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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Back to Work in the Nation’s Capital

Members of Congress return to Washington today after a month-long recess, and they’ll get back to work on health care reform and other top-tier issues. But animal protection has also been on the agenda, and many of our key priorities have already made meaningful progress during the 111th Congress.

Today I’d like to give you a snapshot of where we stand after the first eight months of the congressional session, and what we still need to achieve in the remainder of 2009 and 2010. The following bills have cleared at least one major hurdle already:

Chimp
The Captive Primate Safety Act aims to protect primates
from the dangerous and cruel exotic pet trade.

Captive Primate Safety ActH.R. 80 by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Mark Kirk / S. 462 by Sens. Barbara Boxer and David Vitter—The bill will prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the exotic pet trade, as these highly intelligent and social creatures cannot be cared for properly in private homes, and they threaten public health and safety. The legislation was approved in the House by a vote of 323-95, and approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s now pending in the full Senate, but Sen. Tom Coburn has placed a hold on the bill. 

Restore Our American Mustangs (ROAM) ActH. R. 1018 by Reps. Nick Rahall and Raúl Grijalva / S. 1579 by Sen. Robert Byrd—This legislation will restore the prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros (a protection undercut by a rider in the FY 2005 omnibus spending bill) and encourage more humane and fiscally responsible management of wild horses through methods such as fertility control, rather than costly round-ups and long-term holding in federal pens at taxpayer expense. The bill passed the House by a vote of 239-185, and is now pending in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Shark Conservation ActH. R. 81 by Reps. Madeleine Bordallo and Eni Faleomavaega / S. 850 by Sen. John Kerry—The bill would end the cruel practice of shark finning (cutting off sharks’ fins and throwing the sharks back in the water, often while still alive). Congress banned this practice in 2000, but there is currently a loophole that allows vessels to transport fins obtained illegally as long as the sharks were not finned aboard that vessel. The bill to close this loophole and strengthen protections against shark finning passed the House by a voice vote, and is now pending in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Pythons as PetsS. 373 by Sen. Bill Nelson / H.R. 2811 by Rep. Kendrick Meek—This legislation would add pythons to the list of injurious species prohibited from interstate commerce and importation, in response to dangerous pet pythons killing children and others, and causing environmental damage when released into ecosystems such as the Everglades. H.R. 2811 passed the House Judiciary Committee, but was unfortunately weakened to bar only Burmese pythons and African rock pythons, which would simply trigger a shift in the trade to other constricting snakes such as reticulated pythons and anacondas. The Senate bill is broader and is pending in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Great Cats and Rare Canids ActH. R. 411 by Rep. Jay Inslee / S. 529 by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Sam Brownback—The bill would assist in the conservation of rare cats and dogs in the wild by supporting and providing financial resources for conservation programs in their range countries. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 290-118, and was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s now pending in the full Senate.

Crane Conservation ActH. R. 388 by Rep. Tammy Baldwin / S. 197 by Sens. Russ Feingold and Mike Crapo—The bill would provide financial resources for conservation programs to protect cranes and their ecosystems. Cranes are the most endangered family of birds in the world, victims of pesticide, power lines, human encroachment, and even wars. Eleven of 15 species are at risk of extinction, and the North American whooping crane is the rarest of all cranes. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 288-116, and was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s now pending in the full Senate.

Canadian Seal HuntS. Res. 84 by Sens. Carl Levin and Susan Collins—This resolution urges Canada to end its annual seal hunt, the world’s largest commercial slaughter of marine mammals. It passed the full Senate by unanimous consent.

Horses
We're working to pass bills to protect wild horses and burros and stop the export of American horses to slaughter plants for human consumption.

Marine Mammal StrandingsS. 859 by Sen. Maria Cantwell—This bill would provide grants for marine mammal rescue and disentanglement. It was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and is now pending in the full Senate.

Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research ActH. R. 556 by Rep. Sam Farr—The bill reconstitutes a team of scientists under the Endangered Species Act to monitor and promote the recovery of the Southern sea otter, and authorizes funding for scientific research to support the protection of this threatened marine mammal along the Pacific coast. It passed the House by a vote of 316-107, and has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Marine Turtle Conservation Reauthorization ActH.R. 509 by Reps. Henry Brown and Madeleine Bordallo—The bill would authorize an additional five years of grants for marine turtle conservation projects in foreign countries, expand eligibility to include projects in the U.S., and increase authorized funding levels. The bill passed the House by a vote of 354-72, and has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

A number of other bills have not yet had committee or floor action, but have been gaining support and building strong lists of cosponsors. We expect movement soon on the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act to stop the export of American horses to slaughter plants for human consumption, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act to give consumers important product information about fur-trimmed apparel, and a provision in the Department of Defense reauthorization bill to promote the use of service and therapy dogs to assist disabled veterans. Other important pending measures include the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act to curb profligate overuse of these drugs on factory farms, the Great Ape Protection Act to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, and the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act to allow tax deductions for necessary pet care expenses, including veterinary services.

We also expect new bills to be introduced, seeking to protect dogs who are victims of large-scale puppy mills, make it a federal crime to attend a dogfight or cockfight, end the sale for research of dogs and cats obtained by random source “Class B” dealers who have been known to steal pets, allow for the creation of pet trusts to provide long-term care for companion animals, require that agribusiness producers who supply food to the federal government no longer cram animals into small crates and cages where they can barely move, and advance other important public policy reforms.

Stay tuned and be sure to visit our web site to find out the status of these bills. We need your active help and participation to push them over the finish line, and turn them into new federal laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.

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