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January 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Gold Star for the Golden State

Since California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2 in 2008, underscoring the widespread view of voters in all regions and demographics of the state that all animals deserve humane treatment, state lawmakers in Sacramento have advanced literally dozens of policy reforms to stop animal cruelty and abuse. HSLF has been charting the progress of these efforts to protect animals in California, and has just released our California Humane Scorecard for the 2013 state legislative session.

CA HSUS 2013Scorecard_72If you live in California, take a look. HSLF designs the scorecard as an easy way for constituents to assess how their lawmakers acted on animal protection issues. HSLF scored legislators based on their votes on six bills during the session: smoothing the pathway for more dog parks in local communities, restricting the sale of live animals at swap meets and flea markets, requiring the use of lead-free ammunition for hunting, improving trapping rules to protect wildlife and dogs, prohibiting bobcat trapping around Joshua Tree National Park and other protected areas, and authorizing the use of nonlethal procedures and partners to handle mountain lions in public safety situations. We are delighted that Gov. Jerry Brown signed all six bills into law.

Legislators, as a whole, performed very well on animal issues: Of the 118 members of the legislature who were scored, 59 received perfect 100 percent scores—indicating support for all six scored bills (16 members of the Senate and 43 members of the Assembly). Seven lawmakers—Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo,—received more than 100 percent, reflecting their support for all six bills, as well as primary authorship of the scored bills. The scorecard also notes that a bipartisan group of 26 legislators are members of California’s Animal Protection Caucus.

New to the scorecard this year is an indicator of lawmakers’ support of sign-on letters on key state and federal issues. This year three letters were sent, including one to congressional leaders expressing opposition to the dangerous “King amendment” to the Farm Bill, which could have undermined Prop 2 and other major animal welfare provisions in California and other states. Thirty-seven state legislators signed the letter to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, and added to the loud chorus of opposition leading to the King amendment getting nixed from the final Farm Bill this week. Another sign-on letter joined by 30 lawmakers asked the federal government to back down on efforts to weaken, or worse, eliminate, California’s newly-enacted protections for sharks from the cruel and wasteful shark fin industry. And the third letter expressed legislative support for a pending state regulation to restrict the sale of harmful rodenticides that are a menace to wildlife and pets. Fourteen legislators supported that effort. The letters are not included in the scores, but constituents can see a broader perspective of their state legislators’ role in shaping animal welfare protections.

Things are just gearing up in Sacramento for the 2014 legislative session. We urge every Californian to take note of their lawmakers’ 2013 score, and give their office a quick call to offer a sincere thanks for humane leadership or a polite nudge to look for opportunities to cast a vote this year in support of humane policies. It’s an easy call to make, and one bound to make a huge difference.




Wednesday, January 29, 2014

King Amendment Out, Animal Fighting Spectator Penalties In

The Farm Bill, after fits and starts over two years of debate, is one step closer to becoming law, with the House passage of the conference report this morning by a vote of 251 to 166. The compromise package includes two major wins for animal protection, and we expect it to pass the Senate soon.

A dog rescued from a suspected fighting operation in late 2013. Photo by HSUS

The final bill includes an HSLF-backed provision making it a federal crime to attend or bring a child under the age of 16 to an animal fighting event. The provision is based on the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, S. 666/H.R. 366, sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.—it was part of the Senate Farm Bill from the beginning thanks to the leadership of Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and was added to the House bill as an amendment by Rep. McGovern approved by a committee vote of 28 to 17.

With the provision in the final bill, we will further fortify the federal law against organized and barbaric dogfighting and cockfighting rings, a law that has been upgraded several times over the last decade to fix gaps and make animal fighting and the possession and training of fighting animals a federal felony. Closing the loophole on spectators will give law enforcement the additional tools they need to crack down on all of those involved in animal fighting, including those who finance the activity with admission fees and gambling wagers, provide cover to animal fighters during raids, and expose children to the violence and bloodletting that occurs in the fighting ring.

The Farm Bill also jettisons the dangerous and overreaching “King amendment,” which sought to nullify state laws setting standards for agricultural production and threatened so many laws on animal welfare—including farm animal confinement, horse slaughter, puppy mills, shark finning, and others—and a range of issues beyond animal welfare as well. HSLF and our coalition partners representing sustainable agriculture, consumer, health, fire safety, environment, labor, animal welfare, religious, and other concerns made it a top priority to stop this federal power grab. The Wall Street Journal reported today:

Opponents of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) secured a victory when negotiators excluded a provision that would have prohibited states from setting mandatory agricultural production standards. The amendment would have imperiled a California law requiring all eggs sold in the state be laid by hens in cage-free settings. The Humane Society of the United States led the effort to defeat the amendment, saying it threatened dozens of state laws on animal protection.

“There was just overwhelming opposition from many, many corners,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) said of Mr. King's provision.

We are grateful to the bipartisan set of 23 Senators and 169 Representatives—led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich.—who wrote to the conference committee opposing the King amendment, and we thank all the conferees—especially Chairwoman Stabenow, and Reps. Schrader, Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Jim Costa, D-Calif.—who worked hard to keep it out of the final package.

Although we’re disappointed the final Farm Bill didn’t include important reforms curbing agribusiness subsidies to large-scale factory farms, we are pleased that the conference report preserved Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) of meat products and the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule, given that we support labeling and competition provisions to give small farmers a fair chance to make it in the marketplace.

We are also disappointed that a House amendment sponsored by Reps. Denham and Schrader to provide better living conditions for laying hens was not allowed a vote as part of the Farm Bill process. But with the King amendment defeated, we’ll now redouble our efforts in Congress to get the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, S. 820/H.R. 1731, passed through different legislative avenues. It’s a more rational alternative to the King amendment, as it would set national standards for the housing of laying hens and level the playing field for all U.S. egg producers, while phasing out barren battery cages and improving the treatment of 285 million hens across the country.

Like any large compromise package, the Farm Bill is far from perfect, but it moves the ball forward for animal protection in a very meaningful way. It brings us one step closer to eradicating dogfighting and cockfighting in the U.S., a day that cannot come soon enough, and it drives a stake in the heart of the radical and overreaching King amendment, which would have turned back the clock on countless measures enacted at the state level concerning animal welfare, food safety, and environmental protection, issues about which Americans care deeply.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snake of the Union

burmese python
A burmese python
photo from USFWS

I wrote earlier this month on the need for the Obama administration to finish the job on large constrictor snakes by banning the trade in the five remaining species identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing a serious risk of becoming an invasive species —the reticulated python, boa constrictor, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, and Beni anaconda. The giant snakes, some of which are already established in parts of Florida, Puerto Rico, Aruba, and Cozumel, have been showing up in other states, including Hawaii. In fact, they could become established in large portions of the southern tier of the U.S.—from South Florida to Texas to Arizona to Hawaii.

Today a bipartisan group of eighteen members of Congress sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and the White House urging the administration to complete its ruling and issue a final regulation listing these species as injurious under the Lacey Act. The lawmakers wrote:

These snakes pose an unacceptable and preventable risk to the safety of the American people and threaten some of our nation’s most treasured natural habitats. Since 1990, twelve people have died from encounters with “pet” constrictor snakes, including a two-year-old Florida girl and a three-year-old Illinois boy who were both strangled in their cribs. Countless individuals have been injured or sickened by these injurious species. Additionally, these highly adaptable, invasive snakes have severely damaged precious native ecosystems, as we have seen with the Burmese python’s decimation of mammal populations in the Florida Everglades, and the boa constrictor’s displacement of native reptiles in Puerto Rico. We cannot afford to risk the introduction of additional invasive species that will be expensive and difficult to eradicate.

The letter concluded:

Finally, the largely unregulated reptile industry poses a significant burden to taxpayers. The FWS, in partnership with many organizations including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the South Florida Water Management District, has spent more than $6 million since 2005 attempting to combat the growing problem of Burmese pythons and other large invasive constrictor snakes in Florida. Yet, these predators continue to consume endangered and threatened species, kill family pets in residential neighborhoods, and have decimated almost 99 percent of the Everglades’ small and medium sized native mammals. The ability of an individual to own or sell a dangerous and exotic animal must be balanced against the interests of all Americans in preserving public safety.

The bipartisan letter was led by U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and co-signed by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Lois Frankel, D-Fla., Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Walter Jones, R-N.C., Jim Moran, D-Va., Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., Pedro Pierluisi, D-P.R., Tom Rooney, R-Fla., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Gregorio Sablan, D-M.P., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Lamar Smith, R-Texas. We are grateful to these lawmakers for demanding that the administration avoid any further delay in adopting this rule, which will protect public safety, avert the loss of native species, reduce the suffering of snakes in the pet trade, and save tax dollars. Now it’s time for the White House to follow through with the actions needed to address this threat. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hot Off the Press: The 2013 Humane Scorecard

Last fall, I posted a preliminary version of the 2013 Humane Scorecard, and a few weeks ago, just as Congress was returning for the second session of the 113th Congress, I provided a look at our year in review for animals. We made some real progress on key animal protection issues, and there’s tremendous potential on several fronts in 2014.

I’m pleased to announce today that the Humane Society Legislative Fund has posted the final version of the 2013 Humane Scorecard, where you can track the performance of your federal lawmakers on key animal protection issues during the first session of the 113th Congress. We rated legislators based on their cosponsorship of priority bills on “soring” of show horses, the treatment of egg-laying hens, animal fighting spectators, and horse slaughter; their votes on agribusiness subsidies and the Farm Bill; their support for funding the enforcement of animal welfare laws; their opposition to the King Amendment that aims to gut state agriculture and animal welfare laws; and their leadership on animal protection measures. All of the priority bills whose cosponsorships we counted garnered strong bipartisan support; in the House, each bill had between 143 and 259 cosponsors, and in the Senate between 17 and 44.

The Humane Scorecard is not a perfect measuring tool, but creating some reasonable yardstick and allowing citizens to hold lawmakers accountable is central to our work. The HSUS historically and in recent years HSLF have been publishing the Humane Scorecard since the 103rd Congress (which covered 1993-1994), so this annual congressional snapshot has been available for more than two decades. (If you are a member of HSLF, and I hope you are, you will also receive a printed copy in the mail as one of your membership benefits.)

Hs_cover_2013_113th_254x330When the Humane Scorecard comes out each year, it helps demonstrate the level of support animal protection ideas hold in different regions of the country and with the two major political parties. It provides a look back and a look ahead by evaluating where we have been effective, and where we need to focus our energies in the coming months. In looking at the record so far for the 113th Congress, you’ll see that animals won some important victories, demonstrating once again that these issues can pull legislators together across party lines. We’ve got much exciting work ahead for the balance of the second session, and look forward to your help pressing the case in the halls of Congress.

Here are a few of the most important statistics from 2013:

  • A bipartisan group of 35 Senators and 127 Representatives covering 40 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia led as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation and/or scored a perfect 100—more than one-third of the Senate and one-quarter of the House.
  • The average Senate score was a 41, with Senate Democrats averaging 64, Senate Republicans averaging 13, and Senate Independents averaging 80.
  • The average House score was a 48, with House Democrats averaging 82, and House Republicans averaging 18.
  • Nineteen Senators scored 100 or 100+.
  • Thirty-five Senators scored zero.
  • More than one-quarter of the House (119  Representatives) scored 100 or 100+.
  • Eighty Representatives scored zero.
  • The New England region led the pack with an average House score of 99 and an average Senate score of 87, followed closely by the West with a House score of 70 and a Senate score of 57, and the Mid-Atlantic region with a House score of 72 and a Senate score of 55.
  • The Rocky Mountains and the Southeast were at the bottom with average House scores of 29 and 33, respectively, and each had an average Senate score of 18.
  • California, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington were the only states that had average Senate scores of 100.
  • In Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, both Senators scored zero.
  • Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island each had a House average of 100, and Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Vermont each had a House average of 85 or higher.
  • Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming (each with one at-large member) were the only states with a House score of zero, while Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah each had an average House score in single digits.

I’d like to give special thanks to the following six Senators and 25 Representatives who took the pro-animal position on every scored item and earned extra credit for both signing a letter opposing the King amendment and leading on an animal issue or issues:

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
  • Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)
  • Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.)
  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
  • Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.)
  • Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
  • Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.)
  • Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.)
  • Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.)
  • Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.)
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
  • Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.)
  • Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.)
  • Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)

I hope you will use the Humane Scorecard as a guide, and communicate with your lawmakers about their grades for 2013. If they scored high marks, please thank them for their support of animal protection. If they did poorly, please tell them you’re watching and you expect they’ll attempt to do better in 2014. Let all your federal legislators know that you and other constituents care about the humane treatment of animals, and want to see common-sense policies enacted to protect these creatures from cruelty and abuse and to foster decency and mercy in our dealings with all types of animals.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Finish the Job on Deadly Snakes

We’ve long reported that non-native boa constrictors, Burmese pythons and African rock pythons are living in the wild, breeding, wreaking havoc on the ecosystem, frightening residents and killing pets in residential neighborhoods, all here in the United States. The question isn’t if these non-native predators are going to colonize other areas, but when and where they are going to become established.

Scientists confirmed in 2012 that non-native boa constrictors are now breeding in Puerto Rico and spreading across the island. A 444-acre preserve in Miami has had a population of boa constrictors for decades and they’re spreading to the adjacent residential area where children playing in their yards, as well as unfortunate pets, are encountering these dangerous snakes.

Snake-burmese-python-hkuchera-istock-184x265Boa constrictors, in fact, have established more invasive populations than any of the other constrictor snakes. In addition to parts of Florida and Puerto Rico, boas are also established in Cozumel and in Aruba, where they consume an estimated 17,000 birds annually. Boa constrictors have been found in the wild in Hawaii, too, another state where the snakes could thrive.

These invasions might have been triggered when an owner who could no longer care for his pet snake dumped it outdoors. Too often people purchase pet snakes when the animals are young and manageable, but there are very few options for placement once the animals grow too dangerous to handle. In South Florida, the non-native snake invasion caused by irresponsible pet owners may have been exacerbated when a hurricane destroyed a reptile dealer’s facility, setting captive snakes loose where they and their descendants now prey on native wildlife, including endangered species, and have wiped out as many as 99 percent of small and medium-sized mammals in one area that was surveyed in the Everglades.

“Once non-native snakes become established across a large area, especially in densely forested areas, they become much more difficult to find and almost impossible to eradicate,” U.S. Geological Survey scientist Bob Reed told CBS News about the Puerto Rican boa constrictor invasion. In fact, not a single invasive reptile species has ever been eradicated through management efforts and taxpayers will continue to spend millions of dollars to try and control the snakes already thriving in the environment. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting it back.

With clutch sizes of up to 124 eggs, these snakes reproduce rapidly. The release or escape of a single pregnant snake in a hospitable habitat could result in colonization in a new area. The more humane and fiscally responsible approach is to prevent the problem in the first place.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a proposal under consideration to ban the trade of nine large constrictor snake species that the U.S. Geological Survey identified as posing a significant risk to the environment. But after pressure from reptile dealers, the administration moved ahead with a half-measure and banned the trade in just four of the nine species: the Indian python (including Burmese python), Northern and Southern African pythons and yellow anacondas. The White House’s rule addressed just 30 percent of the problem and leaves 70 percent of imported large constrictor snakes unchecked—including reticulated pythons and boa constrictors, which represent more than two-thirds of those snakes in the U.S. pet trade.

281x144_burmese_python_NPSAnd now, reptile dealers have filed a new lawsuit suit to overturn even those minimal protections—they insist on trying to spread these invasive and dangerous snakes far and wide, and we are paying the price. As the Orlando Sentinel wrote in an editorial, “it’s hard to shed tears over what the industry has lost, and might lose in the future, when you consider the damage these reptiles have already done, and could do in the future without a ban.” As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel put it, “They have to be kidding.”

This very industry that first weakened the rule—then sued over the scraps that remained—is the same one that peddles high-maintenance dangerous predators to unqualified people at flea markets, swap meets, and over the Internet. Constrictor snakes have killed 15 people in the United States, including seven children. Banning just nine of the most dangerous species has little impact on businesses, since there are literally hundreds of less risky snake and reptile species available to pet purchasers and not impacted by this rule.

Just last summer, two boys, ages five and seven, sleeping in an apartment over a Canadian pet store zoo were tragically killed by a 100-pound African rock python that had escaped from its enclosure and slithered through the ventilation system. In 2009, a two-year-old Florida girl was killed in her crib by the family’s albino Burmese python, which had grown to more than eight feet long.

When you consider the danger to humans, the damage to the environment and the suffering that the snakes themselves endure in the trade, the case for a trade ban for all of these giant snakes is clear-cut. It’s overdue for the Obama administration to finish the job and ban the trade in the remaining five species of large constrictor snakes—including reticulated pythons and boa constrictors—before it’s too late.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Omnibus for Animals

Federal lawmakers last night unveiled their $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government for the remaining eight and a half months of Fiscal Year 2014. The giant package includes several very positive outcomes for animals, and one harmful provision.

On the positive side, the omnibus bill contains language that halts any effort to resume horse slaughter for human consumption on U.S. soil. The provision—which was approved by both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, as amendments offered by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.—will forbid spending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on inspections at U.S. horse slaughter plants, reinstating a ban on domestic horse slaughter for the fiscal year. A similar spending prohibition had been included each year from 2005 to 2010, but was not renewed in 2011.

270x240 horse slaughter kmilaniThe provision is urgently needed as some companies in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico are actively working to open equine abattoirs. Americans do not want to see scarce tax dollars used to oversee a predatory, inhumane enterprise. The horse slaughter industry doesn’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. We don’t have dog and cat slaughter plants in the United States catering to small markets overseas, and we shouldn’t have horse slaughter operations for that purpose, either.

The omnibus includes good news for wild horses, too. The bill prohibits the Bureau of Land Management from spending funds on the killing of healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros, or on the agency’s sale of wild horses and burros to kill buyers. It also allows BLM to enter into multi-year contracts with private entities for the long-term care and maintenance of wild horses and burros, not to exceed 10 years. And finally, it allows the U.S. Forest Service to transfer funds to BLM to remove and adopt out wild horses and burros on national forest lands.

Also importantly, especially given the stiff competition for budget dollars, the omnibus bill includes boosts in funding for the enforcement of animal welfare laws. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., marshaled the bipartisan support of 34 Senators and 164 Representatives on joint letters calling for these funds. The omnibus package includes the following amounts for FY2014:

  • $28,010,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets basic standards for care of animals at almost 28,000 sites across the country—commercial breeding facilities (including puppy mills), laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses, and airlines; up more than 6 percent from $26,406,304 in FY2013
  • $697,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to end the cruel practice of “soring” show horses (deliberately inflicting severe pain on the horses’ legs and hooves to make stepping down painful, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes); up nearly 3 percent from $678,510 in FY2013
  • $16,224,000 for USDA’s Investigative and Enforcement Services division, whose responsibilities include investigation of inspectors’ findings regarding alleged violations of federal animal welfare laws and the initiation of follow-up enforcement actions; up more than 2 percent from $15,866,009 in FY2013
  • $89,902,000 for USDA’s Office of Inspector General, whose responsibilities include enforcement of the federal animal fighting statute, as well as investigations and audits of the agency’s enforcement efforts to improve compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and regulations to protect downed animals; up nearly 4 percent from $86,779,028 in FY2013
  • $4,790,000 for the veterinary student loan program that helps ease the shortage of veterinarians practicing in rural communities and in government positions (such as those overseeing humane slaughter, AWA, and HPA rules), by repaying student debt for those who choose to practice in one of these underserved areas; up nearly 3 percent from $4,669,627 in FY 2013

These increases—particularly in a tough political climate as Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility and many programs and agencies compete for finite federal dollars—will have a big impact for animals on the ground. Today, for example, there are 136 inspectors enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, which is more than double from just 60 in the 1990s.

AddaxThe bad news for animals in the omnibus is a rider that would force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to allow the blanket killing of three endangered antelope species—scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle—in canned hunts, where shooters pay top dollar to kill captive animals for trophies. The agency already allows the canned hunting of endangered antelope, but only after obtaining a federal permit, and such permits can only be issued for conservation purposes. Getting a permit and demonstrating some conservation value is apparently too heavy a lift for the trophy hunting crowd: their rider, pushed by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, would force FWS to reissue a regulation that punches a hole in the Endangered Species Act, and would likely insulate that regulation from judicial review—making a mockery of separation of powers. It could embolden trophy hunters to seek congressional riders to eviscerate other parts of the ESA that stand in the way of sporting or commercial interests. Based on this precedent, Congress could order the agency to permit other canned hunting or abuses of endangered species.

The House and Senate will soon vote on the giant spending package, with no opportunity for amendments. Enactment is needed to restore some order to government funding and avoid the type of shutdown we saw last year. We really hope it passes, to grant a much-needed reprieve for domestic horses from slaughter for human consumption, to prevent wild horses and burros from being needlessly killed due to government mismanagement, and to provide modest boosts in funding for enforcement of animal welfare laws—though we’re very disappointed that it will take a step backwards for the Endangered Species Act and the trophy killing of near-extinct animals.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Don’t Muzzle Vet Care

The Congress is off to a good start for 2014: the Senate yesterday unanimously approved S. 1171, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Angus King, I-Maine, would amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport and dispense important drugs for veterinary care in remote locations outside of their registered location. A House bill, H.R. 1528, by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla.—the only two veterinarians serving in Congress, with particular expertise on issues affecting their profession—has the strong, bipartisan support of 146 cosponsors.

Cat_and_vet_2_270x224The animal protection community relies on mobile and ambulatory veterinarians to provide a broad range of life-saving services in the field. Mobile veterinarians perform much of their work in irregular and unpredictable locations. Farm visits, mobile spay/neuter and vaccination clinics, disaster response, animal sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers in rural areas, and animal cruelty investigations necessitate travel to remote and underserved communities.

Mobile veterinary clinics and spay/neuter programs provide critical services to communities where cost, transportation, language barrier, and lack of veterinary services thwart access to routine animal care. Mobile care is also necessary for disaster and emergency response and treatment in animal cruelty cases. These private sector programs are critical in reducing the costs to municipalities for animal care, control, and sheltering. Additionally, mobile veterinarians provide important in-home veterinary services such as hospice care and euthanasia for animal companions. Other veterinarians need to use controlled substances in order to remove or relocate wild animals such as mountain lions, to rescue trapped, injured or endangered wildlife, or in research or disease control and abatement settings.

Mobile practitioners cannot fulfill these essential functions without access to controlled medications. Mobile veterinarians must carry the varieties and quantities of drugs that enable them to address whatever conditions they encounter in the field. Animals found with broken bones or painful injuries often require immediate sedation and pain relief prior to transport. Large animal veterinarians and mobile spay/neuter providers must observe an animal’s weight, the extent of its pain, and the severity of its condition before determining the type of drug and quantity necessary. Having the ability to carry adequate supplies, and to properly treat animals in the field is essential for these veterinarians to save lives and provide humane, quality care.

Disappointingly, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been telling veterinarians they are in violation of the law if they transport drugs for remote practice. If veterinarians fear prosecution for carrying out their medical responsibilities, it will result in a decrease in quality animal care in the field, and have a chilling effect on the veterinary profession. If a law enforcement agency breaks up a dogfighting ring or a puppy mill, or if an organization sets up an emergency shelter in the wake of a natural disaster, it may not be able to have veterinarians on site to care for the animals. If owners can’t call on a licensed vet to use drugs to euthanize a sick animal, they may resort to less humane methods such as gunshot or blunt trauma.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act will clarify the law and ensure the ability of mobile veterinarians to provide the most effective pain management, anesthetic, and sedation while practicing in the field. It’s a common-sense bill supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and more than 130 veterinary medical, animal protection, and other groups. We are grateful to Sens. Moran and King and Reps. Schrader and Yoho for leading this effort and to the full Senate for supporting it, and we call on Congress to get this legislation over the finish line swiftly.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The 2013 Congressional Year in Review for Animals

Congress returns to Washington today to convene the second session of the 113th Congress, and it’s a good time to take stock of what was achieved in 2013 and the pathway for animals in the New Year. In terms of general lawmaking, the 113th Congress has been known for inaction and partisan gridlock. It passed fewer laws in its first year—65—than any single session on record. Yet despite the dysfunction in Washington, we’ve made real progress on key animal protection issues.

During the first year of the session, we already had one major bill enacted that facilitates the retirement of hundreds of chimps from barren laboratories to natural sanctuaries, and laid substantial groundwork on a number of other issues—such as protecting horses from "soring" cruelty, doping, and slaughter, and fortifying the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting—which are teed up for action in 2014. As we look back on 2013 and head into the second part of the two-year Congress, we’re poised for significant gains on several priorities.
ChimpChimpanzee Sanctuary:  A bill that made it over the finish line already in 2013 will help chimpanzees warehoused in barren laboratory cages. We celebrated the decision by the National Institutes of Health to retire about 90 percent of the government-owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuary—where they can live the rest of their lives in peace—and to significantly scale back funding for chimpanzee research. But there was a hitch that had to be overcome: the law Congress enacted in 2000, establishing the national chimpanzee sanctuary system with a unique public-private partnership, imposed a cumulative ceiling on the funding that NIH could devote to the system. NIH was due to reach that limit in mid-November, which not only jeopardized the retirement of the government-owned chimpanzees in labs today who are slated for transfer to sanctuary, but also funding for the continued care of chimpanzees already living at the national sanctuary, Chimp Haven in Louisiana. This would be terrible for the animals and also for taxpayers, since retirement to sanctuary is less costly than keeping chimpanzees in labs. Fortunately, there was bipartisan support in Congress to solve this problem. On November 14—just under the wire before the cap was reached—the Senate gave final approval to a legislative fix passed by the House of Representatives just days earlier. S. 252 contains provisions amending the 2000 CHIMP Act to allow NIH the flexibility to continue using its existing funds for sanctuary care. Signed into law the day before Thanksgiving, this humane, cost-effective, common sense outcome gave us all something to cheer. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., led this effort.  
King Amendment:  As a House-Senate conference committee finalizes its negotiations on the Farm Bill, we await resolution on the destructive provision that was folded into the House bill during committee, with minimal debate, at the behest of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa—Sec. 11312 of H.R. 2642. No similar language is in the Senate Farm Bill, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has led the charge in the Senate to keep this out of the final bill. Opponents were denied the opportunity to have a floor vote on an amendment led by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., to strike it during House floor debate. The King amendment could negate most state and local laws on the production or manufacture of agriculture products. It aims to block state laws protecting farm animals and could also preempt laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish and standards for fire-safe cigarettes. A broad coalition of 89 organizations representing sustainable agriculture, consumer, health, fire safety, environment, labor, animal welfare, religious, and other concerns jointly signed a letter calling for the King Amendment—and any related language—to be kept out of final House-Senate legislation. An even broader list of more than 500 groups, officials, newspapers, and citizens have publicly stated their opposition, including letters by a bipartisan set of 23 Senators and 169 Representatives—led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Schrader, and Gary Peters, D-Mich.—as well as the National Conference of State Legislatures, County Executives of America, Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, Mississippi and Arkansas Attorneys General, Iowa Farmers Union, Safe Food Coalition, professors from 13 law schools, and editorials in a number of papers such as USA Today, the Des Moines Register, the Tulsa World, the Denver Post, and the Washington Post. The House-Senate conferees certainly should not include this intensely controversial provision or anything like it if they want to complete action on the Farm Bill early in 2014 as planned.
AnimalfightingAnimal Fighting:  Both the House and Senate Farm Bills include provisions to strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to knowingly attend or bring a child to an organized animal fight. The language of the free-standing animal fighting spectator bill, S. 666/H.R. 366, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.—which enjoys the bipartisan support of 262 cosponsors combined in the Senate and House—was part of the Senate Farm Bill from the beginning, as introduced in the Agriculture Committee, thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. For the House, related language was approved as an amendment offered by Rep. McGovern during committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 28-17. We are hopeful that the animal fighting provision will be part of the final House-Senate package that may be done in January. This legislation is widely supported by nearly 300 national, state and local law enforcement agencies (covering all 50 states), including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and it would cost taxpayers nothing, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It already won approval in 2012 by the House Agriculture Committee and twice by the full Senate, but final action on the Farm Bill stalled last year. Forty-nine states already have penalties for animal fighting spectators, but we need to sync up the federal and state laws since many animal fighting raids are multistate and multijurisdictional. Closing this gap in the legal framework will help law enforcement crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting, including those who finance the activity with admission fees and gambling wagers, provide cover to animal fighters during raids, and expose children to the violence and bloodletting.
Horse Slaughter:  The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills include identical language barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding inspections at horse slaughter plants, language added during committee markup in both chambers at the behest of Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The horse slaughter defund provision, requested for the first time by the agency itself in the president’s budget, would reinstate a prohibition that had been in place from 2007 to 2011. It is urgently needed, as some companies are about to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility. The shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in Europe underscores the potential threat to American health if horse slaughter plants open here. Moreover, horse slaughter is cruel and cannot be made humane, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight-or-flight response, and the methods used to slaughter them rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. They don’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. We’re pressing to have the horse slaughter provision sustained in the omnibus bill that Congress plans to act on by January 15 to avoid another government shutdown, and ultimately seeking to pass the free-standing Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S. 541/H.R. 1094, sponsored by Sens. Landrieu and Graham and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to provide a more lasting and comprehensive solution.   
Animal Welfare Funding:  The House Agriculture Appropriations bill would restore funds cut last year in some accounts, and the Senate bill would actually provide substantial increases requested in the president’s budget for USDA to enforce and implement key animal-related laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. Final resolution is expected by January 15 as part of the omnibus bill, and we hope the Senate’s higher figures will prevail. Over the past several years, Congress has recognized the need to boost funding for animal welfare enforcement, even in a competitive climate for budget dollars, and it has a real impact for animals on the ground. Today there are 136 inspectors enforcing the Animal Welfare Act at puppy mills, research laboratories, roadside zoos, and other regulated facilities, more than doubled from just 60 in the 1990s. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., marshaled the bipartisan support of 34 Senators and 164 Representatives on joint letters calling for these funds, and the subcommittee leadership—Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Ranking Member Sam Farr, D-Calif.—responded to their colleagues’ appeals.
Horse soringHorse Soring:  The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) ActH.R. 1518/S. 1406, championed by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va.—has gained major momentum with the bipartisan support of almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate, and a successful hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This legislation boasts a lengthy list of endorsements, including the American Horse Council and 48 other national and state horse groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and veterinary medical associations in all 50 states; many animal protection groups; and others. The PAST Act amends an existing federal law, the Horse Protection Act of 1970, to better rein in the cruel practice of “soring”—in which unscrupulous trainers hurt Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to make it painful for them to step down, so they will display an extreme high-stepping gait that wins prizes at horse shows. Soring methods include applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs, inserting bolts, screws or other hard objects into sensitive areas of the hooves, attaching excessively “weighted” shoes, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue in an attempt to disguise the sored areas. More than 40 years ago, Congress tried to stop this abuse, but the Horse Protection Act is too weak, and rampant soring continues, according to a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General that recommended reforms incorporated in the PAST Act. This legislation is not expected to add costs to the federal government; it will simply enable USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way. The only ones opposing this non-controversial legislation are those who are already breaking federal law, committing heinous cruelty, cheating to win unfair advantage at horse shows, and profiting from it. That subset of the show horse world doesn’t want Congress to alter the status quo. But many others in the show horse world are strongly advocating the PAST Act to deal with morally repugnant behavior that is giving their industry a major black eye, hurting attendance at shows, driving away corporate sponsors, and driving down horse sale prices.
Horse Racing:  The House Energy and Commerce Committee also held a compelling hearing on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013, S. 973/H.R. 2012, led by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle testified in favor of the legislation. A powerful New York Times exposé examined 150,000 horse races from 2009 to 2011, reporting that minimal oversight, inconsistent regulations, and rampant doping of horses has led to a stunning “average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week.” According to Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Racing Board, “It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.” This is tragic for the horses and also often the jockeys, who can suffer serious injuries, paralysis, or death from being thrown. The legislation would ban doping of racehorses, and give the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, the authority to oversee and enforce the new rules. Rather than having different rules with respect to medicating of horses in every state where tracks operate, there would be a consistent national policy.

Other Pending Animal Protection Efforts Include:


  • Puppy Mills: Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 847/S. 395 to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations by requiring that large-scale commercial dog breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year directly to consumers via the Internet or other means be licensed and inspected, as breeders who sell to pet stores already are; and to require that breeding dogs at commercial facilities be allowed to exercise daily. The broad bipartisan support for this legislation helped spur the USDA to finalize regulations in September to extend federal oversight to thousands of puppy mills that do business online.
  • Pets on Trains: Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., introduced H.R. 2066/S. 1710 to require Amtrak to propose a pet policy that allows passengers to transport cats and dogs on certain Amtrak trains.
  • Veterans Dog Training Therapy: Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 183 to create a pilot program for training dogs, including shelter dogs, as a form of therapy to help treat combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment mental health conditions.
  • Wounded Warrior Service Dogs: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., introduced H.R. 2847 to require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly establish a K-9 Companion Corps Program that will award competitive grants to nonprofit organizations to assist them in the planning, designing, establishing, and operating of programs that provide assistance dogs to covered military members and veterans.  
  • National Animal Rescue Day/Winslow’s Day: Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., introduced H. Res. 63 to create awareness for animal rescue programs throughout the year and address the challenge of overpopulation through continued spaying and neutering.
  • Euthanasia Methods at Shelters: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Lou Barletta, R-Pa., introduced H. Res. 208/H. Res. 433, respectively, to voice opposition to the use of inhumane and dangerous gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals and express support for state laws that require the use of more humane euthanasia methods.


  • Horse Transport:  Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., introduced S. 1459 to prohibit and establish penalties for the transport of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another (except a vehicle operated exclusively on rail or rails).
  • Horse Therapy: Reps. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced H.R. 1705 to expand the Department of  Defense managed health care program for military beneficiaries to include coverage of rehabilitative therapeutic exercises that utilize horses.

Farm Animals

  • Eggs/Hen Housing: Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1731/S. 820 to provide a uniform national standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying hens, phased in over a period of 15-16 years, that will significantly improve animal welfare and provide a stable future for egg farmers.
  • Non-Therapeutic Use of Antibiotics: Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1150/S. 1256 to phase out the routine non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals—a common practice to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions on factory farms—in order to maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating sick people and animals.
  • Antimicrobial Data Collection: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., introduced S. 895/H.R. 820 to require the Food and Drug Administration to improve both the collection and public reporting of information on how antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs are used in food animal production.

Animals in Research

  • Alternatives Development in Research and Testing:  Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, included report language for the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to prioritize federal funding for non-animal methods in the BRAIN initiative and through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
  • Alternatives to Live Animal Use in Military Training: Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act, H.R. 3172/S. 1550, to require the Secretary of Defense to employ alternative methods that are more effective and humane than live animal use for training members of the Armed Forces in the treatment of severe injuries.
  • Class B Dealers: Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, H.R. 2224, to prohibit the use in research of dogs and cats obtained through Class B dealers from random sources such as pet theft and free-to-good home ads.


  • Shark Finning: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., introduced H. Res. 285 to raise awareness of the dangers of shark finning and express the view of Congress that, in order to even the playing field for U.S. fishermen and prevent the overfishing of sharks on a global scale, the U.S. should end the importation of shark fins from foreign fisheries that practice shark finning. These lawmakers, with Reps. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., mobilized letters co-signed by more than 70 representatives and senators calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to reverse its interpretation of the Shark Conservation Act that may preempt state laws barring the trade in shark fin products. The Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also pressed the agency to rethink its position.
  • Captive Primates: Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 2856/S. 1463 to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the exotic pet trade. This would extend to dangerous primates such as chimpanzees, who can be easily purchased over the Internet and from out-of-state dealers, the protections afforded by Congress to big cats in the Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003.
  • Primate Imports for Sanctuary: Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 3556 to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a rule allowing the importation of primates for the purpose of placement of abused, injured, or abandoned primates in certified animal sanctuaries.
  • Big Cats and Public Safety: Reps. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced H.R. 1998/S. 1381 to better address the exotic pet trade by limiting the breeding of lions, tigers, and other big cats to accredited zoos, and preventing unqualified individuals and facilities from possessing these dangerous predators, who suffer from being kept in abusive and unsafe conditions and threaten public safety.
  • Corolla Wild Horses: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., introduced H.R. 126 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement to provide for management of the free-roaming wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The bill passed the House by voice vote on June 3, and is pending in the Senate.
  • Wildlife Services: Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., called on the USDA Office of Inspector General to conduct an audit of the agency’s Wildlife Services lethal predator control program, including its use of poisoning and aerial gunning. The OIG is proceeding with an audit in 2014, which could lead to important recommendations to reform this outdated and mismanaged program. Also, Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 2074 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress, and make available to the public on the Internet, a report on the animals killed under the Wildlife Services program.
  • Refuge from Cruel Trapping: Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., introduced H.R. 3513 to end the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • Dangerous Constrictor Snakes: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jim Moran, D-Va., urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move swiftly to add five species of dangerous constrictor snakes to the list of injurious species whose trade is banned under the Lacey Act. All five species were identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing a medium or high risk of establishing breeding populations in the United States, jeopardizing native wildlife and pets, as well as human health and safety.

Veterinary Medicine

  • Veterinary Medicine Mobility: Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Angus King, I-Maine, introduced H.R. 1528/S. 950 to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport, administer, and dispense controlled substances outside of their registered locations to help ensure that proper care can be provided to patients in rural or remote areas, including pets in disasters, farm animals, and wildlife.
  • Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment: Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., introduced H.R. 1125/S. 553 to amend the Internal Revenue Code to exclude from gross income payments under the federal veterinary medicine loan repayment program or any other state loan repayment or forgiveness program that is intended to provide for increased access to veterinary services in underserved areas.

In sum, the mid-point of a two-year Congress is usually a work in progress. As we take stock of 2013, we celebrate the enactment of the chimpanzee legislation, note the progress that has been made on top-tier issues like animal fighting and horse soring, and redouble our commitment to finish the job for the wide range of pressing priorities that are poised for action. The animals are counting on us, and despite the general dysfunction in Washington, there is tremendous potential on many fronts for action in 2014.

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