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Wildlife

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Breaking: Trump administration proposes new changes to weaken Endangered Species Act

Today's blog post is authored by Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund and Kitty Block, acting President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

During the past year and a half, the Trump administration and the 115th Congress have launched over a hundred attacks on the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock law that protects endangered and threatened animal species and their habitats. Today, the administration dealt the latest body blow to this law by proposing changes that would weaken it and make it harder to secure federal protections for endangered and threatened species.

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Photo courtesy of hkuchera/iStock.com

Under today’s proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would establish additional roadblocks to securing comprehensive protections for threatened species. The administration also wants to make the process of removing species from the ESA easier.

This death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach aims to extinguish one of the country’s most effective and popular statutes, on which the survival of so many wildlife species depends. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct. This results in part from the statute’s flexibility and the collaboration it facilitates among federal, state, triba,l and local officials. The ESA enjoys wide support with the American public too. A 2015 poll by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of self-described conservatives, support upholding the ESA. Another study by Hart Research Associates from 2016 found that 70 percent of Americans oppose removing ESA protections from threatened species such as gray wolves and sage-grouse.

We are grateful that the administration will not apply any of these regulations retroactively to previous decisions for species receiving protections under the ESA, but there is little doubt about what’s going on with this proposal. It’s an attempt to decimate the effectiveness of the ESA, plain and simple.

Congress has launched its own attacks on the ESA, and on Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to discuss a bill, authored by EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to gut the ESA’s efficacy and harm conservation organizations’ ability to enforce the law’s protections. The draft proposal contains many damaging provisions, including turning over much ESA decision-making authority to the states.

Unfortunately, states do not always prioritize wildlife protection, as we saw when gray wolves and grizzly bears lost federal ESA protections in Wyoming and the states promptly declared hunting seasons on these animals. The bill also would make litigation over ESA listing and delisting more difficult.

A similar attack surfaced in the House when the Congressional Western Caucus oversaw the introduction of nine bills assailing various aspects of the ESA. One of the bills allows information provided by states, tribes or localities to constitute the “best available science” regardless of its quality or scientific merit, for making ESA decisions. Another bill makes it easier for the Fish and Wildlife Service to dismiss ESA-listing petitions without thorough evaluation.

Keeping the Endangered Species Act strong is critical if we are to ensure that threatened and endangered animals, including species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and African lions and elephants, do not go extinct. The Humane Society of United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are at the forefront of the battle to protect the ESA, but we need your help. The administration and your congressional delegation need to hear that you don’t support a dismantling of our nation’s cornerstone law designed to protect and save iconic wildlife, in the United States and around the world. The ESA is essential to the protection of animals, and we’re doing our best to turn back threats to its integrity and efficacy. And so can you.

Let the Administration know that you strongly oppose a dismantling of our nation’s cornerstone law designed to protect and save iconic wildlife, in the United States and around the world by leaving a comment here. Below is suggested text:

"The proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would weaken the ESA regulations by making it harder to secure and maintain federal protections for imperiled species. The FWS and NMFS should keep the existing ESA protections to save threatened and endangered animals from extinction."

Friday, June 29, 2018

Bipartisan approach yields results for animals in Senate farm bill vote

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

By a vote of 86-11 last night, the Senate approved its bipartisan Farm Bill. Overall, it’s a much better package than what passed the House on June 21. For animals, the Senate bill contains two important measures and omits the worse provisions that could have been included. We are grateful for the leadership of Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Here’s a quick run-down of key points:   

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Jean Chung/For HSI

PRO-ANIMAL OUTCOMES

King Amendment – The Senate wisely opted not to include anything like the outrageous power grab that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tacked on the House Farm Bill to try to negate state and local laws regarding agriculture products. The King amendment—which is opposed by a diverse set of more than 220 groups from across the political spectrum—threatens to unwind countless duly-enacted measures to protect animals, consumers, and many other concerns, and it must be kept out of the final House/Senate Farm Bill.

Domestic Violence and Pets – At the behest of Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who sponsored the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, S. 322, this essential language to protect pets and families was folded into the initial Farm Bill that Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow brought to committee a few weeks ago. It will extend current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorize grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (only 3 percent currently allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. Many delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, a legitimate fear considering up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet. The PAWS provision is not in the House Farm Bill, so we’ll need to work hard with a broad coalition of supporters to ensure it is in the final package.

Dog and Cat Meat – Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) successfully appealed yesterday to Chairman Roberts and Sen. Stabenow to add their amendment to prohibit domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. It’s based on the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, H.R. 1406, which Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Dave Trott (R-Mich.), and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) got into the House Farm Bill during committee markup. The House and Senate provisions will prevent this appalling trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide. Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are subjected to this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars as they are subjected to unspeakable abuse to end up on someone’s dinner plate. 

Dodged Bullets – In addition to keeping out anything like Steve King’s amendment, the Senate did not incorporate many harmful amendments that were filed, including:

  • Animal Welfare Inspections at Research Facilities – Senator Marco Rubio tried to eliminate the Animal Welfare Act’s modest requirement for annual inspections of animal laboratories and weaken enforcement, despite recurring problems cited by USDA’s Inspector General.
  • ESA Attacks – Several amendments to weaken Endangered Species Act protections were left out of the package, including amendments targeting prairie dogs, bald eagles, and sage grouse, and the “SAVES” Act  (S. 2778) offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing any foreign species as threatened or endangered under the ESA, which could allow invasive experiments on chimpanzees to resume and open the door to interstate commerce of elephant ivory.
  • Truck Driver Rest/Livestock – Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) tried to drastically expand already excessively long truck driving shifts, which would increase the risk of crashes that endanger everyone on the road and animals being hauled.

MAJOR MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

We are very disappointed that the Senate Farm Bill does not include two priority measures:

Checkoff – By a vote of 38-57, the Senate rejected the reasonable amendment offered by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to correct abuses by commodity checkoff programs such as those for beef, pork, and eggs. Based on the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, S. 741/H.R. 1753, the amendment would bring greater transparency and accountability and prevent checkoff dollars from being misused to lobby against animal welfare reforms and family farmer interests. It has strong support by more than 100 organizations representing over 250,000 family farmers and ranchers and many other interests, including the Heritage Foundation, National Farmers Union, R Street, Organization for Competitive Markets, Family Farm Action, National Taxpayers Union, American Grass-fed Association, National Dairy Producers Organization, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Animal Fighting – The Senate failed to consider a bipartisan amendment led by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and cosponsored by Sens. Booker, Heller, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting activity “in or affecting interstate commerce” are to be consistently applied in all U.S. jurisdictions including the U.S. territories. Mirroring the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, S. 2971/H.R. 4202, this amendment would protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gangs, protect public health and the food supply from bird flu and other disease transmission, and enhance enforcement of federal animal fighting law across the country. Fortunately, an identical amendment was incorporated into the House Farm Bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51, so we will push for it to be sustained in the final House/Senate bill.

It’s hard to know how quickly things may move to the next stage, since the House and Senate are far apart on key controversies such as reforms to nutrition assistance programs. But with your help, we’ll be ready, and will redouble our efforts to ensure that Congress enacts a Farm Bill containing the best of both from the Senate and House versions—keeping the King amendment and other harmful provisions out and including the pro-animal provisions on pets/domestic violence, dog and cat meat, and animal fighting.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

From Atlanta to Umbabat, American trophy hunters pose a threat to endangered species

This week, the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a Department of the Interior advisory group dominated by big-game trophy hunters, held its second public meeting, in Atlanta. This advisory group seeks to promote the trophy hunting of charismatic animal species on the taxpayer dime—and questions and discussions at the meeting underscored that the council aims to weaken existing protections for threatened and endangered species, all to make it easier for trophy hunters to import animal trophies into the United States.

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Skye, the lion, who was allegedly killed by a
trophy hunter

Council members appeared miffed by the widespread negative perception of trophy hunting and attributed this to the American public’s lack of understanding about the purported multitude of conservation benefits that they themselves attribute to trophy hunting. They also sounded the customary—and false—note that animals will go extinct if trophy hunting were stopped.

This council’s membership is stacked with trophy hunting enthusiasts, celebrity hunters, and industry lobbyists, and the two public proceedings they have held so far have demonstrated how it’s imbalanced and outside the mainstream of American views on conservation and wildlife protection. The council takes the Orwellian approach that the only way to save wild animals from going extinct is to shoot them.

A 2017 analysis found that trophy hunting has relatively low economic value as a wildlife-related activity. While tourism contributes to at most 5.1 percent of the GDP among the eight African study countries, the total economic contribution of trophy hunting is at most about 0.03 percent of that figure. Foreign hunters make up less than 0.1 percent of tourists on average and they contribute 0.78 percent or less of the $17 billion in overall tourism spending. Trophy hunting’s contribution to tourism employment is only 0.76 percent or less of average direct tourism employment.       

Moreover, the trophy hunting of imperiled species is biologically unsustainable. Trophy hunters target the biggest and strongest animals with impressive tusks, horns, manes, and other distinguishing characteristics. Science has shown that trophy hunting alters the biological characteristics and population dynamics of the hunted species, too.   

In a terrible coincidence, just days before the Atlanta meeting, we learned of the alleged killing of a male lion named Skye in the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Reportedly, the lion was baited to facilitate the hunt; in any event, Skye has not been seen since June 7 when the hunt took place, according to local sources, and it’s possible that an American hunter could be responsible for his death. 

Skye, with his stunning mane and majestic posture, is a favorite subject of wildlife photographers and tourists. He’s a dominant male who heads a pride known to frequent both the Kruger National Park and Umbabat; the pride consists of three cubs, three sub-adults, and six lionesses.

One of the pride’s young cubs has reportedly been killed by a competing pride following Skye’s disappearance. If the cub’s killing is confirmed, it is a somber reminder that trophy hunting of lions carries a significant ecological price tag affecting not just the animal hunted but also the pride members left behind.  

The Umbabat Private Nature Reserve and the Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency, the provincial authority that grants permits for trophy hunts, have vehemently denied that the hunted lion was Skye. However, they have not publicly presented photographic evidence of the hunted animal to verify this; nor have they granted third party requests to view and examine the skin of the hunted lion. Photographs are especially critical to establishing a hunted animal’s identity. Skye, for example, has a distinguishing scar under his left eye and S-shaped scar on his right flank.

Even if the killed lion is not Skye, it is a cause for alarm that lions protected in Kruger National Park could fall victim to senseless and bloody trophy hunting when they step over its invisible geographical boundaries into the adjoining private reserves. More than 1.4 million visitors flock to Kruger National Park each year to view wildlife, including lions, bringing in tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. In South Africa, trophy hunting brings in only 1.2 percent of the income brought in by tourism. Math makes the indictment real: trophy hunting is robbing South Africa of the very thing that tourists will pay to see, over and over again: live lions and other animals. A lion or elephant can be enjoyed alive by hundreds or thousands of photographers and tourists—but only killed once by a trophy hunter.

It’s a long way from Atlanta to Umbabat, but there is a direct connection between the formation of the International Wildlife Conservation Council and the growing threat to threatened and endangered animal species in Africa and elsewhere. The United States has long been the world’s largest importer of lion hunting trophies—even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed African lions as threatened and endangered in 2016, the agency continues to allow American hunters to import lion trophies from certain African countries, including South Africa. The Service is responsible for forging an intelligent conservation policy and it would be unlawful for it to rely on advice from a council stacked with big-game trophy hunters. South Africa has approximately 2,800 of the 20,000 lions in the world, and we need to do what we can to keep every one of them alive.

Please take a minute to send a letter to USFWS and ask them to deny any application to import wild lion trophies from South Africa.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Key House committee okays Interior spending bill with harmful provisions for grizzly bears, wolves

The Interior spending bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee yesterday brought some good news for animals, including animals used in research and testing. But the bill poses a threat to some of America’s most iconic wildlife species, including grizzly bears and wolves, and takes the wrong track on the management of wild horses and burros.

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Photo courtesy iStock.com

Here are some of the most important provisions affecting animals:

Animals used in testing: We strongly support language in the bill that encourages the Environmental Protection Agency to report on its development, use, implementation, and interagency coordination on test methods and strategies that assess the human and environmental safety of chemical substances without causing harm to animals. This further builds on the EPA’s recent actions to limit the number of animal tests required for the registration of pesticides, as well as the passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which gives preference for non-animal methods of determining toxic chemicals’ safety hazards. There is room for the EPA to do more to prevent animal testing conducted within the agency itself or in coordination with other federal agencies, and this provision in the spending bill is a good step forward.

Wild horses and burros: The committee approved an amendment by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) that increases funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse and burro program. However, the amendment would direct funds for the agency to permanently sterilize wild horses, return them to the range and create non-reproducing herds. While permanent surgical sterilization methods have long been practiced and perfected on domestic dogs and cats, field sterilization of wild, ungentled mares, has not. Strong concerns remain not only regarding the feasibility and economic burden of permanently sterilizing large numbers of horses in the wild, but also about the humaneness of performing invasive procedures on wild mares that could result in numerous painful and life-threatening complications. Moreover, the concept of non-reproducing herds negates the intent of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and BLM’s own regulations which require the agency to manage these animals, in part, by creating self-maintaining herds of wild horses and burros. We urge Congress to provide increased funding to the wild horse and burro program but to push for humane solutions, such as PZP, an already available reversible birth control tool, to manage wild horses and burros on the range.

Grizzly bears: In March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his support for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington State, emphasizing the “ecological devastation” that the permanent loss of grizzly bears to this ecosystem would cause. The unexpected announcement seemed to signal a shift from last June, when the Interior department finalized a rule delisting grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. However, an amendment offered yesterday by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and approved by the committee, would bar the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from moving forward with a plan to transplant or introduce grizzly bears in the North Cascades Ecosystem.

Gray wolves: The spending bill bars judicial review of a previous final rule removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming, directs the interior secretary to reissue a final rule removing federal ESA protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states, and bars judicial review of that action. As if that weren’t enough, it directs the interior secretary to issue a final rule removing federal ESA protections for the gray wolf in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, and bars judicial review of the action. The western Great Lakes wolf delisting language also overrides a federal appeals court ruling last year that maintained these very protections for these wolves. Congress should not be cherry-picking species from the threatened and endangered lists based on political whim, circumventing sound science and shutting the public out of the process.

There is still time to ensure that some of the harmful provisions in this bill do not become law. The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the spending bill next, so please call both of your senators and urge them to vote to keep protections for wolves and grizzly bears and push for humane solutions for wild equines in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

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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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.

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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.

Wolves-blog-300x200
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.

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