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Wildlife

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Horses, wolves, other animals win big in omnibus bill

For almost six months, Congress has delayed passing the 2018 budget to fund the government. Finally, the negotiations have ended. Congress and the White House have struck a deal, and late last night released a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, just 52 hours before a government shutdown deadline.

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Photo courtesy of hkuchera/iStock.com

As always, animal issues were part of the discussions and we worked tirelessly with our House and Senate animal protection champions and other groups to successfully fight for positive provisions and sufficient enforcement funding of our key animal protection laws and to stave off harmful riders to kill horses and wildlife.

We’re still going through 2,232-page bill, but we’ve spotted a lot of good news for animals. Here’s a breakdown of some of our top priority items in this massive spending bill: 

Horse Slaughter:

The bill includes language that prohibits wasteful government spending on horse slaughter inspections and effectively bans horse slaughter in the United States for human consumption. This language has been maintained all but one year since 2005, and ensures that millions of taxpayer dollars are not expended on resuming an inhumane and predatory practice in which young and healthy horses are rounded up by “kill buyers”—often misrepresenting their intentions—and their meat shipped to Europe and Japan.

Wild Horses and Burros:

The bill includes language to prevent the Bureau of Land Management and its contractors from sending wild horses to be slaughtered for human consumption, or from killing excess healthy horses and burros. A provision allowing wild horses removed from public lands to be transferred to federal, state, or local governments to serve as work horses continues to make clear that these horses cannot be destroyed for human consumption, or euthanized except upon the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian in cases of severe injury, illness, or advanced age. Additionally, the explanatory statement accompanying the omnibus criticizes the Department of Interior for failing to provide a comprehensive plan, and states that until DOI provides such plan and corresponding legislative recommendations, the slaughter prohibitions will be maintained and program resources will be reduced. The statement directs DOI to submit to the Appropriations Committees within 30 days of enactment of the bill a science-based, comprehensive proposal that “has the goal of reducing costs while improving the health and welfare of wild horses and burros, and the range.”

National Park Service Lands in Alaska:

The omnibus does not include any provision allowing inhumane and scientifically unjustified trophy hunting methods on National Preserves (a category of National Park Service lands) in Alaska. This is a particular victory because the House Interior Appropriations bill contained a rider to undo an NPS rule prohibiting such cruel trophy hunting methods, and in February 2017, Congress enacted a rollback of a similar U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule prohibiting such practices—including luring grizzly bears with bait to shoot them at point-blank range, and killing wolf, black bear, and coyote mothers and their young at their dens—on 76 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.

Great Lakes Wolves:

The omnibus omits harmful language—which had been in both the House and Senate Interior Appropriations bills—directing the FWS to remove Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the western Great Lakes states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) and Wyoming, and barring judicial review of the action. This action reaffirms that the FWS should make ESA listing decisions, based on the best available science; this is not something that Congress should do, cherry-picking species based on political whim and shutting the public out of the process.

Animal welfare Enforcement:

The omnibus provides increases in some key U.S. Department of Agriculture programs. It includes $30,810,000 ($2 million more than FY17) for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, including a directive for continued inspections of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service facilities that conduct research on farm animals to ensure their adherence to the AWA; $705,000 ($8,000 more) for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, which prohibits cruel “soring” abuse of show horses; and $8,000,000 ($1.5 million more) for veterinary student loan repayment to encourage veterinarians to locate in underserved areas. It holds the line on other items such as oversight of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and funding for the Office of Inspector General which helps enforce the federal animal fighting statute and the AWA, HPA, and HMSA.

USDA Data Purge: 

The explanatory statement accompanying the omnibus includes this strong directive: “On February 3, 2017, USDA restricted the public's access to the search tool for the Animal Care Inspection System, saying it needed to conduct a comprehensive review of the information on its website. USDA is now posting heavily redacted inspection reports that make it difficult in certain cases for the public to understand the subject of the inspection, assess USDA's subsequent actions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its enforcement. USDA's actions to date do not meet the requirements in H. Rpt. 115-232 that the online searchable database should allow analysis and comparison of data and include all inspection reports, annual reports, and other documents related to enforcement of animal welfare laws. USDA is directed to comply with these requirements and is reminded that as part of its oversight responsibilities, Congress has the right to make any inquiry it wishes into litigation in which USDA is involved. USDA is directed to respond to any such inquiries fully.”

Animal Testing Alternatives:

The omnibus sustains level funding of $21.41 million (rejecting a $4.24 million cut proposed by the President) 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. Additionally, it calls on the agency to finalize the report to create a pathway to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, animal testing under TSCA. Finally, it increases the National Institute of Health’s National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences by more than $36 million, which will help with the development of faster, more efficient, non-animal tests, rejecting a $212 million cut proposed by the President. 

Therapeutic Service Dog Training:

The omnibus doubles the funding for the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program, providing $10 million compared to $5 million in FY17, for grants to nonprofits that train and provide 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.   

Equine-Assisted Therapy:

The omnibus includes a $1 million increase for the Adaptive Sports Program that awards small grants for equine therapy, to expand this program that has focused in the past on helping veterans with physical disabilities to now include mental health issues including PTSD. 

VA Experiments on Dogs:

The omnibus prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs funding of “research using canines unless: the scientific objectives of the study can only be met by research with canines; the study has been directly approved by the Secretary; and the study is consistent with the revised Department of Veterans Affairs canine research policy document released on December 18, 2017.” It also requires the VA Secretary to submit to the Appropriations Committees a “detailed report outlining under what circumstances canine research may be needed if there are no other alternatives, how often it was used during that time period, and what protocols are in place to determine both the safety and efficacy of the research.” 

Class B Dealers:

The omnibus contains the same language as in recent years prohibiting the USDA from licensing 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. 

Marine Mammal Commission:

The omnibus sustains funding for the Marine Mammal Commission, an independent federal agency whose mandate is to conserve marine mammals. While the President’s budget requested that the Commission’s budget be zeroed out, Congress recognizes the important role the Commission plays in seeking practical solutions to conservation challenges and human-caused impacts facing marine mammals. 

House Report Items (deemed approved because not changed in omnibus):

  • Chimpanzee Sanctuary—Encouraged NIH to expedite retirement of their chimpanzees and consider expanding the national chimpanzee sanctuary system.
  • Predator Poisons—Encouraged USDA’s Wildlife Services program to evaluate alternatives to M-44 cyanide bombs for livestock protection and overall safety.

There are some anti-animal provisions in the omnibus, such as exempting concentrated animal feeding operations from reporting toxic air emissions, and restating previously-enacted riders such as the prohibition on regulating toxic lead content in ammunition and fishing tackle which poisons wildlife.

But overall, this omnibus has a lot to cheer about for animals. We’re grateful for the inclusion of key language such as on horse slaughter and the USDA purge, for the funding increases, and for the removal of some extremely hostile provisions against wildlife. And we’re committed to keep pressing forward—with your essential help—to advance animal protection through the annual budget process.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

President’s budget a mixed bag for animals

Yesterday, the White House released President Trump’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2019, which continues the trend of spending cuts for some animal welfare programs. For example, two agencies that oversee animal protection are slated again for deep budget reductions—the Department of Interior by 17 percent and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 20 percent.

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Gary Alvis/iStock

Keep in mind that the budget proposal is a starting point, and still needs to be negotiated and approved by Congress. At this early stage in the process, here are some animal welfare programs that do not receive significant support in the President’s budget request:

Wild Horses and Burros

The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program budget is cut by over $13 million, and once again does not include key protective language to prevent the commercial sale and killing of an unlimited number of wild horses and burros rounded up from federal lands. These majestic animals are protected under federal law, and it would betray the public trust to allow mass killing of them.

Horse Slaughter

Missing from the President’s budget is language specifying that funds will not be available to allow the slaughter of horses for human consumption. This is the second year in a row that the President has failed to include this protective language, and members of Congress will need to block the use of tax dollars for horse slaughter.

Animal Welfare

The Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service’s Animal Welfare program is slated to be cut by almost $500,000 from the level in the pending House and Senate FY18 bills. This is particularly troubling given that APHIS recently approved nearly 1,000 new licensees subject to Animal Welfare Act regulation. This expanding program needs adequate funding to fulfill its responsibility to ensure basic care for millions of animals at puppy mills, laboratories, roadside zoos, and other facilities as Congress and the public expect.

Marine Mammals

Again this year, the President’s budget eliminates two initiatives critical to protecting marine mammals. The Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Grant Program supports trained teams, largely composed of volunteers, which rescue and care for more than 5,500 stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals each year. Thanks to this care, many of the animals successfully return to the wild. With the loss of Prescott funds, which often help leverage additional funds from the private sector, members of the public who encounter marine mammals in distress might be unable to find anyone to assist.

The budget again would eliminate the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, whose mandate is to conserve marine mammals. The commission notes  that it costs each American about one penny per year, and "sits at the juncture where science, policy, and economic factors are reconciled to meet the mandates of the [Marine Mammal Protection Act], which balance the demands of human activities with the protection of marine mammals and the environment that sustains them." It is imperative that the commission be funded to continue seeking practical solutions to conservation challenges facing marine mammals.

Alternatives to Animal Testing

The animal protection community celebrated the 2016 passage of legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, with language aimed at minimizing, and ultimately replacing, the use of animals in chemical safety tests. Funding for computational toxicology and other 21st century methods of risk assessment is essential to implement the law. Last year, President Trump’s budget went in the wrong direction by reducing EPA’s funding for alternatives development by a massive 28 percent. That budget request also reduced the National Institute of Health’s National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences by 19 percent. This year’s budget fares no better, reducing EPA’s computational toxicology program by over $4 million (nearly 20 percent) and reducing the NCATS program by over $200 million (nearly 30 percent).

Department of Justice Enforcement

The Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division plays a critical role in prosecuting a number of environmental statutes aimed at protecting millions of animals, including endangered and threatened species. The President’s FY19 budget request reduces ENRD’s budget by $3.7 million (3.5 percent), at a time when ENRD may be expected to respond to impacts on wildlife from expanded fossil fuel development, infrastructure, border security, and military readiness activities. 

Wildlife Trafficking

While the President’s FY19 budget declares the Administration’s commitment to combatting illegal wildlife trafficking, it cuts Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement funding by $5 million. It’s hard to square this reduction with the budget notes directing FWS to "cooperate with the State Department, other Federal agencies, and foreign governments to disrupt transportation routes connected to the illegal wildlife trafficking supply chain," "encourage foreign nations to enforce their wildlife laws," and "continue to cooperate with other nations to combat wildlife trafficking to halt the destruction of some of the world’s most iconic species, such as elephants and rhinos, by stopping illicit trade; ensuring sustainable legal trade; reducing demand for illegal products; and providing assistance and grants to other nations to develop local enforcement capabilities."

On the positive side, it’s good to see that the President’s FY19 budget proposal again recommends cutting federal subsidies for the USDA’s Wildlife Services program that uses tax dollars to carry out lethal predator control programs, despite the availability of more humane and potentially more effective alternatives. This reduction specifically includes a decrease of $56,343,000 for the Wildlife Damage Management program and a $35,775,000 cut for Wildlife Services’ Operational Activities. We hope the Administration will press Congress to follow through on this policy shift, and reduce this government subsidy for toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps, aerial gunning, and other inhumane practices that kill predators and non-target species such as family pets.

While this budget document serves as a looking glass into the Administration’s priorities for FY19, Congress has the power of the purse. We will continue to work hard with our allies on Capitol Hill to ensure that animal welfare initiatives receive necessary funding and to fight harmful provisions to animals.

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.

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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, 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.

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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. 

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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.

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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, September 12, 2017

House committee takes aim at endangered species

In recent months, dozens of Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives, have been waging a hot war on wildlife. Last week the House voted to repeal restrictions on baiting of grizzly bears, killing of wolf pups in their dens, and other extreme trophy hunting methods on National Park Service lands in Alaska. This follows a similar vote in February that allowed these sickening and despicable practices on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges—pristine federal lands where wild animals should be safe from such threats and cruelty and where there are no human-wildlife conflicts to motivate control actions.

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Photo courtesy of hkuchera/iStock.com

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee is poised to expand this lethal assault by taking up a slate of bills that threaten to gut the Endangered Species Act. This package of dangerous legislation will prioritize politics over science and undermine our ability to protect imperiled creatures, both in the United States and across the globe, from the brink of extinction. Here are some of the bills on the docket today:

H.R. 3668, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act,” is a grab bag of anti-wildlife provisions put together for the trophy hunting lobby. It provides a sweetheart deal to help 41 wealthy trophy hunters import the heads and hides of rare polar bears they’ve shot in Canada. The animals were not shot for their meat, but just for trophies and bragging rights. It’s the latest in a series of these special interest import allowances and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and then wait for a government hand-out to enable them to bring back their trophies. Another provision would open millions of acres of federal public lands to painful steel-jawed leghold traps, killing and maiming mountain lions, bears, wolves, bobcats, and non-target animals such as endangered species and family pets.

H.R. 424, best described as the “War on Wolves Act,” would remove ESA protections for gray wolves in three Great Lakes states and Wyoming—just weeks after a federal court ruled that the delisting plan for wolves in the Great Lakes was illegal. This legislative attempt to subvert the federal courts amounts to Congress cherry-picking wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species, and all but guarantees that hundreds of wolves would be subjected to baiting, hound hunting, and cruel trapping practices. Removing federal protections and turning wolf management over to the states has led to politically-motivated, fear-based killing programs targeting wolves. In a three-year period, trophy hunters and trappers killed more than 1,500 wolves in the Great Lakes states alone, and that killing spree stopped only because of a successful legal action led by The HSUS. Left to their own devices in the past, states have authorized the use of strangling cable neck snares; cruel steel-jawed, leg-hold traps; and hounding with packs of radio-collared trailing dogs. It is clear that federal oversight is necessary to provide adequate protections for gray wolves as required by the ESA.

H.R. 2603 would strip ESA protections for foreign species held in captive settings in the United States, such as elephants, tigers, lions, leopards, rhinos, and chimpanzees. This innocuous-sounding and deceptively named “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” could actually eliminate federal protections for imperiled animals—for example, by allowing the interstate commerce of elephant ivory, legalizing captive trophy hunting of African lions, and allowing laboratories to resume invasive experiments on chimpanzees in this country. Endangered and threatened species, whether native to the U.S. or not, desperately need as many protections as they can get. Removing protections for these animals under the ESA is nothing more than a nod to the trophy-hunting and wildlife trafficking industries, and sends a message that it’s okay to exploit rare and endangered wildlife as long as they’re not native to our country. 

A number of other Orwellian sounding bills are on the committee’s schedule today, from the “Listing Reform Act” to the “State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act” to the “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act.” They are all designed to chip away at the ESA, one of America’s most effective environmental laws and one whose reach is global. It serves as an essential safety net for imperiled plants, fish, and wildlife, and has saved more than 99 percent of species listed under its care from extinction. The ESA has seen such remarkable success because it relies on best-available science to make listing decisions, and empowers citizens to participate in and ensure adequate implementation of the law. We must not allow politicians to attack the very foundation on which the ESA was written.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Senate committee passes harmful anti-wildlife bill

While the U.S. Senate was largely occupied yesterday with the health care debate, one of its committees quietly passed an awful bill that puts wolves, eagles, and other migratory birds at risk, while giving a sweetheart deal to polar bear trophy hunters. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the innocuous sounding “Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation (HELP) for Wildlife Act,” S. 1514, by a vote of 14 to 7.

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Photo by RamiroMarquezPhotos/iStock.com

The bill allows Congress to cherry-pick wolves off the list of threatened and endangered species, undermining citizens’ rights to use the federal courts and all but guaranteeing that hundreds of wolves are subjected to baiting, hound hunting, and cruel trapping practices. It puts bald eagles and other migratory birds at risk by weakening bird anti-baiting rules. It denies proper oversight of toxic lead in the environment, barring federal agencies from regulating lead in fishing tackle, even though alternatives exist. It’s a government hand-out to wealthy trophy hunters who shot rare polar bears in Canada and couldn’t otherwise legally import them into the U.S.

It’s a grab bag of appalling provisions for the trophy hunting lobby, and will cause immense suffering to wild animals. HSLF is grateful to seven Democratic senators who voted against the legislation. All 11 committee Republicans favored the bill in committee, and three Democrats—Tom Carper of Delaware, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois—backed it, even with the terrible provisions in it. There’s still time to kill the bill, and we urge Senators to do so. 

The following are the most harmful provisions that should not be enacted into law.

Wolves

1514 removes Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in three Great Lakes states (and also Wyoming, even though Wyoming already has management authority over wolves). This proposal would both subvert citizens’ rights to  judicial processes and undermine the ESA, one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws. Removing federal protections and turning wolf management over to the states has led to politically-motivated, fear-based killing programs targeting wolves. In a three-year period, trophy hunters and trappers killed more than 1,500 wolves in the Great Lakes states alone, and that killing spree stopped only because of a successful legal action led by The HSUS. Left to their own devices in the past, states have authorized the use of strangling cable neck snares; cruel steel-jawed, leg-hold traps; and hounding with packs of radio-collared trailing hounds. It is clear that federal oversight is necessary to provide adequate protections for gray wolves as required by the ESA. The committee narrowly rejected an amendment by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., to remove this anti-wolf provision by a party-line vote of 11 to 10. Eighty-one scientists submitted a letter in opposition to wolf delisting, citing the fact that they have not been restored to but a fraction of their historic range.

Lead

1514 also prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting toxic chemicals, such as lead, in fishing equipment. Millions of pounds of lead fishing tackle are lost in aquatic environments each year, putting water and wading birds such as loons, whooping cranes, gulls, swans, geese, egrets, and herons, at risk of lead poisoning. Alternative metals can be used in hunting and fishing equipment, eliminating the need to poison millions of animals as a collateral effect of these recreational practices.

Polar Bears

An amendment to the bill, offered by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, would roll back the Marine Mammal Protection Act and provide a sweetheart deal to help 41 wealthy polar bear trophy hunters import the heads of rare polar bears they shot in Canada. The animals were not shot for their meat, but just for trophies and bragging rights. It’s the latest in a series of these import allowances for polar bear hunters, and it encourages trophy hunters to kill rare species around the world and then wait for a congressional waiver to bring back their trophies.

Migratory Birds

1514 amends the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by sweepingly excluding vast areas of land from the definition of “baited area.” If an area is not a “baited area,” the Act’s standard prohibition against killing migratory birds does not apply. Already, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits to agricultural interests on a regular basis to kill birds to reduce crop damage, making this provision unnecessary.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

President’s budget a mixed bag for animals

The White House yesterday released President Trump’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018, providing more detail on the spending proposals for federal agencies than what was forecast earlier this year. One of the most troubling aspects of the package is the administration’s desire to allow the commercial sale of an unlimited number of wild horses and burros rounded up from federal lands. This is a betrayal of the public trust and our stewardship of these wild horses and burros, who are protected under federal law and represent the historic and pioneer spirit of the American West.

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Gary Alvis/iStock

While the budget is bad for animals when looking across multiple agencies, there are a few bright spots, including stable funding levels for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act and a reduction in the budget for USDA’s notorious Wildlife Services program. Many lawmakers pronounced the president’s budget "dead on arrival," but where the president strayed from mainstream principles, it’s important for HSLF to comment. It is Congress that has the power of the purse, and we’ll work with our allies on Capitol Hill to fight harmful provisions to animals and ensure that the final product reflects America’s wide and deep support for animal protection. 

Here are a few key items of note: 

Wildlife Services:
President Trump has taken a major step in the right direction toward "draining the swamp" of an outdated and inhumane federal predator killing program. The proposed budget cuts the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s "Wildlife Services" program by $45 million and specifies that ranchers, farmers, and other local participants "requesting direct control assistance will need to cover the operational program costs." This would de-incentivize the U.S. government from killing and maiming wildlife and family pets, and the predator killing tax could finally get the axe. If Congress follows suit, far fewer federal taxes will be wasted on killing millions of animals using horribly inhumane and indiscriminate methods such as toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps, wire neck snares, explosives, and aerial gunning. Wildlife Services would be encouraged to help people prevent wildlife damage through non-lethal deterrents which are often more effective and less costly.

Animal Welfare Act/Horse Protection Act:
We are pleased that the president’s budget recognizes the important role that USDA provides in enforcing the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act. Although USDA was cut by 21 percent overall, funding for enforcement of the AWA and HPA would remain essentially level under the proposal. The AWA requires thousands of puppy mills, laboratories, zoos, circuses, and other regulated entities to comply with its basic humane care and treatment standards, while the HPA is intended to protect Tennessee walking horses and related breeds from the cruel and criminal practice of "soring"— using caustic chemicals, torture devices, and other painful techniques on horses’ hooves and legs to force an artificial pain-based high-stepping gait.

Horse Slaughter:
The budget omits critically needed language to prevent federal tax dollars from being used to open and operate horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil. The last horse slaughter plants in the U.S. shut down a decade ago, and this language keeps the practice from being resurrected. Horse meat poses serious food safety risks from the multitude of medications horses are given throughout their lives. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t "euthanize" old horses, but precisely the opposite: "kill buyers" purchase young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. Americans do not consume horse meat, and our nation’s limited agency resources and inspectors should not be diverted from the important current duties of protecting the food supply for U.S. consumers.

Wild Horses and Burros:
As noted above, the president’s budget proposes to enable the Bureau of Land Management to sell wild horses and burros without limitation—clearly signaling a desire to strip protections and open the door to sending thousands of these animals to commercial slaughter. This is a radical departure from decades of protection, when there are more humane and cost-effective strategies readily available. The BLM can save tens of millions of dollars by utilizing technologically advanced, humane alternatives to costly round-up and removal of wild horses on federal lands. Using immunocontraception to manage wild horse and burro populations in the West instead of taking them off the land and putting them in long-term government holding facilities is not only more humane, but would also help the agency get off the fiscal treadmill of rounding up horses and keeping them on the government dole.

Alternatives to Animal Testing:
The animal protection community celebrated last year’s passage of legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, with language aimed at minimizing the use of animals in chemical safety tests. We also recognized that funding for computational toxicology and other 21st century methods to reduce and ultimately replace animal testing for risk assessments is essential to implement the law. President Trump’s proposed budget goes in the wrong direction, reducing EPA’s funding for alternatives development by 28 percent, and additionally, hindering the progress made by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences with a 19 percent cut. This is a short-sighted approach that will impede the transition to faster, cheaper, and more predictive toxicological methods that can provide for human safety and ultimately eliminate antiquated animal tests.

Marine Mammals:
The president’s budget eliminates two initiatives critical to protecting marine mammals. The Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Grant Program supports trained teams, largely composed of volunteers, which rescue and care for more than 5,500 stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals each year. Thanks to this care, many of the animals successfully return to the wild. With the loss of Prescott funds, which often help to leverage additional funds from the private sector, members of the public who encounter marine mammals in distress might be unable to find anyone to assist. The budget also eliminates the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, which brings together economic interest groups, scientists, and animal protection organizations, including The HSUS, to seek practical solutions to conservation challenges facing marine mammals. These issues include how to minimize harm from offshore energy development, military exercises, and commercial fishing. The commission’s important work has been achieved on a shoestring budget, and is the kind of problem solving and bridge building the nation needs.

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.

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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.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why not “drain the swamp” of animal abuse?

President Trump’s preliminary budget proposes major cuts in programs related to foreign aid, poverty relief programs, and the environment, and the budget proposal eliminates entire programs supporting public broadcasting, the arts, and humanities. From our lane at HSLF, the one burning question is why there aren’t any cuts in factory farming subsidies, lethal predator control, and other giveaways of American tax dollars to coddled special interests?

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iStock Photo

If he was in the hunt for programs to cut, in order to save tax dollars and balance the budget, this government pork should have been first on the list. These programs have been long overdue for trimming and elimination, and we hope those specifics are part of the president’s full budget proposal expected in a few months.

Of course, the president’s first budget is a starting point, and needs to be negotiated and approved by Congress. As lawmakers work through the process and endeavor to downsize the government, we strongly urge them to look at areas that are ripe for cuts and savings:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’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. In some cases, the government spends more money than the losses attributed to these creatures. Even family pets and threatened and endangered species are killed with the indiscriminate, lethal methods employed by this wasteful federal program. A 14-year-old boy walking his dog in Idaho recently triggered an M-44 “cyanide bomb” set by Wildlife Services to kill coyotes, and the 3-year-old Lab, Casey, was killed by the toxic explosion. It’s not only a waste of tax dollars, but a threat to families everywhere.
  • The USDA can also stop the multi-million dollar subsidies for big pork and other factory farming interests, and let the free market take the place of government hand-outs. The government bail outs of factory farms (through purchasing of their surplus meat—often dumping the worst products on our nation’s school lunch program) are not only costly, but do nothing to encourage such operations to rein in their production or clean up their cruel, unhealthy, and environmentally damaging methods. USDA should 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. This $60 million boondoggle is essentially a slush fund for the National Pork Producers Council and its efforts to fight against animal welfare and family farmers. You could not find a stronger example of crony capitalism taking advantage of government benefits.
  • The Bureau of Land Management can save tens of millions of dollars by utilizing technologically advanced, humane alternatives to costly round-up and removal of wild horses on federal lands. Using immunocontraception to manage wild horse and burro populations in the West instead of taking them off the land and putting them in long-term government holding facilities is not only more humane, but would also help the agency get off the fiscal treadmill of rounding up horses and keeping them on the government dole.
  • Refocus government safety-testing efforts on high-tech, animal-free approaches. Each year federal agencies spend hundreds of millions of tax dollars to assess the safety of chemicals, drugs, and even natural plant extracts. Evaluating the cancer-causing potential of a single chemical in a conventional rodent test takes up to 5 years, 800 animals, and $4 million. For the same price and without any use of animals, as many as 350 chemicals could be tested in less than one week using ultra-fast robot-automated cellular toxicity and gene-expression tests. These sophisticated, animal-free methods are already used by some companies and federal agencies to determine testing needs and priorities, and are poised to be accelerated by the passage of the TSCA reform bill last year. Funding should focus on research and development of these methods, in order to stop spending on wasteful and inefficient animal tests.

Lawmakers should consider these proposals as part of their larger effort to wrestle with the country’s budget. Millions of animals would be spared needless suffering, the U.S. budget would be moved toward the black, and we would begin to “drain the swamp” of special interests that have been bilking the American taxpayers for all too long.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Maryland seeks to close the door on the trade of imperiled wild animal products

Following the worrying results of an investigation into the sale of wildlife products from imperiled species within its  borders, Maryland lawmakers are taking steps to make sure that their state no longer has a hand in this destructive trade.

Md-wildlife-investigation
photo courtesy of The HSUS
An example of an elephant ivory piece found for
sale at the Baltimore Antiques Show

The Humane Society of the United States today released the results of an investigation conducted late last year that uncovered products of imperiled species, notably elephant ivory jewelry and collectibles, for sale in stores and markets throughout Maryland. Investigators found that at least 30 sellers at antique stores and malls, auction companies, consignment stores, and jewelers across Maryland had elephant ivory items for sale. Leopard fur was also found for sale at a Frederick antique mall.

With only one exception, none of the sellers offering ivory or leopard fur would provide documentation to investigators to verify the age or origin of the products. That lack of documentation and transparency makes it impossible to know if the products were genuine antiques, for example, or from more recently killed elephants, imported in violation of the federal law on selling African elephant ivory.

The investigation also found that several sellers at a popular art and jewelry show in Baltimore had traveled from other states, including New York—where, thanks to 2014 legislation supported by HSLF, The HSUS, and other wildlife conservation and protection groups, the sale of ivory is now illegal.

When asked, many Maryland antique sellers claimed ignorance of existing laws regulating the sale of ivory, while others seemed to deliberately confuse or mislead potential customers.

In a survey conducted last year, an overwhelming 83 percent of Maryland residents said they support legislation to curtail this trafficking within their state’s borders, to help save the world’s most majestic and endangered wildlife from extinction and cruelty. With broad support, state legislators have introduced a package of bills, H.B. 686/S.B. 560, to prohibit the sale of these products in the state.

The poaching of imperiled species is a growing global crisis, and the U.S. is one of the world’s largest retail markets and  a major contributor to the $20 billion illegal wildlife trade. We must do all we can to stop poaching of wildlife in range countries, but we can also take action here at home to reduce the demand that creates global instability and pushes many iconic animals to the brink of extinction.

The actions by poachers are immensely cruel and even as they decimate the populations of these species, they threaten the economies of many nations dependent on wildlife tourism. Poachers hack off an elephant’s or rhino’s face, sometimes while the animal is still alive, to retrieve their tusks or horn. Every year approximately 35,000 elephants are killed in Africa to supply the demand for their ivory. The savanna elephant population has declined by 144,000, or 30 percent of the population, since 2007, primarily from poaching.

Other iconic animals aren’t faring any better. Cheetahs have lost an estimated 91 percent of their historic habitat and fewer than 7,100 remain in the wild. At least 1,305 rhinos were poached across Africa in 2015 out of only 29,000 remaining in the wild. All seven sea turtles species are threatened with extinction. There are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild. African lion populations have declined by 43 percent since 1993 and are still declining.

Evidence and seizure data suggest that poaching and wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest transnational crime, after the trafficking of drugs and people, and counterfeiting. In the case of ivory, armed militia and terrorist groups on the African continent engage in elephant poaching and ivory trafficking to finance their nefarious operations. Many agencies, including INTERPOL and the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, recognize the increasing involvement of organized syndicates in wildlife crime.

The federal government has an important role to play, and we made progress last year with the passage of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act in Congress and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule to close loopholes in the domestic ivory trade. But states must also take action to help dry up demand for poached products within their own borders. There is strong and bipartisan support for these laws, as seen in huge ballot measure victories by HSLF and our coalition partners—winning 70 percent of the statewide votes in Washington in 2015 and Oregon in 2016 to ban the trade in wildlife parts.

The new legislation in Maryland would keep the products of elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, sea turtles, and great apes off the market, ensuring that consumers do not unwittingly contribute to the illegal wildlife trade. Maryland can join California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington which have passed similar laws—building momentum in the fight to shut down local markets that allow so many to continue seeking profit from destructive wildlife trafficking.

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