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November 2019

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Are your lawmakers making the grade?

We do our best to make it simple for voters to determine how federal lawmakers have sided on crucial animal protection legislation. That’s the purpose of the Humane Society Legislative Fund 2019 Humane Scorecard, a snapshot of each federal legislator’s record on animal issues for the first session of the 116th Congress. The scorecard scores a cross section of key matters of concern to the HSLF.

iStock Photo

This Congress has seen exciting progress, with both the House and Senate passing the PACT and RAWR Acts already, the House passing the PAST Act, and committees approving wildlife measures dealing with sharks, right whales, big cats, trophy imports, and multinational species conservation funding. Numerous pro-animal provisions await final resolution once the House and Senate reach agreement on FY 2020 Appropriations bills. 

As in previous years, animal protection issues continue to garner impressive bipartisan backing. The more members of Congress who publicly support 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. Every bill we’re scoring for 2019 has strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

The PACT animal cruelty bill passed the House with 302 cosponsors and passed the Senate with 41 cosponsors. The PAST Act on horse soring was approved by the House with 308 House cosponsors and has 50 Senate cosponsors. The shark fin sales bill passed both the House and Senate committees and has 288 House and 32 Senate cosponsors. The Horseracing Integrity Act has 198 House and 6 Senate cosponsors. The RAWR Act has 28 Senate and 4 House cosponsors and passed both chambers by voice vote. The big cats bill has 215 House cosponsors, the SAFE horse slaughter bill has 209 House cosponsors, the WOOF puppy mill bill has 178 House cosponsors, and the PREPARED bill on disaster planning has 171 cosponsors in the House.

There is still time to encourage your federal legislators to cosponsor these important animal protection bills, but they must act before Congress adjourns to get credit on this year’s scorecard. 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 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.

Here are summaries of the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2019 Humane Scorecard: 

Puppy Mills – H.R. 1002, the Welfare Of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, introduced by Reps. Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Crist, D-Fla., G.T. Thompson, R-Pa., and McGovern, D-Mass. This bill will address serious deficiencies in USDA oversight by prohibiting the agency from renewing licenses of commercial dog breeders who have severe and multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. It’s time to end the lack of effective oversight that has perpetuated cruelty by violators found with dead and dying animals kept in filthy and unsafe conditions or denied basic veterinary care, food, water, and protection from extreme weather. WOOF will codify licensing reforms that the USDA itself has proposed as part of a pending rule on strengthening dog dealer standards

Disaster Preparedness – H.R. 1042, the Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act, introduced by Reps. Titus, D-Nev., and P. King, R-N.Y. This bill will require facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (commercial animal dealers, exhibitors, research laboratories, etc.) to submit annual contingency plans for the animals in their care during emergency situations such as natural disasters, power outages, and animal escapes. Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, it is particularly vital that these facilities have thought through in advance how to handle tasks such as evacuation, shelter-in-place, provision of backup food and water, sanitation, ventilation, and veterinary care. Disaster plans are already required under the accreditation process for research facilities, zoos and aquariums and for facilities doing NIH-funded research; this bill will ensure that puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other outliers also have plans in place.

Animal Cruelty – S. 479 and H.R. 724, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Sens. Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Deutch, D-Fla., and Buchanan, R-Fla. This bill will strengthen the 2010 federal animal "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 cruelty. The PACT Act will prohibit extreme animal cruelty when it occurs on federal property or affects interstate commerce regardless of whether a video is produced. This bill is designed to complement, and not compete with, the felony anti-cruelty statutes in all 50 states. The PACT Act is endorsed by over 100 law enforcement agencies across the country. It passed the House unanimously in October, and the Senate by unanimous consent last week.

Horse Soring – S. 1007, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Sens. Crapo, R-Idaho, and Warner, D-Va. This bill will crack down on the cruel practice of "soring" of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds to force them to perform a pain-based artificially high stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantages at horse shows. This bill will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban devices integral to soring, strengthen penalties, and hold abusers accountable – all for negligible cost as determined by the Congressional Budget Office. The PAST Act is endorsed by hundreds of stakeholder groups and individuals and major newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee (the states where soring is most prevalent). The PAST Act (H.R. 693, introduced by Reps. Schrader, D-Ore., Yoho, R-Fla., and Cohen, D-TN) was approved by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 333-96 in the House in July, and the identical legislation passed the Senate Commerce Committee in 2014.

Horse racing – S. 1820 and H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act, introduced by Sens. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and McSally, R-Ariz., and Reps. Tonko, D-N.Y., and Barr, R-Ky. This bill will address the widespread use of both legal and illegal drugs in racehorses, a key contributing factor to frequent fatalities on American racetracks. It will protect horses, jockeys, and the integrity of the sport by granting independent control over rule-making, testing, and enforcement oversight regarding drugs and medications to a new Authority created by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. It will specifically ban race-day medication, create a uniform medication policy for all 38 racing jurisdictions, and substantially increase out-of-competition testing for racehorses, and it is endorsed by a wide set of stakeholders in the horse racing industry and animal welfare community.

Horse Slaughter – H.R. 961, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Reps. Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Buchanan, R-Fla. This bill will protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the reopening of horse slaughter plants within the U.S. and export of American horses to slaughter for human consumption. Horse slaughter is inherently cruel due to the unique biology of horses, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Also, American horses are routinely given hundreds of drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested.

Shark Fin Sales – S. 877 and H.R 737, the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, introduced by Sens. Booker, D-N.J., and Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Sablan, D-N. Marianas, and McCaul, R-Texas. This bill will prohibit the import, export, trade, distribution, and possession for commercial purposes of shark fins and products containing shark fins, building on federal laws enacted in 2000 and 2010  that banned shark finning and the transport on U.S.-flagged vessels of fins not "naturally attached" to the carcass. It is crucial to eliminate the shark fin trade here because the U.S. is an end market and transit point for shark fins obtained in countries where finning and shark fishing are inadequately regulated or enforced, or on the high seas where no nation’s laws apply. This legislation received Senate committee approval in April and House committee approval in September.

Big Cats – H.R. 1380, the Big Cat Public Safety Act, introduced by Reps. Quigley, D-Ill., and Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. This bill will reduce the number of captive tigers, lions, cougars, and other big cats living in substandard conditions and protect public safety by banning exhibitor public contact activities and by prohibiting possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license. With public contact activities such as tiger cub petting, after just a few months, when the cubs are too large to be handled, they end up discarded at substandard roadside or traveling zoos or in private menageries where they can threaten public safety, while new litters are bred to supply the never-ending demand. Since 1990, more than 380 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats have occurred in 46 states and D.C.; 5 children and 19 adults have been killed, and hundreds of others have lost limbs or suffered other often-traumatic injuries. This bill closes loopholes in the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (P.L. 108-191) and will not impact professionally run zoos and sanctuaries or their conservation programs. H.R. 1380 received House committee approval in September.

Wildlife Trafficking – S. 1590, the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, introduced by Sens. Merkley, D-Ore., and Collins, R-Maine. This bill will authorize the U.S. Department of State to continue using its successful Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program to target wildlife traffickers globally and combat sophisticated international crime networks, including known terrorist organizations. 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 (H.R. 97, introduced by Reps. Buchanan, R-Fla., and Titus, D-Nev.) passed the House in July and the Senate in October.

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.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Louisville, KY, urges Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to stop blocking efforts to end horse soring, pass PAST Act

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Council members of the largest city in Kentucky last night adopted a resolution with a strong message for the state’s two U.S. Senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul: co-sponsor and help enact the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act to end the torture of Tennessee walking horses and other related breeds.

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Photo by the HSUS

The PAST Act would close loopholes in the Horse Protection Act that have, for decades, allowed violators in the Tennessee walking horse show world to continue the abusive practice of “soring” – the intentional infliction of pain on a horse’s legs or hooves – to make the horse perform an artificial, high-stepping show ring gait known as the “Big Lick.” Because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allowed the industry to police itself, those who hurt horses face minimal repercussions, get deferred disqualifications, and are typically allowed to continue carrying out the abuses that got them disqualified in the first place. PAST would replace the self-policing system with third party, independent inspectors who are trained, licensed and assigned by the USDA. The bill would also ban the devices integral to soring, and would strengthen penalties for soring.

Unfortunately, Sens. McConnell and Paul are co-sponsoring competing legislation, introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and supported by those engaged in horse soring, which allows the industry to continue policing itself with no accountability. Their sham alternative bill would actually make the problem worse by further weakening the USDA’s already limited authority and handing off more power to the perpetrators, while doing nothing to end the use of chains, heavy stacked shoes and other soring devices, or to establish meaningful penalties.

There’s plenty of momentum in Congress to pass the PAST Act into law this year. The bill has already cleared the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 333-96 in July, and a Senate companion bill introduced in April by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., received its 50th cosponsor last week. With many other senators (including previous cosponsors) expected to support the bill, we clearly have the votes needed for passage. But the bill cannot progress unless Sen. McConnell brings it to the Senate floor for a vote.

That's why we are excited about the vote in Louisville: residents have told Sens. McConnell and Paul that they are tired of the current system, too, and of the abuse. They want change for the better, and they expect their elected officials in Congress to listen to their voices.

The resolution, which passed in the Metro Council of Louisville by unanimous vote, comes on the heels of a similar vote in Nashville, Tennessee, in August.

In addition to demanding action from Sens. McConnell and Paul, the resolution, introduced by Councilmember Marcus Winkler with support rallied by former HSUS Kentucky state director Kathryn Callahan, also urges the USDA to reinstate a rule against soring that was finalized by the Obama administration in 2017, but unlawfully withdrawn when the Trump administration took office. The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund are currently suing the USDA over this unlawful repeal.

We urge the Kentucky Senators to listen to the people who helped put them in office. It’s time our nation righted the wrongs that walking horses have endured for decades, and petty politics should not stand in the way of ending this cruelty. You too can help. If you live in Kentucky, please contact Sens. McConnell and Paul, and if you live anywhere else in the United States, look up your senators and urge them to cosponsor and work to pass the PAST Act. Let’s make this the year soring ends, as Congress intended nearly a half century ago when it passed the Horse Protection Act.

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

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The November 2019 election: building political support, from the ground up

By Brad Pyle

For all sorts of reasons, we tend to pay attention to the big, top-of-the-ticket races and their potential impact on the welfare of animals. But the truth is that races at every level have consequences for animals—and this year’s election was no different. We saw the opportunity to greatly expand our work to state and local elections at a level we’ve never attempted before—and the results made us very glad we did.

Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

Earlier this year, HSLF reached out to over 1,000 candidates running for state legislatures, city councils, and federal office to evaluate their records and positions on animal welfare. Of course, this is something we had been doing on a smaller scale in the past. Since our founding in 2004, HSLF has issued endorsements, made independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates, and organized grassroots efforts to get out the vote for sympathetic officials in races across the nation. Fifteen years into this work, we’ve reached a new level, with candidates actively seeking our endorsements and promoting animal protection as part of their campaign platforms. 

That is some real progress, and a few examples will make the point.

In Newton, Massachusetts, Emily Norton was re-elected to the city council, where she will continue to be a champion for animal welfare legislation. Emily has been an animal advocate for decades and has served as a member of the HSUS State Council for over five years.

Another HSLF-endorsed candidate at the local level, Troy Markham, was re-elected to the city council in Bexley, Ohio by an overwhelming majority. Markham worked to update Bexley’s city code to restrict cruel types of tethering and strengthen sheltering requirements.

With several races still too close to call, nearly a dozen HSLF-backed candidates were re-elected to the General Assembly In New Jersey, which has a strong track record on animal protection, and we look forward to further progress in this state in 2020.

In Virginia, we saw several animal-friendly members of the State House of Delegates and State Senate re-elected, including Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Hendron), a reliable champion of our legislative priorities.

In Texas, we saw an important policy matter going directly to a popular vote. The state’s voters approved Proposition 10—which proposed a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to allow a state agency or political subdivision to transfer a law enforcement animal to the animal’s handler or another qualified caretaker at no cost, upon the animal’s retirement or at another time if the transfer is determined to be in the animal’s best interest. Currently, the Texas Constitution prevents the transfer of certain public property, such as law enforcement animals, to a private person or organization.  

In Kentucky, Matt Bevin lost his bid for re-election as Governor to challenger Andy Beshear. As a candidate for office five years ago, Bevin attended a cockfighting rally to gather support and votes, which we criticized.

At the Humane Society Legislative Fund, we work to give animals a voice in our political process. This year, we evaluated a record number of candidates at the state and local level, and in crucial instances, we put our money and our energy behind them. And many of you did, too. If you voted or volunteered for one of these candidates, thank you. If you sent funds in support of our work to elect them, or made contributions yourself, we appreciate it. We wanted to make animal protection a priority in this election, and because of you, we were able to do it.

Every election matters and is decided by those who vote—and to vote you must first be registered. Be vote-ready—update your voter registration here—and then ask your friends and others to register, too.

And do keep an eye on this space. We’ll roll out our Humane Scorecard in a few days, and we’re making big plans for election and political success in 2020. 


Brad Pyle is political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: PACT Act passes U.S. Senate two weeks after clearing House; Bill now awaits Trump's signature

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

A long-awaited law that would make some of the most brutal acts of animal cruelty federal felonies is just one signature away from becoming reality.


The U.S. Senate moments ago unanimously passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, a bill that will make certain malicious animal cruelty within federal jurisdiction, including crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling live animals, and sexually exploiting them, a federal crime.

The passage of this bill is a well-deserved victory for us and our colleagues at the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Protection Litigation division, who were instrumental in helping the sponsors draft this legislation and have led the fight to pass the PACT Act for almost a decade now. The bill is a no-brainer for most Americans and this is the third time that the full Senate has voted to pass it. The House—where it had stalled in previous years—unanimously passed identical legislation two weeks ago, this time spurred by new leadership.

The PACT Act would strengthen the federal animal crush video law that was enacted in 2010 at the urging of the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund. 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 it had a significant gap. It gave federal prosecutors no legal recourse to hold perpetrators accountable for extreme cruelty when the crime happened on federal property or affected interstate commerce, unless an obscene video had been produced.

Our Animal Protection Litigation team had the foresight to recognize this deficiency in the law and to put forward the recommendation that became the PACT Act. The bill will remove the loophole by prohibiting these acts, regardless of whether a video has been produced, when they occur on federal property, such as federal prisons and national parks or in interstate commerce, including moving animals across state lines or information exchanged on websites that allows animal exploitation such as bestiality to occur.

We applaud Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., for their persistence and leadership on seeing this bill through. They, along with the House sponsors—Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and former Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas—have been tremendous champions of this cause.

The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk and we hope he will quickly sign it into law. Please call the White House switchboard at 202-456-1414 and ask to leave a comment urging the president to sign this bill. History—and media reports—are replete with examples of criminals who start out by hurting animals and move on to hurting humans. The sooner we can bring those who commit unspeakable acts of violence against innocent animals to justice, the safer our world will be for everyone.

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

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