

Dog and Cat Meat—H.R. 1406, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, introduced by Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich., and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa. This bill will amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption, and provide penalties for individuals involved in the dog or cat meat trade. H.R. 1406 would prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S., serve as an important expression of unity with countries and regions such as Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Taiwan, all of which have enacted dog and cat meat bans, and give the U.S. greater standing to press other nations to follow suit.

Bunny_gpig_270x240_alamy
Alamy

Animal Testing for Cosmetics—H.R. 2790, the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Ed Royce, R-Calif., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. This bill will phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. Companies can choose from thousands of ingredients already known to be safe for humans. If companies choose to use new ingredients, animal tests are not predictive of the human experience so their results are unreliable for consumer safety. These tests on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are cruel, and simply unnecessary since many alternative methods—which are more humane, faster to perform, and less costly to industry—are available to ensure that such products are safe for human use. More than 1.8 billion consumers live in countries that have already adopted similar restrictions, and more than 230 personal care product companies support this legislation.

Please take a few minutes today to help us save animals by voicing your support for these critical bills. Whether your legislators have scores of zero, 100+, or somewhere in between, they need to know that you care about their positions on animal protection policy and are paying attention to their performance on animal issues. Your efforts to engage them meaningfully on these subjects will produce ever greater returns for animal protection in the future.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Upgrading anti-cruelty laws across the country in 2017

Our movement has made so much progress over the last three decades in closing the gaps in the legal framework for animal cruelty. In the mid-1980’s, only four states had felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, only a dozen had felony dogfighting, and several states still allowed legal cockfighting. Today, malicious cruelty and dogfighting allow for felony-level penalties in all 50 states, cockfighting is banned nationwide with felony penalties in 43 states, and the federal animal fighting statute has tough penalties, including for training and possession of fighting animals, spectators, and bringing children to animal fights.

Dog_chain_240x270_Larry_French
Larry French/AP Images for The HSUS

We continue to march state by state to further upgrade and fortify the anti-cruelty statutes, improve enforcement, and close remaining gaps in the law where they exist. In 2017, it has been a particularly exciting year in state legislatures when it came to strengthening laws for abused and neglected animals. These laws range from outlawing animal sexual abuse, to prohibiting the chronic, cruel chaining of dogs outdoors, to increasing penalties for dogfighting and cockfighting. 

This year, The HSUS, HSLF, and our partners worked to make great strides on these fronts. Lawmakers outlawed bestiality in Nevada, Texas (as a felony), and Vermont. When we renewed our campaign efforts on this issue just a few years ago, bestiality was legal in eleven states—now that number is down to five remaining. Laws to help dogs outdoors were strengthened in Maryland with more clearly defined standards of care; in New jersey with shelter and standards of care requirements, and significant tethering restrictions; in Rhode Island with upgrades to shelter and nourishment requirements; in Vermont with expanded standards of care and humane standards for tethering; and in Washington with an impressive, comprehensive dogs who live outdoors/tethering law.  

Kansas and Oregon upgraded their cost of care statutes, putting the burden on animal abusers—rather than nonprofit organizations and taxpayer-funded agencies—to pay the financial cost of caring for animals seized from cruelty cases. Cost of care law was amended in Oregon to include hens and chicks in cockfighting cases. Nevada made some progress on this issue, ultimately giving counties the ability to recover costs of care if an “authorized person” is unavailable to care for the animal. Oregon expanded agencies’ ability to petition for custody of seized animals, and Hawaii humane societies may now petition the court for custody of seized animals prior to filing criminal charges against the owner.

Pennsylvania passed a comprehensive upgrade of its anti-cruelty statute this year, including making malicious cruelty a felony on the first offense, rather than just for repeat offenders (leaving Iowa and Mississippi as the only two states left without first offense felony penalties). Arkansas, Texas, and Wyoming increased penalties for certain cruelty offenses, and Oregon increased prohibition for animal abusers on future ownership to 15 years. New York bolstered its animal fighting law by making animal fighting a designated offense for an eavesdropping or video surveillance warrant. And Rhode Island made animal hoarding a cruelty offense, making it the first state in the country to outlaw hoarding. North Dakota was the one state that took a step backwards, with an added requirement for a veterinary recommendation before an agency may seize an animal.

There is a rising tide of consciousness across the country—in red, blue, and purple states—that animals should be protected from cruelty, and that we must have strong laws on the books to prevent abuse and crack down on the outliers. The HSUS, HSLF, and our partners are proud to have had a hand in many of these successes, and are grateful to the lawmakers who took on these big fights. We look forward to continuing this important work to drive transformational change for animals in 2018 and beyond.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Libre’s paw on Libre’s Law, Time for Congress to make a PACT

This week Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, surrounded by a swarm of animal advocates and lawmakers, eagerly signed a comprehensive overhaul of the Keystone State’s anti-cruelty statutes into law. The governor wasn’t the only one to sign the bill, however: Libre, a Boston terrier who recovered from a shocking case of mistreatment that rallied the legislature to take action, dipped his paw print in paint and stamped it on the bill, too.

Libres_Law
Photo courtesy of Governor Wolf
Libre signing his bill into law with the
governor and his mom!

A Good Samaritan got a glimpse of a severely neglected Libre and had the resolve to convince the owner to turn over the failing dog to her. From that point forward, two epic journeys followed: 1) Libre’s slow but steady convalescence, and 2) the inexorable advance of an anti-cruelty bill that had new vigor because of the dog’s painful circumstance. Libre’s plight touched the hearts of many Pennsylvanians who then called on the General Assembly to strengthen animal cruelty and neglect laws, so cases like Libre’s don’t go unpunished. 

At that time, the state’s laws did not carry penalties with suitable punishments for abuse, cruelty, and neglect committed against animals. Especially concerning to advocates of this bill was the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence. Numerous studies have shown a substantial correlation between animal abuse and family violence. Animal abuse may present a risk of child abuse and be predictive of future violence or threats against other human victims.   

Pennsylvania had previously been one of only three states in the nation (with Iowa and Mississippi) that did not punish extreme and malicious acts of animal cruelty as a felony on the first offense—only for repeat offenders. The new legislation, known as Libre’s Law, closes that loophole, and also updates and clarifies the existing animal abuse statute. Penalties will be more clearly delineated among summary offenses, misdemeanors, and felony charges based on the seriousness of the abuse involved. Also, this bill provides escalated penalties for repeat offenders. This is a major victory and the most comprehensive animal protection package in state history, and should move Pennsylvania up from its current #18 spot in our annual Humane State Ranking.

While the states have continuously fortified their anti-cruelty laws over the years—with all 50 now having some felony-level penalties for cruelty, compared to only four in the mid-1980s—there is still no general federal anti-cruelty statute. We are working to change that, with the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act—S. 654 by Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and H.R. 1494 by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., Ted Deutch, D-Fla.—which now has 16 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate and more than 200 in the House.

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. But while the trade in videos depicting images of cruelty is 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 in regard to 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 barbaric 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 bill has been endorsed by more than 200 sheriffs and police departments in 36 states and national groups including the National Sheriffs’ Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

It’s long past time that Congress empowers the FBI and U.S. Attorneys to deal with malicious and deviant cruelty on federal property or that crosses state lines. We know there is a well-documented link between animal abuse and other forms of violent behavior, and this legislation is a tool to combat this violence when we get a first look at it. We shouldn’t need some awful, personalized case of cruelty, and the naming of the bill after a battered animal, to stir us to do the right thing. Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to pass the PACT Act.

Friday, April 28, 2017

State legislatures take big steps for animals in 2017

We are one-third of the way through 2017, and  dozens of state legislatures across the country are active, including on animal protection policy issues. The states have always been critical incubators of animal welfare policies, and more often than we’d like, they’ve also been settings where some lawmakers try to set up roadblocks on animal protection. I want to provide a few highlights of what’s happening in the states on our issues.

Dog_chain_240x270_Larry_French
Larry French/AP Images for The HSUS

Animal Cruelty: Arkansas and Wyoming both upgraded their cruelty statutes, with Arkansas adding felony penalties for cruelty to equines, and Wyoming making it a felony to injure or kill someone else’s animal. The Texas House passed a bill to ban bestiality, and the Pennsylvania House passed a comprehensive overhaul to the state’s anti-cruelty statute, including felony penalties on the first offense rather than the current law which is only for repeat offenders. Both those bills still have to go through the other chambers. 

Off the Chain: Washington enacted legislation making it illegal to leave a dog tethered outside for a reckless period of time without providing him or her with adequate access to food, water, and shelter. A similar bill has cleared one chamber so far in New Jersey. Dogs who live their lives on the end of a chain or tether become lonely, bored and anxious, and they can develop aggressive behaviors.

Saving Pets from Extreme Temperatures: Colorado and Indiana have passed laws giving people the right to rescue dogs from a hot car, where they can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. A similar bill has passed one chamber in New Jersey. Washington, D.C. passed a law to protect dogs from being left outside to suffer in extreme temperatures such as freezing cold.

Puppy Mills and Pet Stores: Maryland passed new laws to strengthen regulations of commercial dog breeding operations and to require pet stores to obtain animal welfare inspection reports directly from breeders and post them in the store for consumers to see. The New Jersey legislature passed a bill to crack down on the sale of puppy mill dogs in the state, including those sold at pet stores, flea markets, and over the Internet, which is currently awaiting a decision from Governor Christie. We defeated harmful bills in Illinois, Georgia, and Tennessee that would have blocked local communities from setting restrictions on pet stores and puppy mills.

Wildlife Killing: The Maryland legislature passed a two-year moratorium on cruel contest killing of cownose rays (named for their uniquely-shaped heads), and that bill is now on the governor’s desk. Participants in contests compete to shoot the heaviest rays, making pregnant females prime targets, then haul them onto boats and often bludgeon them with a metal bat or hammer. Some rays are still alive when thrown into piles and slowly suffocate to death. The Florida wildlife commission voted to stop the trophy hunting of black bears for the next two years, obviating the need for action on a bill in the legislature that would have imposed a 10-year hunting moratorium. In 2015, trophy hunters killed 304 black bears, including dozens of nursing mothers, leaving their orphaned cubs to die of starvation or predation.

Greyhound Racing: The West Virginia legislature passed a measure to eliminate state funding to subsidize greyhound racing, but unfortunately the governor vetoed the bill. Kansas lawmakers made the right bet by defeating a bill that would have reinstated greyhound racing eight years after the last tracks closed in the state.

Blocking Big Ag: On the heels of a crushing defeat for their “right to farm” amendment in the November election, Oklahoma politicians tried to double down and create “prosperity districts”—vast parts of the state that would be exempt from regulations. We blocked the corporate power grab that could have deregulated puppy mills, factory farms, and other large-scale cruelties. 

Funding for Animal Welfare: West Virginia enacted legislation dedicating a funding source from the sale of pet food to be used for low-cost spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to combat pet homelessness. Arizona created a voluntary contribution via a check-off box on tax forms to fund much-needed affordable spay and neuter services. New York’s final state budget included $5 million for a new Companion Animal Capital Fund, providing local shelters and humane societies with matching grants for capital projects.

Captive Wildlife: The Illinois Senate passed a bill to ban the use of elephants in performing circuses and travelling shows, and similar bills are pending in Massachusetts, Maine, and New York. More than 125 other localities in 33 states have also restricted the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows—just this week, Los Angeles passed a city ordinance to ban wild animal acts. In addition, the Alabama House has advanced a bill to ban big cats and wolves as pets and the South Carolina House has passed a bill to ban possession of big cats, bears, and great apes—these are two of the only remaining states with no restrictions on owning dangerous wild animals as pets.

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. 

Wv-cockfighting-raid-270x240
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.

Pigs-hslf-istock-shaun-lowe-blog
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.

Get Political
for Animals




Powered by TypePad