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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Did your Members of Congress make the grade? Hot off the press – final 2019 Humane Scorecard

The final 2019 Humane Scorecard is now online, and we invite you to check it out and see how your federal legislators stood on a range of key issues last year. Please also share this scorecard with family, friends, and fellow advocates and help spread the word!

iStock Photo

To recap, despite the highly polarized atmosphere in Washington, D.C., we achieved some crucial bipartisan victories for animals during the first session of the 116th Congress. Here are some highlights of 2019:

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, signed into law in November following unanimous approval in the Senate and House, builds on the 2010 federal “crush video” law by prohibiting extreme animal cruelty that occurs on federal property or affects interstate commerce regardless of whether a video is created.

The Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, signed into law in December as part of the fiscal year 2020 appropriations omnibus, authorizes the U.S. Department of State to combat international crime networks, including known terrorist organizations, involved in wildlife trafficking.

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act won a sweeping 333-96 bipartisan House vote in July, and its companion bill now has over half the Senate as co-sponsors. The act would crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring by ending the failed system of industry self-policing, banning devices integral to soring and strengthening penalties.

We secured many victories for animals in the FY19 omnibus bill (P.L. 116-6) signed into law in February. Even more pro-animal provisions are contained in the FY20 omnibus bills (P.L. 116-93 and P.L. 116-94) signed into law in December, including:

  • Wild horses and burros: Provides an additional $21 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, funds that can only be accessed after the agency submits a comprehensive nonlethal plan based on scientifically sound, safe and humane fertility control strategies, excluding surgical sterilization, along with an increased focus on adoptions and relocation of animals to larger pastures instead of perpetually warehousing them in holding pens. Additionally, the law prohibits the BLM and, for the first time ever, the U.S. Forest Service from killing healthy horses or burros or sending them to slaughter.
  • USDA records: Directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA) in their entirety and without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos, horse trainers and other businesses cited for violations.
  • Pets and domestic violence: Provides $2 million for a new grant program authorized by the 2018 farm bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to help provide emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals, and directs several agencies to work together to implement this program in FY20.
  • Horse slaughter: Prohibits USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • AWA enforcement: Requires that USDA inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices that the agency has promoted during the past few years, and provides $31.3 million for AWA enforcement.
  • Horse soring: Provides $1 million (a nearly 42% increase) for USDA enforcement of the HPA to crack down on the cruel practice of soring Tennessee walking horses and related breeds.
  • Animal research and testing: Provides a $40 million increase to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to help speed the transition to nonanimal alternative methods for research and regulatory needs by federal agencies.
  • Class B random source dealers: Renews the prohibition against USDA licensing of Class B dealers, notorious for trafficking in dogs and cats obtained through pet theft for research and testing.
  • Primates in research: Directs the National Institutes of Health to report to Congress on alternatives to reduce and replace primates in biomedical research.
  • USDA inspector general: Presses this office to strengthen enforcement of the federal animal fighting law and to audit USDA enforcement of the AWA, HPA and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Humane slaughter: Directs the USDA to ensure that inspectors receive robust training and focus attention on humane handling rules at slaughter plants.
  • Pet food safety: Provides $500,000 for the Food and Drug Administration to address pentobarbital contamination in pet food, which has sickened and killed pets.
  • Disaster planning: Provides USDA funds to support state and local government efforts to address the needs of people with animals in disasters, and directs the USDA to work with producers that want to develop disaster plans to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
  • Wildlife protection funding: Maintains level funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs that protect species listed under the Endangered Species Act, provides a nearly 30% increase for the Multinational Species Conservation Fund, and sustains funding for proactive, nonlethal measures to reduce the risk of wolf predation on livestock and to compensate producers for such losses.
  • Marine mammals: Provides $3 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for North Atlantic right whale conservation, including $1 million to develop fishing gear to reduce entanglements, and maintains funding for the Marine Mammal Commission.
  • Trophy imports: Directs the USFWS to reevaluate its current policy that allows imports of hunting trophies on a case-by-case basis and to analyze how assistance to the exporting countries’ conservation programs would impact the survival of elephants and lions, benefit local communities and sustain species.
  • Wildlife trafficking: Dedicates funds to combat the transnational threat of poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. Prohibits use of State Department funds by any military units or personnel credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking.

Congress moved forward on a panoply of bills to alleviate threats faced by some of the world’s most at-risk species:

  • The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, to prohibit the commercial trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins in the U.S., passed the House by a resounding 310-107 vote in November and cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in April.
  • The Big Cat Public Safety Act, approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in September, would ban exhibitor public contact activities—such as tiger cub petting and photo ops—and prohibit possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking USDA licenses.
  • The Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) North Atlantic Right Whales Act (H.R. 1568/S. 2453), approved by the House Natural Resources Committee in October and the Senate Commerce Committee in November, would fund development and use of innovative technologies to reduce whale entanglements in fishing gear and collisions with shipping vessels.
  • The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act (H.R. 2245), named after a beloved African lion who was killed by an American trophy hunter, passed the House Natural Resources Committee in September, to substantially restrict the import and hunting of endangered or threatened species.
  • The Marine Mammal Research and Response Act (S. 2802) passed the Senate Commerce Committee in December, to reauthorize funding for a national stranding network that responds to more than 5,000 sick and injured marine mammals annually.
  • The Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1446/S. 652), passed by the House in November, would direct the U.S. Postal Service to resume selling the Save Vanishing Species stamp that has raised $5.4 million for international wildlife conservation.

We’re thrilled by 2019’s successes and excited by the many important reforms poised for final action this year. None of this would be possible without your support. We hope you will continue to join us in the fight for ALL animals in 2020.

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