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September 2018

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

After tragic death of puppy in airplane’s overhead bin, House passes bill to ensure it never happens again

Update 10/3/2018: Today the Senate passed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by a vote of 93-6. The bill includes the same language that was approved by the House last week—prohibiting the storage of live animals in overhead compartments of airplanes and authorizing civil penalties for violators. Thank you to Senators John Kennedy, R-La, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., along with Reps. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., for spearheading this critical language. The bill now goes to the president’s desk for a signature, so please join us in urging him to sign it quickly!

On March 12th, a family lost their beloved 10-month old French bulldog, Kokito, after being forced to stow him in the overhead compartment during a three-and-a-half hour United Airlines flight from Houston to New York. Kokito had been a birthday gift for 11-year-old Sophia Ceballos. Her mom, Catalina Robledo—who had paid the $200 fee to bring Kokito aboard with the family, including a newborn baby—protested when the flight attendant insisted that she put Kokito (in his carrier) in the compartment. Sophie recounted to CBS News how her mom had told the flight attendant, “‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ He can’t breathe up there.’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter, it still goes up there.’” As the family sat in their seats, worrying, “they heard Kokito barking for two hours, then he stopped.” They wanted to check on him but couldn’t. “We tried, but there was a lot of turbulence. And we weren’t allowed to stand up,’ Sophie said.” When they landed, the heartbroken family and fellow passengers discovered that Kokito was dead.

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Short-nosed breeds like pugs and bulldogs are particularly vulnerable in such situations, as they often have difficulty breathing and cooling their bodies efficiently. But no live animal should be stowed this way. As reported by CBS News: “Retired airline captain Denny Kelly says the pitch-black overhead bin is dangerous for any live animal. ‘There is no circulation at all in there. They’re scared, their heart rate goes up and they use more oxygen. And there’s not enough oxygen in the first place, that just makes it worse.’”

United issued an apology and took responsibility for the tragedy, refunding the family’s tickets and $200 fee—which Sophia told NBC News wasn’t really the point. “She said they’re not after money as she recalled how her dog enjoyed running around and doing flips in the park. ‘We don’t want the same thing to happen (to other pet owners). If flight attendants tell you to put your pet (in an overhead compartment), don’t do it.” United announced that putting animals in an overhead compartment was already against company policy, and instituted a new system of issuing brightly colored tags to make animal carriers stand out for airline personnel. 

Thankfully, a bipartisan group of federal legislators decided not to leave it to chance, company policy, or mere common sense. They swiftly joined forces to ensure that no other beloved pet ever suffers the fate that Kokito did. On March 15th, Senators John Kennedy, R-La., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., introduced the Welfare of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act, S. 2556, and Representatives Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced the Planes Ensuring Total Safety (PETS) Act, H.R. 5315. Both bills directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue regulations within a year to prohibit the storage of live animals in overhead compartments of airplanes and to establish civil fines for violators. Sens. Kennedy and Cortez Masto then got WOOFF incorporated into the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill (S. 1405).

Last Friday, House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on a final FAA reauthorization package (H.R. 302), which includes an even stronger provision—making it immediately unlawful for anyone to place a live animal in an overhead storage compartment of an aircraft and authorizing the Administrator to impose a civil penalty for each violation.

The House has just passed this FAA bill by a vote of 398 to 23. It now heads to the Senate, which we hope will quickly follow suit and send it to the president’s desk for signature into law. We shouldn’t need a law to prevent such an obviously dangerous and cruel practice. But Kokito’s tragic story reminds us we can’t always count on common sense and basic compassion to protect animals. So we’re grateful to Sens. Kennedy and Cortez Masto and Reps. Donovan and Cohen for making sure that our beloved companions will be safer when they fly with us.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

You asked, we answered: our HSLF-endorsed candidates for 2018

“Politics,” Charles de Gaulle reportedly observed, “is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”  There’s a fundamental truth there, and it doesn’t diminish our elected officials when we underscore the genuine importance of citizen engagement in the political process. At the HSLF, it’s the foundation of our work.

iStock Photo

Every year, our supporters contact their elected officials about animal protection issues by calling, emailing, writing letters, and visiting their offices. In many cases these communications result in new legislative advances and protections for animals, and that’s what it’s all about for us. 

But it’s also true, all too often, that some elected officials continually ignore the pleas of constituents who make the case for animals. Instead, they side with special interests like puppy millers, horse sorers, trophy hunters, factory farmers, and cockfighters. They launch attacks on existing animal protection laws, and they stand in the way of new reforms. It’s an unfortunate reality of our work.

We’re in no way helpless in the face of such challenges, however. We have the power to replace officials who are indifferent to our humane agenda with candidates committed to common sense animal protection measures, and, in the case of those who stand with animals, to reelect them and make it possible for them continue their good efforts.

It is a priority for the HSLF to work with you to elect leaders committed to our shared values. We need officials ready to move our agenda to defend pets from cruelty and abuse, replace the use of animals in cosmetics and other chemical testing, improve welfare standards for farm animals, expand protections for wildlife, end the slaughter of American horses, and more.

To achieve these goals, we’ve launched our HSLF 2018 election site, featuring our initial endorsements in hundreds of congressional races as well as several at the state level. As a nonpartisan organization, we’ve selected these candidates solely and strictly on the basis of their positions on animal protection.

The election site landing page features candidates in some of this year’s most consequential races for our work. Former Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), who has supported animal welfare in both the state legislature and Congress, is running in an open seat contest against a former congressman who received a zero on the Humane Scorecard and refused to support tougher penalties for extreme animal abuse. We’re with Horsford.

We’re also supporting Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who is running for reelection in a newly-drawn congressional district in his state.  Rep. Fitzpatrick has led efforts to crack down on puppy mills, and earned a score of 100 on the Humane Scorecard. Not long ago, he said, "A culture that respects the dignity of all living things is one that I want to live in and represent in the U.S. House of Representatives.” Mr. Fitzpatrick, we’re with you on that, sir.

In addition to the candidates we’re highlighting in key races, users of the website can easily view our full endorsement lists by state or office.

Finally, I’d like to remind you that we’re backing two statewide ballot measures: Prop 12 in California, which will upgrade farm animal protections, and Amendment 13 in Florida, which will end cruel greyhound racing in that state. If you live in either state or can support those efforts in other ways, we’d love to see you get involved.

If you have been paying attention to our issues in recent months, you know that this is a particularly critical time to get political for animals. So, please take a look at our site, work out which humane candidates will be on your ballot, and then share the information with your friends and family members. If you haven’t registered to vote, you can easily do so here. We at HSLF are counting on you to get political for animals by voting on November 6th!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Great day for animals on the Hill as three critical animal welfare measures pass the House

Today we made major strides in our fight to improve the lives of animals everywhere with the passage of three critical animal welfare measures in the U.S. House of Representatives. All three of the following passed the House by voice vote after strong bipartisan floor statements:

  • the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 6720) to keep this brutal industry from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in pressing other countries to outlaw it;
  • Res. 401, a global resolution urging other countries to prohibit and enforce laws to end their dog and cat meat trade;
  • and the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act (H.R. 6197) to authorize U.S. State Department rewards to combat international wildlife trafficking.

Jean Chung/For HSI

The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 6720) makes it illegal to knowingly slaughter, ship, transport, move, deliver, receive, possess, purchase, sell or donate a dog or cat or his or her parts for human consumption, and authorizes a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation. H. Res. 401 urges the governments of China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, India, and other nations to adopt and enforce existing laws banning the dog and cat meat trade. 

Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are subjected to this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars as they are subjected to unspeakable abuse, only to end up on someone’s dinner plate.

Momentum is growing around the world to end the dog and cat meat trade. Humane Society International/Korea recently delivered 1 million signatures to end the dog meat industry to South Korean President Moon Jae-In. HSI has worked with South Korean dog meat farmers to help them transition to more humane livelihoods, closing 12 dog meat farms and bringing more than 1,300 dogs to Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States for adoption.

Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore have all outlawed the dog meat trade, and the government of Indonesia has pledged to do so; some of them have banned the cat meat trade as well. In a 2016 poll, more than 8.6 million Chinese expressed support for a proposal to ban trade in dog and cat meat, making it the most popular of 142 legislative proposals presented for online voting in China that year.

We are grateful to Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., for their leadership in persuading the U.S. House to pass legislation to end the dog and cat meat trade. Today’s action demonstrates the commitment of Congress to end this horrific trade once and for all.

With the House global resolution over the finish line now, we are urging the Senate to swiftly approve the common-sense domestic ban bill, which mirrors provisions the Senate already passed in July as part of its Farm Bill. (The precursor ban bill, H.R. 1406, was incorporated into the House Farm Bill, and has 245 cosponsors.)

In addition to these two successes in the fight against the dog and cat meat trade, the House today reaffirmed its commitment to crack down on wildlife trafficking by passing the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act (H.R. 6197). This bill authorizes the U.S. State Department to use its successful rewards program to target wildlife traffickers.

Wildlife trafficking is one of the most lucrative illicit trades in the world, bringing in over $10 billion a year in illegal profits and threatening endangered species worldwide. The RAWR Act provides an important additional tool to combat illegal wildlife trafficking on a global scale. We are thankful to Reps. Dan Donovan, R- N.Y., and Joaquin Castro, D- Tex., for leading the charge on the RAWR Act.

Today was a good day for animals. We are incredibly grateful to each and every one of you who reached out to your legislators to push for action on these issues and support for other pro-animal measures. Your voice really does make a difference. We hope you will continue to use it as we work to move the dog and cat meat and wildlife trafficking bills through the Senate and onto the president’s desk for signature soon.

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