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October 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pete Sessions—not for animals, not for Texas

Over the years, thanks to our terrific base of supporters, we’ve been able to cultivate a strong bloc of legislators at the federal level who support our vital animal protection mission.  Even so, there are a handful who don’t care much about animals or our policy goals, and within that group there are a few who stand out for their indifference and obstructionism. That’s the case with U.S. Representative Pete Sessions (TX-32), and that’s why the Humane Society Legislative Fund began airing a television ad in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that exposes his abysmal voting record against commonsense animal protection legislation during two decades in Congress. By our count, Pete Sessions has voted against animals and their protection 40 times over that period. He’s in a swing district, and he’s facing a challenger whose commitment to our values and policies is crystal clear. That’s why we think it’s time for a big change of direction there. 

Sessions has a dismal score of 17 out of 100 on the HSLF’s 2017 Humane Scorecard—and his lifetime average score is a bottom of the barrel 11 out of 100. Recently, he voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill designed to end the horrors of animal fighting by applying the same legal prohibitions to the U.S. territories that we apply in the 50 states. Sessions was surely out of touch on this one, as the amendment passed the House floor by a vote of 359-51.

The congressman’s record of supporting the slaughter of horses for human consumption in foreign countries also marks him as an outlier. Some 80% of Americans, including many of his fellow Texans, are opposed to the practice.

Sessions has exhibited a horrible record on wildlife protection, too. He helped to block efforts to protect iconic elephants from the ivory trade and supported efforts to allow a small group of wealthy trophy hunters to import threatened polar bears’ heads and hides for display. He voted to eliminate vital protections on federally owned, taxpayer-supported lands in Alaska, allowing hunters to kill hibernating mother bears and their cubs in their dens.

A self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Sessions even voted to continue funding wasteful subsidies for lethal predator control, which relies on some of the most callous and ecologically destructive killing methods known to man.

All of this would be bad enough on its own, but it’s worth noting too that as chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions was a one-man barricade against animal welfare, preventing bills from reaching the floor even when they enjoyed widespread support within the House itself.  No one sent him to Washington to defend and protect horse slaughter, trophy hunting, predator killing, and animal fighting, and to prevent other elected representatives from voting on these practices, but that’s the kind of record he’s amassed.

With our engaged supporters and contributors, we at the HSLF work tirelessly for the passage of laws to stop the inhumane treatment of animals and ensure their greater protection. We cannot afford to overlook the out-of-step philosophy and voting record of lawmakers like Pete Sessions, especially when we know that tens of thousands of voters in districts like his want their representatives to support fundamental animal protection policy. That’s why HSLF has endorsed Colin Allred for Texas’ 32nd Congressional District—he’s a humane champion who has committed to support our work, and we’re confident that he will.

Let’s talk straight. Pete Sessions has wasted 40 opportunities to help end suffering and improve the lives of animals everywhere. That’s the kind of waste we are determined to cut. If you have friends and family in the 32nd Congressional District, please share our TV ad to let them know about the abysmal record that Pete Sessions has racked up, and encourage them to vote for Colin Allred on November 6th. You’ll be glad you did.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Election Day is almost here—we hope you vote humane!

Election Day is right around the corner and for those of you in states with early voting, it may actually be already here! That’s why I want to remind you to check out our election site before you cast your ballot to see who we’ve endorsed in your state.

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Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

It’s so important that we use the power of the ballot box to advance the cause of animal welfare. It’s sad, but true, that all too often 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 animal fighters. 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.

That’s why it’s essential to remember that you 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 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.

That’s why I’m reminding you about our election site, to help you determine which candidates are committed to fighting for animals. The site features our 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. Colin Allred (D-Tx) is working to oust Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tx) who has served in Congress for more than 20 years and voted against animal protection more than 40 times. We’re also supporting Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fl) who co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and leads the way on a raft of animal protection legislation.

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, and the deadline has not passed in your state, you can easily do so here. We at HSLF are counting on you to get political for animals by voting on November 6th!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Honoring the memory of a hero for horses, Congress must take action on PAST

U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings was a giant in the halls of Congress and in the hearts of horse lovers everywhere. We mourn his passing while acknowledging the rich legacy he leaves on preventing cruelty to horses. Senator Tydings, the father of the federal Horse Protection Act, represented Maryland from 1965 to 1971. He also lobbied pro bono with us in recent years to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act. I fondly recall his stories of the U.S. Senate and his experiences there. He was a larger than life individual to the very end, and we’ll remember him with the deepest gratitude.

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Photo by the HSUS

A lifelong horseman, “Joe,” as he preferred to be called, strongly appreciated the contribution of horses to our society. He served in the last horse cavalry unit of the U.S. Army during World War II.

Tydings was appalled when he learned of the vile cruelty known as “soring,” in which trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds using caustic chemicals, chains, weighted shoes, hard objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to force them to perform a pain-based artificially high-stepping gait—the "Big Lick"—to gain unfair competitive advantage at shows. Working with the HSUS and other groups, he led the charge on legislation he thought would end the practice once and for all—a bill that took three Congresses to pass, in 1970.

In recent years, upon hearing that the law he had worked so hard to enact had failed to accomplish its goal due to loopholes—some created by a 1976 amendment and others by weak U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations—that enable violators to evade detection, he joined the battle again.

Tydings signed annual letters to key Senators and Representatives urging increased funding so that USDA could better enforce the law. He wrote to officials at all levels of USDA, urging tougher regulations and enforcement. He was known to walk the halls of Congress to make his case, too. 

The senator will be remembered as a staunch advocate for the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R.1847/S.2957—a bill to strengthen the Horse Protection Act by banning the use of devices integral to the soring process, eliminating the conflict-ridden, failed system of industry self-policing, and increasing penalties. He teamed up with former Senator John Warner of Virginia, also an ardent horseman, to advocate for the PAST Act in a bipartisan op-ed published in The Hill, “Stop torturing horses now.”

A former U.S. Attorney, Tydings encouraged and applauded the prosecution of Jackie McConnell—the notorious Hall of Fame Walking Horse trainer who pled guilty to numerous federal charges as a result of the HSUS’ 2011 undercover investigation—and stood with us on the courthouse steps on the day McConnell was sentenced.

He was a presenter and frequent attendee at the Sound Horse Conference events organized by Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).

Tydings was also a co-petitioner with the HSUS and partner organizations in a petition to USDA seeking regulatory reforms, and he enthusiastically supported the agency’s rule (announced as final in January 2017 but then put on the shelf by the Trump Administration) to strengthen Horse Protection Act regulations. 

For all of his extraordinary efforts, the HSUS honored Tydings with its Humane Horseman of the Year award in 2016.

Joe Tydings was a passionate advocate for horses and a true friend to the HSLF and the animal protection community. We must never let the contributions of this valiant warrior for fairness and humaneness be forgotten. We must honor his legacy by securing long-overdue passage of the PAST Act, to achieve the vision promised by the Horse Protection Act nearly 50 years ago. Congress should be inspired by his example and never let the demands of a few who profit off the abuse of horses prevail. Members of the U.S. House and Senate should cosponsor the PAST Act if they haven’t already, and do all they can to ensure it moves swiftly to a vote.

Please contact your legislators and urge them to pass the PAST Act!

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Are your lawmakers making the grade?

One of our core objectives is to make it simple and efficient for voters to determine how federal lawmakers have sided on crucial animal protection legislation across a range of issues. As the midterm elections approach, the Humane Society Legislative Fund has just released its preview version of the 2018 Humane Scorecard for the second session of the 115th Congress to provide voters with such a tool as they head to the polls. The Humane Scorecard is a snapshot of each federal legislator’s votes on key matters that affect the lives and well-being of animals, along with their efforts to help animals through cosponsorship of priority bills and support for adequate funding of animal welfare enforcement, as well as extra credit for pro-animal leadership. While the scorecard does not include every measure that relates to animals, it scores a cross section of key bills and votes on which HSLF has advocated and that significantly impact the state of animal welfare in America.

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iStock Photo

This Congress has presented core challenges for animals, including the seemingly endless attacks to weaken historically critical laws such as the Endangered Species Act. The Humane Society Legislative Fund has been fighting tirelessly to preserve existing animal welfare policies and work with members of Congress from both political parties to push new legislation.

We’ve chosen to highlight a few key votes from the Farm Bill because it comes up only every five or six years and contains important animal protection provisions. The final Farm Bill is not yet settled, so we are continuing to press for positive outcomes on a number of issues in the House and Senate versions. The highly controversial House bill includes good amendments to strengthen federal law on animal fighting and prohibit the dog and cat meat trade, but it also contains the egregious and overreaching “King amendment,” which threatens to nullify hundreds of state and local laws on animal welfare, food safety, environmental protection, and many other concerns related to agricultural products. The Senate approved a much friendlier Farm Bill, which omits the King amendment and  includes essential language to address domestic violence against pets, as well as a provision (similar to House language) to prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide.

For animal protection measures to advance, robust cosponsorship is vital. The more members of Congress publicly supporting a bill through cosponsorship—particularly when it’s solidly bipartisan —the more apparent it is to congressional leaders in both parties that the bill warrants consideration. Animal protection issues have long been bipartisan and that trend continues in 2018, with every scored bill having strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

The PAST Act to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring has 285 cosponsors in the House and 37 in the Senate, the PAWS domestic violence bill has 251 House and 41 Senate cosponsors, the PACT animal cruelty bill has 282 cosponsors in the House and passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, the SAFE horse slaughter bill has 219 House and 31 Senate cosponsors, the shark fin trade bill has 257 House and 40 Senate cosponsors, the cosmetics testing bill has 183 House cosponsors, and the WOOF puppy mill bill has 127 cosponsors in the House.

There is still time to encourage your federal legislators to cosponsor these important animal protection bills if they are not already on board, and to press them to do all they can to help get these reforms over the finish line in the coming months. Please contact your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators to thank them for supporting any of the bills listed below that they have already cosponsored and urge them to join on the rest. You can use our Find Your Federal Legislators tool, or call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask your friends and family to do the same; the more constituents your legislators hear from, the more likely they are to take action in support of animal protection.

Here are summaries of the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2018 Humane Scorecard. Some bills may have counterparts in both the House and the Senate, while others may only be introduced in one chamber.

Horse soring – S. 2957 and H.R. 1847, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y. and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. This bill will crack down on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait for competitions. Congress passed the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to end this abuse, but rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA inspector general and by HSUS undercover investigations in 2012 and 2015. The PAST Act will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and make illegal the actual soring of a horse—all without any additional taxpayer burden.

Pets and domestic violence – S. 322 and H.R. 909, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Mimi Walters, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. This bill will expand current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorize grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets or arrange for pet shelter. Currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets, and many people delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety (a legitimate concern considering that up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet). While 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have adopted similar legislation, the PAWS Act would ensure protection across the country.

Animal fighting – S. 2971 and H.R. 4202, the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Steve Knight, R-Calif., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and John Faso, R-N.Y. This bill will clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply equally to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. The PACE Act will protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gang violence, reduce public health threats from the transmission of bird flu and other diseases, and enhance enforcement of the federal animal fighting law across the U.S.

Horse slaughter – S. 1706 and H.R. 113, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. This bill will protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given drugs that can be toxic to people if ingested. Horse slaughter is cruel, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for long distances and are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At the slaughter plant, the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horses; young and healthy horses are purchased, often by buyers misrepresenting their intentions, and killed for the overseas horsemeat market.

Shark fin trade – S. 793 and H.R. 1456, the Shark Fin Trade/Sales Elimination Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-N. Marianas. This bill will protect sharks from cruelty and preserve our oceans’ fragile ecosystems by strengthening federal law against finning, in which fishermen slice off sharks’ fins and toss the mutilated animals back into the ocean to die. This bill will prohibit the trade in shark fins, expanding on the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 and the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 (laws that banned shark finning and the transportation on U.S.-flagged vessels of fins not “naturally attached to the corresponding carcass”).

Animal cruelty – H.R. 1494, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. This bill will strengthen the 2010 federal “crush video” law, which banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show live animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse. The PACT Act will prohibit those same acts of extreme animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals; this legislation will complement state anti-cruelty laws and provide an additional enforcement tool when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or in interstate commerce (e.g., in the puppy mill trade or wildlife trafficking).

Animal testing for cosmetics – H.R. 2790, the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Ed Royce, R-Calif., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. This bill will phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. These tests performed on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are intensely cruel and unreliable predictors of effects on humans. Cosmetics companies can choose from thousands of ingredients already known to be safe for humans. For new ingredients, there are faster, less expensive non-animal methods available to ensure products are safe for human use. More than 1.8 billion consumers live in countries that have already adopted similar restrictions, and 250 personal care product companies support this legislation.

Puppy mills – H.R. 4691, the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla. This bill will address significant deficiencies in USDA oversight of commercial dog breeding facilities. The USDA often allows breeders with severe and multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act to be licensed year after year and allows those whose licenses have been suspended or revoked to operate under a new license using a family member’s name. The WOOF Act will prohibit the agency from issuing licenses to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended or to their immediate family members at the same address.

Please take a few minutes today to help us save animals by voicing your support for these critical bills. Whether your legislators have scores of zero, 100+, or somewhere in between, they need to know that you care about their positions on animal protection policy and are paying attention to their performance on animal issues. Your efforts to engage them meaningfully on these subjects will produce ever greater returns for animal protection in the future.

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