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October 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

HSUS- and HSLF-backed plan for wild horses and burros rejects slaughter, offers much-needed reprieve

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

America’s wild horses and burros have long been engulfed in a political quagmire, and their place on our western rangelands has been hotly contested for more than half a century. But a comprehensive, science-based management proposal promises to break the stalemate that has vexed stakeholders within and outside of government for decades, and spare tens of thousands of wild horses and burros from ongoing threats, including mass slaughter. The Senate Appropriations Committee recently committed an impressive $35 million to that plan, following the House of Representatives’ $6 million allocation to the same goal back in May.

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Photo courtesy Mlenny/iStock.com


This ambitious new plan has been advanced by the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, along with other humane advocates, ranching interests and other parties. For the past several years, there has been tremendous pressure to authorize the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to kill thousands of wild horses and burros as a “management” technique. That’s why the current proposal is striking. In forging it, we and other parties set aside our differences to secure the long-term future of wild horses and burros, as countless members of Congress pressed us to do. The proposal takes lethal control, including the slaughter of horses and burros, off the table along with surgical sterilization techniques, since none have been proven safe and humane, while acknowledging the need to continue limited removal of animals from the range in the short-term, to bring burgeoning populations in certain herd management areas under control.

It also places a much stronger burden upon the BLM to advance scaled-up, on-range fertility control initiatives and provides for strategic relocation of removed horses and burros to adoptive homes or long-term holding pastures. These pastures are expansive and replicate the animals’ natural environment as much as possible.

The proposal, properly funded by Congress and immediately implemented by the BLM, would eliminate any need for large-scale removals in six years. The BLM can begin to phase out holding facilities, its overall costs will go down, and a stable population of horses and burros can thrive on the range via fertility control management.

But every proposal, even the most balanced one, has its detractors. There's a meeting of the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board taking place in Washington, D.C., this week with representatives from multiple interest groups and the public. In the run-up to the meeting, we’ve heard a few outside voices speaking out against the proposal (one of those inexplicably on the attack is a former colleague who directly championed such an approach with then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke two years ago). Some have insisted that fertility control alone will work on large populations without limited removals -- a notion that has been flatly rejected by scientists who have pioneered the field.

Those attacking the proposal also gloss over the point that in areas that are difficult to access, the only way to deliver fertility control to wild horses and burros is to round them up and administer it. It’s easy enough to oppose round-ups, but it’s disingenuous to do so in light of what we know about the science and practice of fertility control. Moreover, these few critics offer no solution of their own, and, however well-meaning their criticisms, their mischaracterization of the proposal at this time is matched by a disregard of the political landscape, the reality on the ground and the fact that each year we do nothing, the closer we are to seeing mass killings of these animals.

Members of Congress from both parties have expressed rising frustration over stakeholders’ refusal to collaborate on a long-term solution, and the hourglass is running out. Standing pat isn’t a strategy; it’s posturing and it will allow the removal of thousands of horses and burros to continue each year, without end.

We have a national obligation to wild horses and burros on our rangelands, one codified in the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Sadly, the lack of a comprehensive approach and continued reluctance on the BLM’s part to implement safe and proven fertility control has put lives at risk. By choosing to implement the proposal we and other informed advocates have advanced, and by ensuring that Congress will stay involved to guarantee that the BLM implements it correctly, we‘ll position ourselves to make good on our nation’s promise to provide these wild inhabitants of the American west a chance to survive and flourish in perpetuity.

Read our FAQ about this proposal here.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Scientists carry water for trophy hunting industry

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

For years now, trophy hunters have spun a web of lies to tie their ruthless killing of some of the world’s most at-risk animals to fake conservation benefits. A recent exchange in the prestigious Science magazine has laid bare links some scientists have with the trophy hunting lobby, and it has led to the magazine revising its own policy on how it identifies letter writers with ties to lobbying interests.

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Michelle Riley/The HSUS

In August this year, the magazine published an open letter, “Trophy hunting bans imperil biodiversity,” led by five scientists from Oxford University’s wildlife conservation research unit and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and signed by 128 more. The letter claimed trophy hunting has a positive impact on conservation, and Amy Dickman, one of the letter’s lead authors, appeared on the BBC, where she claimed that imposing a complete trophy hunting ban is likely to cause "more animals to die.”

The letter from Dickman and the others also argued against anti-trophy-hunting legislation, like the CECIL Act (Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act) now in Congress, and claimed that banning imports of hunting trophies would undermine efforts to protect lions, elephants, and other endangered animals.

What the letter’s authors did not disclose—but was soon exposed by another letter, this time from a British non-governmental organization—is that four of the five authors of that letter, including Dickman, Rosie Cooney, Dilys Roe, and Maxi Pia Louis, had worked for organizations and projects that received funding from trophy hunting industry groups, including Dallas Safari Club, Safari Club International, Safari Club International Foundation, Russian Mountain Hunters’ Club, Wild Sheep Foundation, and NACSCO, a Namibian organization that supports trophy hunting initiatives.

Further, at least two of the signatories work for or advise Conservation Force, another trophy hunting group that has been working to weaken trophy import regulations and the Endangered Species Act in the United States.

Think about this for a moment: these are scientists affiliated with prestigious entities, like Oxford University and IUCN, who are publishing their scientific opinion in a prestigious journal without disclosing that they have ties to the industry that stands to benefit from the policy recommendations the scientists are advocating.

The editors of Science, in addition to making the authors of the original article declare their conflicts in writing in an addendum, immediately announced their policy on letters is now under revision to ensure that authors make readers aware of financial and advisory competing interests.

The magazine also published several more letters from other scientists and advocates who wrote in to refute the sham conservation claims made by the scientists supporting trophy hunting. We appreciate the magazine’s response and commitment to avoiding such a situation in the future by revising its policies.

There may also be good news forthcoming on the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), which we have been telling you about on this blog. This deceptively-named council created by the Trump administration is packed with trophy hunters and gun lobbyists who have successfully pushed our government to reverse several policies protecting endangered and threatened animals over the last three years. Last week, The Hill reported that the IWCC may soon be terminated, with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt telling members at a recent meeting that he “hasn’t yet decided” on the pathway forward for the committee. The pressure comes from a court challenge to the council, with its deep conflicts of interests, filed by the Humane Society of the United States and our partner groups.

Lawmakers in Congress are also stepping up the pressure against trophy hunting, and recently a bipartisan group of representatives, with the support of Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and Humane Society International, introduced a bill, the Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies Act of 2019 (ProTECT) Act, to prevent the hunting of any species listed as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The trophy hunting industry is increasingly being exposed for what it is, and contrary to what they would have us believe, it is not an industry that benefits African economies, nor an industry that helps conserve endangered wildlife. All it really is, is a group of wealthy people who want to treat the world as their playground and mow down beautiful animals for fun so they can put their heads and hides on display in their living room. It’s time this industry is stopped in its tracks, and the deception is ended for good, and we are excited to see the progress being made on this on so many fronts.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

VICTORY: Court rejects challenge to federal cockfighting ban in Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

A federal court has rejected an attempt to stop Congress from closing a loophole that allowed cockfighters to continue operating in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico and Guam, despite the fact that cockfighting is a felony in all U.S. states.

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Photo by Heather Severt/the HSUS

Cockfighting organizations had challenged the ban, but a federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico ruled this week that Congress was well within its power to make amendments earlier this year to the Animal Welfare Act in order to clarify that an existing ban on cockfighting in all U.S. states applies equally to U.S. territories.

The court rejected all of the plaintiffs’ claims, including an argument that the law violates principles and rights protected under the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to free speech and association. "A live-bird fighting venture does not fall within any expressive or non-expressive protected conduct," the court said.

The court also declined to stay implementation of the law while the plaintiffs seek an appeal of this ruling, meaning the law will take effect as planned on December 20 this year.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice had filed a brief strongly defending the expansion of the law.

Cockfighting is a despicable business that pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment, and it is a felony in all U.S. states. But unless U.S. territories are included in the ban, we cannot truly wipe out these bloody spectacles entirely. Puerto Rico and Guam are a hub for American cockfighting, with enthusiasts openly raising birds and participating in fights. Cockfighting arenas are even located near airports to attract tourist dollars.

A ban on cockfighting can also protect communities from crimes associated with animal fighting, like illegal drug dealing and human violence, and from disease transmission risks, including bird flu and diseases that can decimate poultry flocks. Moreover, it’s also what a majority of Puerto Ricans want—a 2017 poll of 1,000 registered voters found that two out of three Puerto Ricans favor a ban on cockfighting.

For all of these reasons, and for the sake of the millions of birds who are now trapped in a gruesome industry that profits off their injury and death, we applaud the court’s ruling. These protections for roosters are long-overdue and well-deserved, and we are excited that very soon, they will be in effect in every U.S. jurisdiction, with no exceptions.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: NIH reneges on promise, will not send 44 research chimpanzees to sanctuary

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

In a stunning about-face on its own promise, the National Institutes of Health today announced it will not send 44 chimpanzees, now held by the Alamogordo primate laboratory in New Mexico, to sanctuary.

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Photo by Crystal Alba/Project Chimps

Just last October, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins reiterated the agency’s full commitment to retire all chimpanzees it owns or supports to the federal sanctuary Chimp Haven, saying that there would be very limited exceptions. These are animals who have spent their lifetimes in metal cages and they deserve to enjoy the rest of their days in an environment that simulates, to the best extent possible, the natural surroundings of a chimpanzee in the wild.

Dr. Collins had clearly stated that the only exception to retiring the chimpanzees would be in cases where relocation would severely or irreversibly accelerate deterioration of the chimpanzee’s physical or behavioral health. Today’s agency announcement contradicts that promise.

The NIH claimed that "it would be a serious risk to the chimpanzees’ health to move them." There were many flaws with the process that the NIH followed in deciding the chimpanzees’ fate: the panel was certainly not “independent” as it was made up of NIH’s own veterinarians and it did not include a veterinarian with sanctuary experience nor a primate behaviorist nor an ethicist. We expressed these concerns when the panel was created and had hoped they wouldn’t simply rubber-stamp the laboratory’s request to keep the chimpanzees confined at their facility for the rest of the animals’ lives while the laboratory continues to receive taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. There is no clear evidence that the long-term welfare of the chimpanzees was actually considered in making this decision.

We know that chimpanzees who are sent to sanctuary see an immense improvement in the quality of their lives. Since the inception of Chimp Haven, hundreds of chimpanzees, of all ages and health conditions, have moved there. There has not been a single death during transport and there are incredible stories of chimpanzees who have thrived at the sanctuary, including a chimpanzee named Grandma who was deemed as fragile when retired to Chimp Haven in 2005, yet lived happily there for another 10 years, reaching the age of 62.

We are putting NIH on notice that this fight is not over. Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, and we share 99 percent of our DNA with these sentient and intelligent animals. HSLF and the HSUS have been working for a long time to end the use of chimpanzees in experiments and to get them to retirement in sanctuary and we will not let the NIH blindside the American public and let the chimpanzees suffer through the rest of their lives in the confines of a laboratory. We’re now evaluating our options for judicial review to compel the NIH to honor its obligation under the Chimpanzee Health Improvement and Maintenance Protection (CHIMP) Act, which requires that all government-owned chimpanzees deemed no longer necessary for research be retired to the national sanctuary. The NIH has a responsibility to all Americans to ensure that these animals, who have suffered their whole lives, finally get the quality of life—and a retirement—they deserve, at Chimp Haven.

Please take a moment to send a message to the NIH and urge them to reassess their decision to not retire these chimps.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

ProTECT Act introduced in Congress to ban trophy hunting horror show

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

President Trump has called trophy hunting a “horror show,” but on his watch, the Department of the Interior has dismantled regulations to protect wildlife and made it easier to import trophies of endangered and threatened animals. We have been encouraging members of Congress to step up the pressure against trophy hunting by Americans, and today a bipartisan group of representatives introduced the Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies Act of 2019 (ProTECT) Act, which will help prevent the hunting of any species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

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Photo by Vanessa Mignon

The measure, introduced by Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Pete King, R-N.Y., would disallow permits for killing these animals at canned hunting facilities in the United States and ban the import of trophies of ESA-listed species, including lions, elephants, leopards and rhinos.

Trophy hunters pay enormous sums to travel the world to kill rare and iconic wildlife, with the primary motivation of obtaining animal parts (their heads, hides, claws or even the whole stuffed animal) for mere display and bragging rights. Many of the species trophy hunters target, including the African lion, African elephant, African leopard, and black rhino, are at risk of extinction.

Sadly, the United States is the world’s largest importer of hunting trophies; between 2005 and 2014, a staggering 1.26 million wildlife trophies were imported into the country. This number includes the trophies of thousands of federally-protected animals, including 5,600 African lions and 4,600 African elephants. 

The current administration has exacerbated the problem: in 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) dismantled Obama-era regulations on trophy imports and announced that it would allow lion imports from Zambia and Zimbabwe. The agency signaled it would approve all trophy imports on a case-by-case basis, shielding these import permits from the public eye—a decision the HSUS, HSI and our partners have challenged in court.

The ProTECT Act would also cover endangered and threatened animals who are used for target practice here in the United States, in canned hunting operations. As difficult as it may be to believe, exotic endangered species like the scimitar-horned oryx, Dama gazelle, addax, Arabian oryx, barasingha, and yak can all be purchased by trophy hunters right here in our country and then shot in fenced enclosures with not even a shred of fair chase involved.

The FWS issues permits to allow these species to be killed in captive hunts in the United States and that’s a problem, because it creates an additional market for trophies from endangered and threatened species by fueling trophy hunters’ desires and may further encourage illegal poaching in the animals’ native habitat.

Hunters, trophy hunting trade organizations, and the current leadership at FWS argue that trophy hunting contributes to species conservation efforts abroad. But scientific studies have demonstrated the opposite, especially since the targeted species are already under siege by poachers, wildlife traffickers, and habitat loss. Trophy hunting depletes wildlife populations because hunters routinely kill the largest and strongest males, upsetting social equilibrium and diminishing species recovery efforts. Trophy hunting revenue doesn’t pass the cost-benefit test either. A 2017 economic report, commissioned by Humane Society International and conducted by Economists at Large, revealed that trophy hunting makes minimal contributions to African economies and jobs.

The majority of Americans deeply dislike trophy hunting and the import of hunting trophies into this nation. A 2017 nationwide poll released by the Humane Society of the United States showed that 69 percent of voters oppose trophy hunting altogether. Voters also oppose allowing American trophy hunters to bring home the bodies or parts of the elephants and lions they kill abroad by a margin of more than five to one.

Trophy hunting is a true scourge, and that’s why we invest so much time and so many resources to fight it both here and abroad. The ProTECT Act is a vital step toward ensuring the survival of the world’s most at-risk species, and we welcome it. It’s a top priority for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, Humane Society International, and the HSUS in Congress this year. It’s not too late to save these species from extinction, and our government can be an instrument of good on this issue. Please take a moment to ask your U.S. House Representative to support this important bill.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. House passes PACT Act cracking down on extreme animal cruelty

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The U.S. House has just voted overwhelmingly to crack down on some of the worst and most malicious acts of animal cruelty, including crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling live animals and sexually exploiting them. The watershed vote takes us one step closer to a federal anti-cruelty statute that would allow the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute those who commit such unspeakable crimes against innocent animals.

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AwaylGl, iStock.com

The vote is especially heartening because while the PACT Act has been introduced in previous Congresses—and it has unanimously passed the Senate twice—the former House Judiciary Committee chair had refused to move the bill despite the wide support it enjoyed among members. Now, with new leadership in the House pushing the bill to victory, we are hopeful that the Senate will soon act again on a companion version, and push this legislation over the finish line.

The PACT Act builds on the federal animal crush video law that was enacted in 2010 at the urging of the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States. This law banned the creation, sale, and distribution of obscene videos that show live animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other forms of heinous cruelty. But the law has a gap that needs to be addressed: federal prosecutors have no recourse to hold perpetrators accountable unless an obscene video has been produced.

The PACT Act will remove that loophole by prohibiting these acts when they occur on federal property, such as federal prisons and national parks, regardless of whether a video has been produced. It would also allow federal authorities to crack down on animal cruelty that affects interstate or foreign commerce, including moving animals across state lines or information exchanged on websites that allows animal exploitation such as bestiality to occur.

This bill is supported by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the National Children’s Advocacy Center, and Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Inc., and more than 100 law enforcement agencies across the country. In July, we hosted an event on Capitol Hill where we were joined by the bill’s sponsors, several rescue dogs and an extraordinary high school student from Potomac, Maryland, named Sydney Helfand, who started a petition at Change.org to pass the PACT Act.  Her petition gathered more than 650,000 signatures, illustrating the wide support this issue enjoys among members of the public, including young people, and the momentum behind passing this bill.

We congratulate Reps. Ted Deutch D-Fla., and Vern Buchanan R-Fla., who sponsored the PACT Act in the House, and the bill’s 297 cosponsors, for their vision and persistence in seeing this important bill through. In the coming weeks, we will be pushing with our collective might for the passage of the identical Senate companion bill, which was introduced by Sens. Pat Toomey R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal D-Conn., and already has the bipartisan support of 38 Senators.   

We know by now that animal cruelty is an indicator of social pathology and those who commit crimes against humans often start out by hurting animals. It is a pattern of violence that is both common and well-documented, and it adds to the urgency of passing this commonsense law. Let’s make this the year we pass the PACT Act, so those who commit the worst crimes against animals do not go scot-free.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Illegal government advisory panel touts 'benefits' of trophy hunting

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

It may be hard to believe that a group of celebrity and professional trophy hunters, a director of the National Rifle Association, and the president of the world’s largest trophy hunting group are advising our government on wildlife conservation. But that is exactly what the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a panel appointed by the Trump administration, is tasked with—a privilege they have exploited abundantly over the last two years to ensure that U.S. policy favors trophy hunters. This week, at the panel’s fifth meeting since it was created in 2017, it became clearer than ever that this group does not have the interests of animals—or the wishes of a majority of Americans—at heart.

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Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Instead of spending their time considering the plethora of threats to African wildlife, which are driving many species to extinction, the members of the IWCC put on a pathetic display of ignorance, arrogance and manufactured “facts” to protect their own trophy hunting interests.

  • They ranted and railed—unjustifiably—against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for not issuing as many import permits for trophies of endangered and threatened species as they would like. 
  • They criticized the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock U.S. law protecting at-risk wildlife, for getting in the way of trophy hunters importing their animal kills.
  • They aggressively questioned USFWS representatives for their agency’s support for giving giraffes international protection at the recent Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting. One council member went so far as to accuse the United States of making this policy decision based on “emotion” not science.
  • They repeated the tired old claim that trophy hunting acts as an incentive to local communities in Africa to protect wildlife while ignoring the well-documented corruption and mismanagement in the trophy hunting industry. In a recent example of such mismanagement, local community leaders in Zambia called for a halt on trophy hunting in the country because hunting revenues are not trickling down to their communities.
  • They harped time and again that Americans trophy hunting in Africa is at the heart of American culture and pushed the notion that American trophy hunting is a silver bullet guaranteed to solve development challenges in Africa. Trophy hunting, in fact, has very little benefit for African countries compared to ecotourism: of the at least eight African countries that allow trophy hunting, foreign trophy hunters make up less than 0.1 percent of tourists on average and they contribute 0.78 percent or less of the $17 billion in overall tourism spending in the studied countries. Trophy hunting tourism employment is only 0.76 percent or less of average direct tourism employment in study countries. A paper released this year estimated that wildlife tourism not related to trophy hunting generates $48 billion in revenues and supports 26 million jobs in Africa.

The group also failed to once acknowledge what multiple hunting industry reports and polls have shown in recent years—that 63 to 78 percent of Americans (including those associated with hunting communities) believe that trophy hunting is not an acceptable reason to hunt.

The IWCC symbolizes how far the United States has strayed from its position as a leader in wildlife conservation. Its very existence is illegal, because federal laws prohibit the establishment of advisory councils stocked with members who have political and financial interests in the agency action they’re influencing. The fact that the IWCC is mostly made up of trophy hunters and that one of them is the president of Conservation Force, which has filed dozens of applications on behalf of its trophy hunting clients to import body parts of at-risk animals like elephants, black rhinos, lions, and other imperiled species, makes it more of a trophy hunting trade association than a public policy panel.

The Humane Society of the United States and their partners are now engaged in a lawsuit challenging the legality of the IWCC. To our staff who attended this two-day meeting, it was abundantly clear that in addition to its other flaws, this panel is just a small group of elitist hunters clinging desperately to a colonial-American culture even as most Americans have moved on to a better appreciation of the risks wildlife face in our world today. They bring no value to the Department of the Interior’s understanding of wildlife conservation and should not be granted exclusive opportunity to influence our government through a special advisory panel just so they themselves can continue to hunt down—for fun—animals who are fast vanishing from earth.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Breaking news: California leads the nation by banning fur sales, bobcat trophy hunting

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Moments ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom made history by signing into law two landmark bills: one banning the sale and production of all new fur products in California, and another prohibiting the trophy hunting of bobcats in his state.

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Photo by Megan Lorenz/iStock.com

California, a trendsetter in animal welfare and in fashion, is the first state in the nation to pass a ban on the sales of fur, and we applaud Gov. Newsom and the state’s lawmakers for recognizing that California citizens do not want their state’s markets to contribute to the demand for fur products. The fur industry causes the suffering and death of more than 100 million animals worldwide each year, and animals on fur factory farms are forced to live in cramped, wire-bottom cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors, before being cruelly killed by gassing or electrocution.

The law, which will go into effect in January 2023, is a monumental victory in the Humane Society of the United States' decades-long campaign to end this cruel and unnecessary trade. Hawaii and New York have introduced similar measures, and we’ll continue working hard with other cities and states to convince them to follow California’s lead.

The other bill Gov. Newsom signed today makes it unlawful to trophy hunt bobcats in the state, although the measure allows the lethal removal of any individual animal posing a danger to humans, endangered and threatened species, or livestock. Other states have passed temporary bans on trophy hunting bobcats after their numbers dropped too low because of hunting, trapping and habitat loss, but the California law goes above and beyond by taking a proactive step to end needless and cruel trophy hunting before the animals are pushed to the verge of extinction.

The law puts bobcats on a small list of protected species in the Golden State, alongside California’s other wildcat, the mountain lion. Bobcats at present face numerous other threats to their survival, like the recent deadly wildfires and urban sprawl. And each year, hundreds of these animals are killed by trophy hunters in California. In fact, over the past decade, trophy hunters have killed more than 10,000 bobcats in the state.

We are thankful to Gov. Newsom for signing these bills and to all the lawmakers who voted for them. Our special thanks to Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove, who authored the legislation on bobcats, as well as the bill’s co-authors, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Laura Friedman and Tasha Boerner Horvath, and Senators Ben Allen, Cathleen Galgiani and Anthony Portantino. We are also grateful to Assemblymember Laura Friedman, who introduced the bill on fur sales last December. It had many notable supporters among politicians and the fashion industry, including the California Democratic Party, Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti, the San Diego County Democratic Central Committee, the City of West Hollywood, InStyle magazine, Stella McCartney, DVF-Diane von Furstenberg, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Hugo Boss, Patagonia, H&M, GAP, J.Crew, Madewell, Des Kohan, Hiraeth and Inditex/Zara. Animal protection groups and citizens across the state mobilized in favor of the legislation.

Year after year, California has been the hands-down pace-setter among American states on a number of key animal-related matters, including passing the world’s strongest farm animal protection law, prohibiting the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores, banning foie gras, and ending the sales of animal tested cosmetics. For nine consecutive years, it has topped our Humane State report card, which ranks states based on a wide set of animal welfare policies. Today, by speaking out against fur and for bobcats, the Golden State has once again proven why it continues to be our nation’s undisputed leader on animal protection issues.

P.S.: As we celebrate these victories, our thoughts are with the people—and animals—of California who are affected by the wildfires. The HSUS's Animal Rescue Team is keeping an eye on the situation and will be standing by to assist as needed.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Breaking news: Department of Justice defends federal cockfighting ban for Puerto Rico, Guam

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The federal government has filed a brief strongly defending a law that would expand the ban on cockfighting in the United States to Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. territories.

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Photo by Heather Severt/the HSUS

Cockfighters seeking to overturn the ban have challenged it in federal court, claiming it would cause them to lose “lawful business opportunities, loss of income and profits.” But the U.S. Department of Justice said in its brief this week that federal precedent is clear: Congress not only has the authority to ban animal fighting across all 50 states, but it can also apply it to U.S. territories.

The Farm Bill that passed Congress last year clarified a U.S. ban on animal fighting to include U.S. territories—a ban the Humane Society Legislative Fund fought hard to get into the bill.

Cockfighting is a despicable business that pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment, and we are pleased to see the DOJ standing firm and defending the language that was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Farm Bill. The law goes into effect later this year, on December 20, and it couldn’t come sooner for the millions of birds trapped in this gruesome industry that profits off their injury and death.

Puerto Rico has been a refuge and a hub for American cockfighting, with enthusiasts raising birds and participating in these bloody spectacles, often quite openly, including at a major cockfighting arena located near the airport, with the aim of attracting tourists and the interstate flow of money connected with the fights. But support for cockfighting is almost non-existent within Puerto Rico, with the exception of a few outliers. Most of Puerto Rico’s citizens agree it’s time to end this animal cruelty. A 2017 poll of 1,000 registered voters in Puerto Rico, conducted by Remington Research on behalf of the HSUS, revealed that among residents with a definite view of cockfighting, there was a two-to-one majority favoring a ban on the practice.

Guam also has openly allowed horrific cockfighting to persist for many years. So, this new animal fighting ban will save thousands of animals across all the U.S. territories.

Putting an end to this bloodsport has been a big priority for us and the Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS has made massive investments to turn around the fortunes of animals in Puerto Rico, including Spayathon™ for Puerto Rico, equine wellness, and a shelter medicine program, and through their rescue and relief work there following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Cockfighting undermines the very culture of kindness to animals we and others are helping to create there.

Roosters caught up in cockfighting enterprises suffer immense cruelty: they spend their lives tethered outside to small A-frame huts or barrels, vulnerable to harsh weather. The animals are often drugged to heighten their aggression and forced to keep fighting even after they’ve suffered grievous injuries such as broken bones, deep gashes, punctured lungs and pierced eyes. Birds often have metal weapons attached to their legs and typically suffer slow painful deaths. We cannot have such cruelty against some animals continue even as we work to protect others.

Animal fighting is often associated with other crimes such as illegal drug dealing and human violence and with disease transmission risks including bird flu and diseases that can decimate poultry flocks. Residents of the U.S. territories are well aware of the dangers this enterprise poses to their own safety.

Cockfighting and dogfighting have been felonies in all 50 U.S. states and federal law for many years now—laws HSLF and the HSUS were instrumental in bringing about. The protections for roosters and dogs in Puerto Rico, Guam and the other U.S. territories are well-deserved, and we stand ready to defend them with all of our might, even as we look forward to that day in December when cockfighting and dogfighting will no longer be allowed in any U.S. jurisdiction.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Senator introduces bills to restrict private possession of big cats, primates

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Ten years ago, Americans were stunned by a pet chimpanzee’s vicious attack on a Connecticut woman, Charla Nash. The animal bit off Nash’s fingers and toes, tore off most of her face, and left her fighting for her life. The chimpanzee, Travis, was shot and killed by a police officer concerned for his own life. Two years after that incident, we were shocked once again by a report from Zanesville, Ohio, where a mentally disturbed man released his private menagerie of 50 tigers, lions, cougars, bears, wolves, and primates before committing suicide. In the ensuing chaos, law enforcement officials were forced to kill most of the animals.

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JP Bonnelly/The HSUS

Most of us find it difficult to comprehend why anyone would wish to keep a chimpanzee as a pet or house lions and tigers on their property. But, in fact, across the United States, thousands of these animals are being held in terribly inadequate conditions in private garages, basements, and backyards, and in ramshackle enterprises like roadside zoos and animal exhibitions. Their plight not only raises serious animal welfare concerns, but they are also public safety disasters waiting to happen.

That’s why Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States have made the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act and the Captive Primate Safety Act in Congress a priority. Last week, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., reintroduced both bills in the Senate. Sen. Blumenthal had met with Charla Nash, a constituent of his, after her attack, and quickly came to understand the danger and folly of private ownership.

The House version of the Big Cat Public Safety Act was introduced in February by Reps. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and has 148 bipartisan cosponsors. It has already passed the House Natural Resources Committee. A House version of the primate bill, introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Fitzpatrick has 48 bipartisan cosponsors. The Captive Primate Safety Act passed the Senate unanimously back in 2006.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act, S. 2561 and H.R. 1380, would prohibit public contact with captive tigers, lions, and other big cat species, and it would prohibit the possession of big cats by individuals and roadside zoos and other businesses unless they are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill would not impact professionally run zoos and sanctuaries or their conservation programs.

It is especially important that we stop roadside zoos, whose exhibitors make money by offering the public opportunities to pet, feed, or take selfies with infant animals, like tiger cubs, or even swim with them. Just a few months later, when the animals are too big to handle, they end up being warehoused at substandard operations and pseudo-sanctuaries, and the roadside zoos breed new litters to meet tourist demand. It’s a vicious cycle, with no relief for the animals trapped in it.

Animals owned by individuals fare no better. Last year, we told you about a tiger found in the garage of a deserted Houston home. When rescuers came upon the 350-pound animal, he was sitting in a cage on rotting meat, mold, maggots, and his own waste. The tiger has since found a permanent home at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch where he is finally living a peaceful and contented life.

The Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 2562 and H.R. 1776, would prohibit interstate or foreign commerce of nonhuman primates for the exotic pet trade, while exempting licensed facilities such as zoos, circuses, research institutions and sanctuaries. Right now, anyone in the United States can easily buy a primate from an exotic animal dealer or over the Internet. But primates are highly intelligent and social wild animals, and their natural behaviors make them unsuited for life as pets. Adults of even smaller primate species are powerful, unpredictable, and often aggressive. Primates can also spread potentially deadly infections and diseases to people, including tuberculosis and the Herpes B virus, exacerbating the health and safety risk.

Since the incidents in Connecticut and Ohio, most U.S. states have moved to ban the private possession of big cats and large primates—a change we pushed for and applaud. But to wipe this problem out for good, we need strong federal laws that will prevent unscrupulous people from forcing animals to spend their entire lives in abject misery, while creating a public safety nightmare. Please join us by calling on your Senators and Representative in Congress to cosponsor the Big Cat Public Safety Act and the Captive Primate Safety Act. Let’s make this the year we collectively, as a nation, say no to the exploitation of innocent animals who suffer immensely in roadside zoos or as pets.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

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