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April 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Key House Committee Takes Horse Slaughter off the Menu

We had a powerful showing today in the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, with animal protection leaders Reps. Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Charlie Dent, R-Pa., securing enough votes to pass their amendment dealing with horse slaughter for human consumption. The "defund" amendment to prevent the opening of horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil passed by a vote of 25 to 23.

Jennifer Kunz/Duchess Sanctuary

Last year a similar measure narrowly failed in the same committee by a vote of 24 to 24, but was later approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a voice vote and retained in the final omnibus spending bill. With today’s action by the House panel, we will be in a stronger position to keep the doors of horse slaughter plants shuttered and prevent the use of American tax dollars for this cruel practice.

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: “killer buyers” purchase young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. Americans do not consume horse meat, and our nation’s limited agency resources and inspectors should not be diverted from the important current duties of protecting the food supply for U.S. consumers.

We are grateful to Reps. Farr and Dent for leading this successful bipartisan effort, and to all 25 committee members who voted in favor of the amendment to protect horses. If your representative serves on the committee, you can see how he or she voted below.

Lawmakers voting yes on the amendment, to protect horses: 

Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Michael Honda (D-CA),  Steve Israel (D-NY), David Jolly (R-FL), David Joyce (R-OH), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), David Price (D-NC), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Kevin Yoder (R-KS).

Lawmakers voting no on the amendment: 

Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Ken Calvert (R-CA), John Carter (R-TX), Tom Cole (R-OK), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ),  Kay Granger (R-TX), Tom Graves (R-GA), Andy Harris (R-MD), Jaime Herrera Buetler (R-WA), Evan Jenkins (R-WV), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Martha Roby (R-AL), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Chris Stewart (R-UT), David Valadao (R-CA), Steve Womack (R-AR), David Young (R-IA).

Not voting: 

Henry Cuellar (D-TX), John Culberson (R-TX), Chaka Fattah (D-PA).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Recognizing Humane Legislators on Capitol Hill

Last night the Humane Society Legislative Fund and The Humane Society of the United States hosted our annual congressional Humane Awards, where we honored a bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the way for animals during the last year. More than 50 Senators and Representatives plus staff members from dozens of additional offices attended the event in the U.S. Capitol, as we celebrated the federal lawmakers who are leading the way to make the world a better place for animals.

Photo courtesy of Bill Petros
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M, recipient of the 2015
Humane Legislator of the Year, pictured with Wayne Pacelle,
President & CEO of The HSUS.

The top awards went to Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who were honored as the 2015 Humane Legislators of the Year. The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have initiated path-breaking animal protection legislation and demonstrably advanced reform in the policy-making arena.

In 2015, Sen. Udall led the effort—with Sens. David Vitter and Cory Booker—to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, including provisions to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of animals in chemical testing. He successfully offered the amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore “defund” language that’s kept horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil. As the top Democrat on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, he helped fend off anti-wildlife riders that would have weakened the Endangered Species Act, stripped wolves of federal protections, and blocked efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and the poaching of elephants for the ivory trade. Udall is also a leading voice for reforms in the horse racing industry to crack down on rampant doping. He played a key role in obtaining strong provisions to require all federal agriculture research facilities to meet animal welfare standards, and he set the stage for the decision by the National Institutes of Health to end the use of all chimpanzees in laboratory experiments and retire them to sanctuaries. This is simply a breathtaking set of accomplishments and activities.

Photo courtesy of Bill Petros
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., recipient of the
2015 Humane Legislator of the Year,
pictured with Wayne Pacelle.

Rep. Buchanan also was active on such a diverse set of policy reforms. He led efforts to protect manatees from extinction, challenging the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to downgrade the species from endangered to threatened status. He is the co-author of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act to stop horse slaughter for human consumption, and he voiced support for the appropriations “defund” language and opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s sale and transport of nearly 1,800 wild horses to slaughter. In the wake of the tragic killing of Cecil the lion, he urged the Department of Interior to list African lions as endangered, and the agency issued a strong final rule to prevent imports of most lion trophies. He co-authored the Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research (AWARE) Act to provide animal care standards for farm animals used in federal agricultural research. And he opposed repeated legislative attacks against the Endangered Species Act and against the proposed rule to crack down on illegal ivory trafficking.

Photo courtesy of Bill Petros
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., recipient of a Lifetime
Achievement Award, pictured with Wayne Pacelle.

In addition to the top awards for Sen. Udall and Rep. Buchanan, we honored four retiring lawmakers with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their career-long dedication and accomplishments on a wide range of animal protection issues. The awards went to Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and David Vitter, R-La., and Rep. Sam Farr D-Calif.

Among the many issues these leaders spearheaded over the years, Sens. Boxer and Vitter teamed up annually securing needed funds for the enforcement of key animal welfare laws such as the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and implementation of programs to protect pets in disasters and ease the shortage of veterinarians in underserved areas.

Photo courtesy of Bill Petros
Rep. Sam Farr D-Calif., recipient of a 
Lifetime Achievement award, pictured with Wayne Pacelle
and Michael Markarian, President of HSLF.

They also co-authored the Captive Primate Safety Act to crack down on the trade in primates as exotic pets. Sen. Vitter and Rep. Farr were sponsors of the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act to require licensing and inspections of puppy mills selling directly to the public over the Internet, which set the stage for USDA regulation of Internet puppy sellers. With Sen. Mikulski as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Farr as the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, they both had outstanding pivotal roles on a host of animal protection concerns, including keeping horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil, requiring humane treatment of farm animals and compliance with Animal Welfare Act standards at federal facilities, significantly boosting USDA’s budget to oversee the AWA, and seeking to end the abhorrently cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses.

Photo courtesy of Bill Petros
Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., recipient of the Legislative Leader
award, pictured with his dog Lily and with Wayne Pacelle.

These lawmakers all led on a number of other issues over the years, including Sen. Boxer fighting tirelessly for wildlife and environmental protection through positive measures and fending off harmful legislation, Sen. Mikulski sponsoring the SAFE Act to stop exports of horses for slaughter and helping to ensure continued retirement of chimpanzees into sanctuary, Sen. Vitter advocating for TSCA reform to phase out chemical testing on animals and passing legislation to ban animal fighting spectators and to require labeling of fur-trimmed apparel, and Rep. Farr sponsoring bills to protect egg-laying hens in barren battery cages and performing elephants in traveling circuses. We are grateful to them for their service and their career-long dedication to animal protection.

Finally, we also recognized several other lawmakers based on their leadership on animal welfare legislation and their ratings on the 2015 Humane Scorecard. In total, 181 legislators – 39 in the Senate and 142 in the House (representing 37 states) – received awards for their work in 2015. We’re grateful to all of these members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership on animal protection legislation, and we congratulate them as recipients of the 2015 Humane Awards.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Feds Tackle the Tiger Trade

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized a rule eliminating a loophole in the Endangered Species Act regulations that has produced a crisis involving captive tigers across the nation over the past two decades. The elimination of the so-called “generic tiger exemption” will substantially increase oversight of captive tigers, kept in inhumane conditions at shoddy roadside zoos, funneled into the exotic pet trade, and dragged to shopping malls and fairs for photo ops and special events.

JP Bonnelly/The HSUS
Alex was part of an exotic pet rescue in Kansas at a
facility that took advantage of this loophole. Alex is
happy and safe and now resides at Black Beauty Ranch.

Until now, tigers of unknown or mixed lineage, including thousands of tigers at roadside zoos and private menageries, were not subject to the same permit application and recordkeeping requirements as the approximately 280 tigers managed for genetic diversity by zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. That meant people could breed, trade, and otherwise use tigers without applying for a permit and undergoing scientific scrutiny, and the trade in generic tigers was left virtually unregulated.

Only about 3,200 tigers are left in the wild, but American roadside zoos, menageries, and exotic pet owners keep nearly twice that number. These facilities threaten the safety of our communities and impose an enormous financial burden on taxpayers, government agencies, and nonprofit sanctuaries like the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas and Big Cat Rescue in Florida, which often have to rescue tigers from deplorable conditions. The new rule will help ensure that only properly accredited facilities engaged in legitimate conservation activities can breed and trade tigers, by requiring an ESA permit for such activities regardless of the tiger’s genetic lineage.

We benefited from the efforts of Republican and Democratic members of Congress who urged the White House to finalize the generic tiger rule. Bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and Senate helped to push the issue forward, led by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Dick Blumenthal, D-Conn.

In another step forward for tigers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued guidance to its inspectors to start cracking down on public contact with infant tiger cubs and other exotic cats at exhibition facilities licensed under the Animal Welfare Act. While the policy only deals with cats four weeks of age or younger, we will continue to urge USDA to do more on this issue and to explicitly prohibit public contact with tiger cubs of any age, along with other dangerous captive wildlife.

Conservation efforts for wild tigers are undermined by the exploitation of captive tigers. Those who engage in these activities misrepresent tigers’ conservation status to the public and potentially even provide a supply of tiger parts for illegal international trade. Individual tigers also suffer tremendously at these unqualified facilities, where they are routinely bred to produce a steady supply of cubs for unsafe photographic opportunities and interactive experiences with paying customers.

The HSUS found terrible abuse during three undercover investigations conducted at such pay-to-play exhibits in the last five years. At the G.W. Exotic Animal Park (currently home to nearly 100 tigers) a juvenile tiger pounced on a young child and an investigator documented five tiger deaths in one month. At the Natural Bridge Zoo tiger cubs were deprived of food to make them compliant for bottle-feeding sessions and were punched and smacked when they exhibited normal play behavior. At Tiger Safari infant tiger cubs were deprived of essential maternal care, and both of the tiger cubs used for excessive public handling during that investigation died when they were less than two years of age.

These multi-pronged efforts to protect tigers have been years in the making, and a coalition of groups, including The HSUS and The Fund for Animals, submitted rulemaking petitions for the actions involved. The Obama administration has made positive strides with these important protections to end the exploitation of tigers, and we urge the relevant federal agencies to further protect animal welfare and public safety by cracking down on this inhumane and reckless trade.

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