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July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What to Do on Your Summer Vacation

Congress finishes its work today before heading into a month-long recess, and it provides an opportunity for animal advocates to take action during the August break. You may not be able to travel to Washington to meet with your representatives and senators in person, but you can meet with them in their district and state offices close to home. In fact, lawmakers often have more time to visit with constituents in their district offices, because their Washington schedules are so hectic.

Capital looking up
Credit: Morguefile/Kevin Connors

Take the time to schedule a meeting with them in August, and talk to them about federal animal protection policies that are important to you. With the congressional session winding down and only a couple months of work left when they return, the timing couldn’t be better to help push a number of pending bills over the finish line this year. You can also invite them to learn more about animal protection work by taking them on a tour of your animal shelter, pet adoption center, spay/neuter clinic, wildlife sanctuary, horse rescue, or other local program.

Here are some tips from my friend Stephanie Vance, adapted from her book “Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress”:

Don’t ignore the District / State Congressional Office. We all know that in order to be successful, advocates must build positive long-term relationships with their Representatives and Senators. One terrific means of doing so is to engage the district or state office in your issues.

Generally, district or state staff may have slightly more time to delve more into the nuances of your issues and understand better how those issues affect the Congressperson’s constituents. In fact, an effective advocate can turn the district staff into a “lobbyist” for them within the Congressional organization. It’s also important to know that every Representative has a “home-style” and a “DC-style”.

Frankly, many Representatives are much more relaxed and receptive in their home districts. So be sure to meet with the Member and/or their staff in the district office. Or, invite the district staff to an event or a tour of your facility – any activity that will get them involved in your issues and policy concerns. Finally, associations, business groups, or other organizations might want to consider having a “District/State Lobby Day” in addition to the traditional Washington, DC lobby day. This would be a day designated for association members to meet with their federal representatives in their home offices.

So if you’re taking a “staycation” this summer, stay in touch with your federal lawmakers close to home, and keep them informed of critical legislation to protect animals from cruelty and abuse. Here are a few of the priority bills you can ask them to cosponsor, if they have not already done so. If they are already cosponsoring, thank them and ask them to do all they can to get this legislation enacted quickly:

  • S. 1406/H.R. 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, to 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 exaggerate their high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows.
  • S. 1463/H.R. 2856, the Captive Primate Safety Act, to prohibit the interstate trade in primates as pets, for the sake of both animal welfare and humane safety. 
  • S. 541/ H.R. 1094, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, to protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. 
  • S. 820/ H.R. 1731, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens and give consumers more information on egg carton labels. 
  • S. 973/H.R. 2012, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, to crack down on the doping of horses in the racing industry, and provide oversight by the U.S. Anti-Doping Association, the independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports.
  • S. 1710/H.R. 2066, the Pets on Trains Act, to direct Amtrak to propose a pet policy that allows passengers to travel with companion dogs and cats on certain trains.
  • S. 1381/H.R. 1998, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act, to prohibit the private ownership and breeding of tigers, lions, and other dangerous big cats as exotic pets.
  • H.R. 4148, the Humane Cosmetics Act, to phase out the use of animals in cosmetics testing and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics.
  • H.R. 3556, the Humane Care for Primates Act, to allow the importation and care of abused, injured or abandoned nonhuman primates at legitimate wildlife sanctuaries.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

PAST Act is Past Due

Congress is in session for another week before the August recess, and has a lot of work to get done. While there have been a number of notable legislative achievements for animals so far in 2014—upgrading the federal animal fighting statute, de-funding horse slaughter plants, allowing mobile veterinary care, and defeating the noxious King amendment—there are a number of critical animal protection bills that still need to get over the finish line.

PAST Act Rally DC
Advocates rally in support of the PAST Act on June 18 at the U.S. Capitol. Credit: The HSUS

One of those measures, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, has more bipartisan support than nearly any other bill in Congress—with 304 co-sponsors in the House and 57 in the Senate. The Senate bill has passed the Commerce Committee in that chamber, but the House bill—even with seven of every ten House members co-sponsoring it—has not yet had committee action. As The Tennessean reported this week, the sponsors, Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., are calling on House leadership to bring up the bill for a vote. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who is not a co-sponsor, said it well: “Even with a Republican leading the charge, a bill with more than 300 co-sponsors can’t get a vote. House leadership should let members work their will.”

The PAST Act is critically needed to fortify the Horse Protection Act and end the criminal practice of soring—the intentional abuse of horses’ hooves and legs with chemicals and other substances to cause intense pain and force an artificially high-stepping gait in show competitions. It would strengthen the penalties for violating the law, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and replace the current failed system of industry self-policing with independent inspectors. A handful of lawmakers aligned with the “Big Lick” segment of the industry—led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.—have introduced "alternative" legislation that would maintain the status quo and give the horse abusers a get-out-of-jail-free card. Here’s what some people who are familiar with the industry and are all endorsing the PAST Act have to say about horse soring and these bills:

“I've seen and have used every sort of caustic agent that can be used to enhance and to achieve the ‘big lick’ gait….[N]ow I realize that the horse was put in a great deal of pain, physically and emotionally, and it was simply struggling to move.” - Carl Bledsoe, trainer

“Personally I have invested nearly 47 of my 60 years into this industry….Unfortunately like all other farms associated with this industry we have seen the industry decline because of those who continuously abuse this great breed through inhumane training techniques and therefore keep it under a cloud of corruption.” - Clayton T. Harlin Sr., former Director, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association

“I was once at a barn in the early morning and found a horse dead, still hanging from the crossties… Severe abscesses are found in pressure shod horses. I worked on a horse whose entire sole had detached. His trainer didn’t want to miss a horse show …[H]alf the digital cushion had been eaten away by infection and the coffin bone was exposed.” - Eric Gray, farrier

“I vividly recall a person in a training barn that walked by me carrying a can of their mix of mustard oil and kerosene, and the smell was strong enough to cause me to recoil….The fact is the big lick can only be accomplished by soring. When one soring technique becomes detectable, another one is developed.” - Dr. John Haffner, veterinarian

“It’s been compared to a woman wearing high heels, but that comparison only works if you nail the heel to her feet then refuse to allow her to sit or lie down for more than a few minutes of time…for years…while she is forced to go running four or five days a week…carrying twenty percent of her body weight on her back.” - Pam Reband, MD; former Vice President, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association

“Over the years, Elvis and I owned several Tennessee walking horses, and I know them to be gentle, graceful creatures ….Congress must pass the PAST Act to end this torture of show horses….A campaign of misinformation is being waged by a small segment of this industry that has a cultural and financial interest in keeping the stacked and chained, chemically and mechanically sored show horse in competitions around the country.” [On whether ending the Big Lick will hurt the breed:] “It’s not going to ruin it; it’s going to save the breed.” - Priscilla Presley

“On behalf of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), and the more than 3,000 elected sheriffs nationwide, I write to express our support for S. 1406, the ‘Prevent All Soring Tactics Act’….The horse industry is littered with cases of neglect and abuse, which the current self-policing system has failed to properly address.” - Aaron Kennard, Exec. Director, National Sheriffs’ Association

“The AVMA is one of the bill’s strongest supporters. We really want this bill [PAST] enacted and we have every state veterinary medical association on board as well supporting this bill.” On the Blackburn/Alexander alternative (H.R. 4098/S. 2193), “AVMA is opposed to this legislation for several reasons, including: the bill fails to make the actual act of soring illegal; the bill does not improve enforcement because it retains and enhances the walking horse industry self-policing system; and it does not ban action devices and performance packages, which are known to exacerbate or hide signs of soring.” - Dr. Whitney Miller, American Veterinary Medical Association

“The Blackburn bill does not satisfy the concerns raised by the Department of Agriculture, by people who are opposed to soring. It allows action devices – chains, pads – to continue to be worn. It allows the DQP system to remain in the hands of the industry that is being regulated – the fox in the hen house type of thing. It doesn’t do what is necessary to stop this practice. The PAST Act does.” - James J. Hickey, President, American Horse Council

Add your voice to theirs, and ask your members of Congress to support the PAST Act, and to do all they can to get this critical anti-soring legislation passed this year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Poultry Slaughter Rule Still in (Fowl) Play

There’s some potential good news for birds, consumers and workers: although the rule is not final yet, there are indications that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has pulled back on its plan to increase line speeds at poultry slaughter plants.

More than eight billion chickens and turkeys are raised in the United States for food each year, but they are excluded from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Photo by Compassion Over Killing

As I wrote last month, the agency had proposed allowing poultry companies to slaughter 175 chickens per minute, up from the current maximum speed of 140 per minute. The faster moving lines would undoubtedly have meant more inadequately stunned birds entering scalding-hot tanks of water while still conscious, more fecal matter contamination as stressed birds defecate in the water and spread pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter, and more grueling labor conditions for workers, many of whom already exhibit symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

After objections from members of Congress, worker safety, food safety, and animal protection groups, the USDA was right to rethink a dramatic acceleration of already fast-moving shackled birds on slaughter lines, and we hope this change is part of the final rule. As Politico reported, “The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will not divulge the details of the final modernized poultry inspection rule it sent Thursday to the White House Office of Management and Budget. In a statement, the USDA said only that it made changes to its previously released proposed rule to address ‘worker safety’ issues.” 

It’s a step in the right direction, although the USDA’s proposed poultry slaughter rule is still problematic. It would eliminate 800 federal inspectors by transferring their responsibilities to the poultry industry. At a time when there are more and more salmonella outbreaks and chicken recalls, we need to improve our federal inspection system—not dismantle it through deregulation. 

And it underscores a gaping hole in our nation’s animal protection laws: More than eight billion chickens and turkeys are raised in the United States for food each year—that’s about a million birds every hour of every day—and the USDA excludes them from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. By the agency’s interpretation, the federal law requiring that animals be rendered insensible to pain before they’re killed for food is not even applicable to more than 90 percent of farm animals used in agriculture production. It’s this arbitrary gap in the law that enables birds to be hung upside down, shocked into paralysis, have their throats cut, then drown in hot water—often while still conscious. They’re sentient creatures whose capacity to suffer pain is every bit as developed as our own. 

Roberto Ferdman of The Washington Post’s Wonkblog noted that poultry is expected to become the world’s most popular meat over the next few years, as chicken consumption increases and pork consumption declines. Although per capita poultry consumption has dropped in the United States in recent years—from 104.6 pounds in 2006 to 99.1 pounds in 2014—a growing percentage of U.S. poultry is exported to foreign markets. Our federal agencies must keep up with changes in the marketplace, and our laws intended to protect animals from inhumane slaughter practices must be relevant for those animals in the real world. When the USDA talks about modernizing poultry slaughter inspections, a real modernization would be to give chickens and turkeys the same legal protections already afforded to cows and pigs. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Unsporting Bill Shot Down

The Senate today shot down a motion to move forward on S. 2363, the dangerous if innocuous sounding “Sportsmen’s Act,” which has been portrayed as feel-good legislation but could have serious and far-reaching consequences for wildlife, public spaces, and human health and safety. The bill needed 60 votes to advance, but only received 41 in favor, and 56 opposed—a result of some Democrats opposing the bill because of its extreme provisions and Republicans uniting in opposition because they could not offer amendments on gun rights and other topics.

A bald eagle at Mystic Lake in Massachusetts. Photo by John Harrison

Sportsmen, of course, are already allowed to pursue their activities on the vast majority of federal public lands, including national forests, BLM lands, and most national wildlife refuges, with only national parks and some national monuments generally closed to hunting. That’s not to mention the millions of acres of state and private lands also available. But as things now stand, resource managers have the flexibility to look at the big picture and determine when it makes sense to allow hunting and fur trapping—and when it doesn’t. They consider local concerns such as whether endangered or threatened species are present, and balance the interests of hunters and trappers with other public land users and recreationalists.

S. 2363 would flip the burden and turn the current process on its head. Public lands would be “open unless closed” to hunting and fur trapping, regardless of whether they’re compatible with other land uses or threatened or endangered species, and closing lands would require a burdensome bureaucratic process. On top of that, the bill would force land managers to prioritize hunting and trapping above other outdoor activities, effectively excluding a large proportion of the American public from enjoying our national spaces, including in designated “wilderness areas.” Rather than local control, it would be a federal fiat from Washington that the default is to allow sport hunting and the use of painful and indiscriminate steel-jawed leghold traps.

The harmful legislation would also stop scientists at the EPA from restricting the use of lead ammunition, which is a known toxin that kills millions of wild animals from more than 130 species each year, including bald eagles, California condors, and other threatened and endangered species. These bullets keep on killing long after they’ve left the chamber, with animals poisoned by eating the lead fragments directly, preying on contaminated animals, or feeding on gut piles left behind by hunters.

President George H.W. Bush’s administration banned the use of lead for all waterfowl hunting in 1991, and non-lead ammunition such as copper, steel, and bismuth are readily available and affordable. That sensible policy has prevented the poisoning deaths of millions of birds, and it’s been part of the march of progress toward getting toxic lead out of the environment. There’s no compelling reason for Congress to thumb its nose at science and innovation, and forbid EPA or any other responsible agency, with appropriate authority and expertise, from even examining this issue.

a polar bear in the wild

Finally, this bill is a sweetheart deal for millionaire big-game hunters. Far from benefiting our nation’s rank-and-file sportsmen, this is a special order delivery for only 41 wealthy big game hunters who dropped up to $50,000 each for guided polar bear hunts in the Arctic. These trophy hunters, who compete to see their names in the Safari Club record books for killing the rarest species around the world, have been lobbying Congress to allow them to bring the heads and hides of threatened polar bears into this country from Canada in defiance of current law. 

This would be the latest in a series of import allowances that Congress has approved—each time making the argument that it’s only a few animals and the polar bears are already dead and have no conservation value—but the cumulative impacts of these waivers time and time again lead to more reckless trophy killing. Do we want Congress to set this kind of precedent, encouraging trophy hunters to kill rare animals as they are about to be listed as endangered or threatened species and then to get relief from Congress to make a special dispensation for them?

Thank you to all the animal advocates who contacted your Senators and asked them to oppose this extreme and reckless “Sportsmen’s Act.” Those calls made a difference—a game-changing difference for millions of animals. Wild animals and the environment have dodged a bullet now that this terrible package of anti-conservation policies has stalled in the Senate.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Constricting the Trade in Deadly Snakes

Nearly every week, there are news reports of human encounters with non-native large constrictor snakes, such as boa constrictors and reticulated pythons, in residential neighborhoods. These large, powerful animals already have become an invasive species in parts of Florida, Puerto Rico, Aruba and Cozumel. With clutch sizes of up to 124 eggs, they reproduce rapidly, and without substantial action to prevent such an outcome, they could establish breeding populations in large portions of the southern tier of the United States, from Florida to Texas to Arizona to Hawaii.

Burmese Python
Burmese python found in the wild in Florida. Credit: Alamy

These invasions might have been triggered when owners dumped them outdoors. Too often people purchase pet snakes when the animals are young and manageable; but there are very few options for placement once the snakes grow too dangerous to handle. Not a single invasive reptile species has ever been eradicated through management efforts, and taxpayers will continue to see our government 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.

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 Obama administration moved ahead with a half-measure in 2012 and banned the trade in just four of the nine species: Indian pythons (including Burmese pythons), northern and southern African pythons and yellow anacondas. The White House’s rule addressed just 30 percent of the problem and left 70 percent of imported large constrictor snakes unchecked—including reticulated pythons and boa constrictors, which represent more than two-thirds of the large constrictor snakes in the U.S. pet trade.

This very industry that pushed for the weakening of the federal rule 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. And they have wiped out as many as 99 percent of some small and medium-sized mammals in one area that was surveyed in the Everglades. Banning just nine of the most dangerous species would have little effect on businesses, since there are hundreds of less risky snake and reptile species available to pet purchasers.  It’s the height of irresponsibility.

Thankfully, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now proposing to finish the job it left incomplete two years ago, and ban the import and interstate transport of the remaining five species of large constrictor snakes—the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda, Beni anaconda and boa constrictor. 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 nine of these giant snakes is clear-cut. Several newspapers have weighed in over the last week urging the Obama administration to get the job done, and here’s what they had to say:

It’s time for the administration to complete the list….As federal officials have delayed action, a disturbing story line has become all too common: Boa constrictors, Burmese pythons and African rock pythons living and breeding in the wild, subsequently damaging the Everglades ecosystem by eating native wildlife, and invading residential neighborhoods and killing pets—and children.—Palm Beach Post, July 2, 2014

The risk to people and native wildlife is simply too great to allow these destructive and potentially dangerous snakes as pets. While snake sellers might take a financial hit, the possible damage to Florida's environment is much more significant.—Gainesville Sun, July 5, 2014

This foolishness of importing such dangerous species has to stop.—Tallahassee Democrat, July 2, 2014, and Fort Myers News-Press, July 5, 2014

You can add your voice, and ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to finalize this important rule, and keep these dangerous snakes from preying on children and pets, wreaking havoc on the environment, and suffering in an inhumane trade. The agency is accepting public comments until July 24.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Vet Care on the Move

The House today approved a bill to allow veterinarians to transport and dispense important drugs for veterinary care in remote situations outside of their registered location, ensuring that animals will not be denied critical medical services at farms, sanctuaries, spay and neuter clinics, animal cruelty and fighting crime scenes, and emergency shelters during natural disasters. H.R. 1528, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, sponsored by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla.—the only two veterinarians serving in Congress—passed the House by voice vote. An identical bill, S. 1171, sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Angus King, I-Maine, was unanimously approved by the Senate in January.  Although the House and Senate have both acted, one of the bills will need to go through both chambers for this legislation to be enacted into law.

The animal protection community, among others, relies on mobile and ambulatory veterinarians to provide a broad range of life-saving services in the field, with much of this work conducted in unusual and unpredictable locations. For those who provide such services, farm visits, mobile spay and neuter and vaccination clinics, disaster response, animal sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers in rural areas, and animal cruelty investigations may all necessitate travel to remote and underserved communities. These critical services are often provided in places where cost, transportation, language barrier, and lack of veterinary care essentially make them “animal care deserts.” These private sector programs also reduce the costs to municipalities for animal care, control, and sheltering.

Vet Arkansas Puppy Mill Raid
Veterinarian Kim Miller examining patient during a Feb. 2014 Arkansas puppy mill rescue. Credit: Chuck Cook for The HSUS

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. Having access to veterinary medical drugs is key for these mobile practitioners. Animals found with broken bones or painful injuries often require immediate sedation and pain relief prior to transport. The large animal veterinarian or spay and neuter provider, for example, must observe an animal’s weight, the extent of that animal's pain, and the severity of that animal's 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 veterinarians committed to saving lives and providing 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 fix to this problem, with broad and bipartisan support, and Congress is right to act to rein in this overreach by the DEA. The HSUS, HSLF, and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association are grateful to Reps. Schrader and Yoho and Sens. Moran and King for leading this effort to facilitate proper veterinary care for animals in the field, and urge the Congress to give swift and final approval to this important policy reform.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

Flying the Friendlier Skies

After Congress adopted some provisions of the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act in 2000, sponsored by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and then-Rep. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., airlines were required to produce reports of all incidents involving animal loss, injury or death, so consumers can compare the safety records of different carriers, and also to improve animal care training for baggage handlers. The reports began to shine a light on the number of companion animals who died in or went missing from cargo holds on commercial flights each year.

It’s now clearer than ever that air travel can be dangerous for pets, with excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, and rough handling often to blame in cases where there are awful outcomes. The reports indicate that animals in carriers have been dropped and run over by forklifts. They’ve been put on the wrong flights, abandoned in cargo areas, or lost forever after escaping from airports. Flights are particularly dangerous for animals with “pushed in” faces, such as bulldogs, pugs, and Persian cats, because their short nasal passages leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke.                                

While the mandated reports were a step in the right direction, the rules didn’t go far enough. Only 15 airlines were required to provide annual reports to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and many other carriers were exempt. The reports only applied to a narrow group of companion animals, such as pets traveling with their owners, but did not include dogs and cats shipped on airlines for commercial sale by breeders or puppy mills or for use in experimentation.

Photo: iStock

That changed yesterday, when the DOT announced a final rule expanding the reporting requirements. Beginning in January, the rule will apply to all carriers that use planes seating 60 or more passengers, so that many more airlines will be required to provide data to the public. Importantly, all dogs and cats will now be covered by the reporting requirements, regardless of whether they are traveling with a passenger or being shipped for commercial sale to a new owner. With the increasing number of puppy mills selling dogs over the Internet to consumers all over the country, the suffering of these animals in long-distance transport will no longer be shielded from public view. 

Air travel will never be perfectly safe for pets, especially when they are shipped like luggage. It’s usually better to drive with your pet or leave him or her at home, and if flying is the only option, choose the passenger cabin, not the cargo hold. It’s one more reason we are pushing the Pets on Trains Act, H.R. 2066 by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and S. 1710 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., which will direct Amtrak to establish a policy for allowing pets to travel with their owners in certain passenger cars. Amtrak has started a pilot project to allow pets on trains in Illinois, and this legislation provides the potential for another future alternative to risky flights.

In the meantime, with the new DOT reporting requirements, consumers will have more complete information to assess the risks of air travel for their pets, and can more accurately judge which airlines have the better safety records on pet care. It’s a positive step toward more transparency and accountability for airlines, and another tool to expose the worst abuses of the puppy mill industry.

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