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October 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Tale of Two Pictures

In February, a photo of Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, began circulating on the Internet: Richards gleefully posed in a trophy picture with a dead mountain lion he had killed on a guided hound hunt in Idaho. Cougar hunting is legal in Idaho, but California voters banned the practice in 1990 and reaffirmed the prohibition with a second statewide vote in 1996. The picture and comments by Richards dismissing the wishes of voters offended a lot of Californians, and seemed especially callous and tone-deaf given that Richards was supposed to represent the values of Californians on wildlife protection issues.

Dan richards mountain lionThe grisly photo triggered a backlash that played out over weeks and months. In the end, Richards lost his post as president of the Fish and Game Commission, and the legislature passed AB 2609 to improve the transparency and accountability of the state agency. The biggest takeaway, however, was that the state legislature passed SB 1221 to ban the hound hunting of bears and bobcats.

This had long been unfinished business for the humane movement, as a number of states over the past decades have banned the unsporting and inhumane use of packs of radio-collared dogs to chase bears into trees, so that a trophy hunter can follow the radio signal on a handheld telemetry device and shoot the frightened animal at point-blank range off a tree branch. Richards’ photo put the hounding issue back into the public consciousness, and then HSLF and HSUS pushed it ahead in a tough battle in the legislature, with the NRA, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, and other hunting groups fighting it every step of the way.

PaulRyan_deer_t620Another photo now making the rounds on the Internet shows Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, dressed in camouflage, posing with a buck he had killed while bowhunting in his home state of Wisconsin. While many presidential and vice-presidential candidates have hunted birds with shotguns, Ryan’s big-game bowhunting is unusual, and the typical archery magazine cover pose is “a very rare picture for a politician,” according to Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner. Ryan is an active bowhunter, and earned praise from the Archery Trade Association for his work in Congress to lower taxes on arrow manufacturers, reported Gregory J. Krieg of ABC News.

Ryan’s record on animal protection issues in Congress has been mixed, and while he has supported a number of anti-cruelty measures, he has usually sided with groups like the Safari Club and NRA on extreme practices such as bear baiting and polar bear trophy hunting. Another concern has emerged with Ryan’s bowhunting: Will it normalize the activity, making it seem entirely acceptable, when it involves high wounding rates and a lot of pain and suffering? Most hunters seek a quick and clean kill for the animal, with the use of modern firearms, but primitive weapons such as bows and arrows can leave many animals wounded and unretrieved, to die in the woods of blood loss, infection, or exposure to the elements.

Our nation has a real diversity of views on sport hunting. Many Americans support hunting if it’s done for food, and if it’s done in a way that minimizes pain and distress for the animal. On the other hand, most oppose killing wild animals just for trophies or pelts, and they don’t like particularly unfair hunting practices, like canned hunts, baiting, or hounding. The Dan Richards photo led to a discourse on wildlife management issues, and positive reforms for animals. Will there be any derivative of Paul Ryan’s bowhunting photo? Will it start a discussion about hunting methods and how humane they are? Does it make you less likely to support him knowing he uses this primitive hunting practice?

Monday, October 29, 2012

No Form of Animal Abuse that Ag Groups Find Intolerable

It’s just about one week left before Election Day, and one of the battleground states for animal protection is North Dakota. Measure 5 would make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally harm a dog, cat or horse, and would bring North Dakota’s cruelty law in line with those of 48 other states that previously adopted felony penalties for extreme animal abusers.

Shockingly, state and national agribusiness groups have launched a scorched-earth campaign opposing the measure, and are fighting to keep penalties weak for extreme acts of cruelty against pets in North Dakota. It’s more proof that they have no credibility on animal welfare, since they don’t think it’s important to have felony penalties for malicious acts of cruelty—acts that have occurred in North Dakota, such as slicing a cat’s throat with a box cutter, or beating a Chihuahua to death during a home invasion.

The opposition campaign is funded in considerable part by Forrest Lucas, a millionaire from Indiana who owns Lucas Oil and who also put in hundreds of thousands of dollars in his failed effort to defeat Prop B, to crack down on large-scale puppy mill abuses, in Missouri in the 2010 election. And their opposition coalition has received donations from defenders of animal abuse from all over the country, including recently from the Missouri Farmers Care PAC, which also emerged in the Prop B fight over puppy mills. The Indiana and Missouri state legislatures both established felony penalties for animal cruelty in the 1990’s, so why do these folks want to prevent North Dakota from doing the same thing nearly two decades later? Is there no form of animal abuse that these people find intolerable?

North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, the coalition group urging a YES! vote on Measure 5, has just released a new TV ad featuring North Dakota veterinarian Dr. Shelley Lenz. She sets the record straight on the ballot measure, and tells voters that the law will help animals now, and has nothing to do with hunting or agriculture. The opponents of Measure 5 have been the very forces to urge the legislature to kill proposals to establish felony penalties for malicious abuse. They now claim they are converts to the cause and want to see an anti-cruelty bill enacted in Bismarck. If that’s true, then we’ll join them, but it’s no argument to kill a very modest effort on the ballot next week.

Please share this ad with your friends and family in North Dakota, and help fight back against the national agribusiness interests that want to leave North Dakota’s pets to fend for themselves. If you would like to help out and support the YES! on Measure 5 campaign, please email me and I’ll put you in touch with the campaign staff.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ban Cruel Fox Pens: Virginia’s Last Form of Animal Fighting

It’s the South’s last legal blood sport, and in Virginia, it’s under serious examination. It’s time for legislators to get serious about ridding this country of fox penning. 

In this practice, foxes, and sometimes coyotes, are trapped live in the wild with steel-jawed leghold traps and transported miles in cramped cages in the back of pickup trucks. Dealers sell foxes to pen operators for cash, and then the stressed wildlife are released into a large fenced enclosure for dogs to chase down, incessantly night and day. During fox pen competitions, hundreds of dogs may be released as judges stand around the pen scoring dog packs as they run down foxes. The lucky few will survive for a while; the sick and weak animals will immediately be ripped apart by dogs. 

FoxRight now Virginia policymakers are taking a workmanlike approach to addressing the problem of fox pens in Virginia. This past session, legislation to prohibit the practice was considered for the first time in recent history. The measure drew the most people to a legislative hearing of any bill heard this session. In a major step forward, last week the board overseeing the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries directed its staff to make a regulation policy recommendation for the future of fox pens. 

At the meeting, board members listened attentively as a fox pen neighbor tearfully told them that her kids cannot sleep at night due to the audible assault of dogs chasing down foxes. Another constituent held up his ten years’ worth of hunting licenses and earnestly told the board members that this fenced game is a black-eye to all hunters. One by one, citizens took time out of their Wednesday morning to testify and truly reflect the sentiments of the Virginia voters who want fox penning banned by a more than an 8 to 1 margin.

Banning fox and coyote pens is a choice that should be obvious for any legislator and wildlife manager. The defenses put forward for this practice can’t stand the light of day: There are no firearms used, so it’s not any form of hunting. And the idea of capturing live animals from the wild, transporting them across state lines, and selling them for commercial profit violates the very ethic of wildlife management. In truth, most people can’t believe that in a state like Virginia, which has one of the best laws against animal fighting in the country, this type of staged animal combat is still legal.

And the evidence for the cruelty is overwhelming. In the last few years, more than 5,000 foxes were stolen live from the wild and thrown into Virginia fox pens. Information requests reveal a shocking amount of wildlife department staff time pulling wild bears, mauled by dogs, out of pens. And when law enforcement investigated these facilities, they temporarily shut down 70 percent of them for illegal activity.

No responsible policymaker can look at the cruelty and resource waste of these facilities and not make the right choice to ban them. Our task is now to spend the coming months showing decisionmakers and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell the huge support they have to prohibit these facilities. If you are a Virginia resident, please contact them today and also upload a picture of your pet to join the dog campaign asking Gov. McDonnell to ban fox pens.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Radio Ad Opposing Jeff Flake for Senate

The Humane Society Legislative Fund today launched a statewide radio ad campaign in Arizona opposing Rep. Jeff Flake for U.S. Senate. The radio ad, which you can listen to here, tells listeners that Flake has fought even the most modest animal welfare reforms in Congress, he is out of step with our values on protecting animals from cruelty, and he’s too extreme for Arizona.

Click here to listen to HSLF's radio ad opposing Jeff Flake for U.S. Senate

Arizona voters have sided with animal protection five out of five times when these issues have been on the statewide ballot over the last two decades. They voted to ban the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps to kill wildlife on public lands by passing Prop 201 in 1994. They made Arizona one of the final states to ban cockfighting by approving Prop 201 in 1998. They banned the extreme confinement of veal calves and breeding pigs in small crates with the passage of Prop 204 in 2006. And they soundly rejected both Prop 102 in 2000 and Prop 109 in 2010 which were pushed by the NRA, Safari Club, and other hunting groups seeking to block future ballot measures on wildlife protection issues.
Rep. Flake, however, has opposed nearly every animal welfare reform during his 12 years in the House of Representatives, even relating to some of the very issues that Arizona voters banned, such as illegal cockfighting, and the killing of predators with steel-jawed leghold traps. Among other issue, he voted against the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act, to include pets and service animals in disaster plans, after first responders risked their lives to save pets left behind during Hurricane Katrina. He voted against the Veterans Dog Training Therapy Act, to create a program to provide service dogs to veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He voted against adequately funding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting. And he voted to use taxpayer dollars to kill wildlife with steel-jawed leghold traps, aerial gunning, and toxic poisons.

Arizona voters have time and time again approved common-sense animal welfare reforms, but Jeff Flake has been on the wrong side of these issues. We are urging Arizona voters to continue their perfect record of siding with animal protection, and to oppose Jeff Flake and elect Richard Carmona for U.S. Senate.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Iowa TV Ad Tells Voters the Truth about King’s Record

Today the Humane Society Legislative Fund launched its third TV ad in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District opposing Steve King for Congress. The new ad is running today in Des Moines, Sioux City, and Rochester-Mason City, and you can watch it here.

Steve King has one of the most extreme voting records on animal protection in the entire nation, often leading a rogue group of lawmakers who fight against stronger penalties for illegal animal fighting, policies to protect pets and service animals in disasters, restricting the trade in dangerous exotic wildlife, and other common-sense reforms. As I told Kevin Bogardus of The Hill newspaper over the weekend, “He has made himself the self-appointed leader of opposing animal welfare laws in Congress. He speaks out against these laws nearly every time they come out and we want the voters in Iowa's Fourth District to know his record in support of animal cruelty.”

King tries to defend his record by saying there should only be state laws, not federal laws, on animal issues. But he has also introduced his own amendment to the Farm Bill seeking to nullify state and local animal protection and food safety laws around the country. His only consistency is that he opposes animal welfare whether it’s at the state or federal level.

Our new ad says that politicians like Steve King try to confuse the truth, and tells voters the facts about his voting record on animal cruelty. It cites the Des Moines Register editorial exposing “King’s voting record on dog-fighting legislation,” including his vote against a ban on taking children to dogfights. Steve King says he’s against animal cruelty, but just doesn’t vote that way. Watch the ad here, and please share with your friends and family.

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