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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Remembering Rep. Bill Young

This past week the animal protection movement lost a long-serving ally in Congress, with the passing of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., at age 82. He served 43 years in the House, coming to Washington in 1971 during the Richard Nixon administration, and was the most senior Republican in Congress at the time of his death.

As the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for six years, Rep. Young consistently supported efforts to boost funding for the adequate enforcement of animal protection laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and the federal animal fighting statute. During the time of his chairmanship, from 1999 to 2005, annual Animal Welfare Funding increased from $9,175,000 to $17,436,000.

YoungThis year, he joined Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., in sponsoring a bipartisan amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill, to restore the prohibition on funding USDA inspections at horse slaughter plants. The amendment passed the Appropriations Committee by voice vote, and having the former chairman as a leader on the issue was an important factor. If the provision is retained when the final appropriations bill is signed into law, it will block horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil.

Rep. Young also joined Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., as part of a bipartisan quartet sponsoring the Puppy Uniform Protection and Standards (PUPS) Act. The goal of the bill was to bring large-scale commercial dog breeders that sell puppies directly to consumers over the Internet into the federal system of oversight, and have them follow the same rules on licensing, inspections, and standards of animal care that breeders selling to pet stores already have to meet. The USDA finalized a rule this year that achieved the same policy, and the bill by Rep. Young and his colleagues helped provide congressional support for that effort.

Rep. Young cosponsored a wide range of animal protection bills over his long career, on issues such as horse soring, animal fighting, the use of chimpanzees in research, and many more. He called on the White House to ban the import of large constrictor snakes that threaten public safety as well as native wildlife in Florida and other regions, and he testified eloquently against the inhumane treatment of elephants in traveling circuses.

It’s remarkable to think about the transformational change that Rep. Young saw during his time in Washington, even as we reflect upon his crucial role. He served in the years when Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and so many statutes that still stand as some of the nation’s most important federal animal protection policies.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund expresses our thanks to Rep. Young for his career-long concern and advocacy for animal protection, and we offer our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and staff.

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