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January 2020

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Are horses about to be removed from European and Asian dinner plates? U.S. House has first hearing in over a decade on ending horse slaughter

The killing of American horses for food has forever been unpalatable to the vast majority of citizens of the United States, and that’s one of the reasons that Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States have made the fight to halt this practice a priority over the last decade. Horse slaughter is more than just offensive to our collective sensibilities, however. It’s a cruel betrayal of horses, one that produces terrible suffering and misery for them, and it’s the subject of an important legislative debate unfolding in the U.S. Congress this session.

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Today, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 961, to permanently ban domestic horse slaughter in the United States as well as the transport of horses abroad for slaughter, along with a number of other bills focused on safety and transparency in the production and use of food and drugs in the United States.

Each year tens of thousands of American horses are hauled to Canada or Mexico, where they are butchered for their meat that’s then shipped overseas. The suffering begins the moment these horses enter the slaughter pipeline. After being acquired by kill buyers, who often misrepresent their intentions bidding against horse rescuers at auctions, they are loaded into cramped livestock trailers with other horses and spend many hours without food and water. These frightened animals often panic and fight in close quarters, injuring themselves and each other in transport and sometimes dying en route. And at the slaughter plant, horses rarely experience quick, painless deaths.

In addition to our humanitarian objections, we have long maintained that horse meat is unsafe for human consumption. Unlike animals raised for food, the vast majority of horses sent to slaughter will have ingested, or been treated or injected with, multiple chemical substances known to be dangerous to humans, untested on humans, or specifically prohibited for use in domestic animals destined for the human food supply.

For too long, horse slaughter has provided a quick fix outlet for individuals and industries seeking to discard healthy, sound horses deemed to no longer have value. But we can’t let horse owners, breeders, trainers, and other stakeholders off so easy. They have—we all have—a deep responsibility to horses, and these magnificent animals deserve much better. 

In an era of divisive politics and culture wars, there is something oddly reassuring about the horse slaughter issue precisely because so many different stakeholders agree with the central premise here. Horses do deserve better, and our view is shared by the Homes for Horses Coalition, The Jockey Club, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute, Return to Freedom, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), and many other organizations. 

Not only do all our organizations support the SAFE Act, introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fl.), but this legislation also has the cosponsorship of over half the House of Representatives at present, and growing support in the Senate, where  it has been introduced by Sens. Menendez (D-N.J.) and Graham (R-S.C.). When this lifesaving measure passes, as it surely will one day, it’ll be because of that broad, bipartisan base that stands behind it. But it’ll also be because of the stalwart backing that you and other supporters of our work have demonstrated for the fundamental principles of kindness, compassion and decency, timeless values that are the heart of our humane enterprise.

Please take a moment to contact your federal legislators and urge them to cosponsor the SAFE Act if they haven’t yet, and do all they can to get it passed!

Breaking news: Key House committee votes to reverse Trump administration’s harmful changes to Endangered Species Act

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Last year, the Trump administration finalized regulations that gutted the Endangered Species Act, making it harder to grant and maintain federal protections for species that are fighting for survival. Today, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee voted to reverse those dangerous changes by approving the Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act (the PAW and FIN Conservation Act), H.R. 4348.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.com

The measure would nullify regulations that strip threatened species of vital safeguards, create hurdles to list species threatened by climate change, weaken protection of critical habitat, and make it easier for federal agencies to ignore the impact of government actions on listed species, including African lions, grizzly bears and elephants. The regulations, finalized last August, also directed regulators to assess economic impacts when making decisions about whether species should be listed, tipping the scales against animals who happen to live in areas targeted by business operations like mining, oil drilling or development.

These are unacceptable changes, especially at a time when animals across the globe face great challenges to their survival due to poaching, habitat loss, the climate crisis and trophy hunting. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, and now is the time to enhance, not dismantle, it. Soon after they were announced, the rules were challenged in court by the attorneys general of 17 states and by a slew of environmental and animal protection organizations, including the HSUS. We are pleased to see Congress move decisively to throw these dangerous rules out.

The committee also marked up several other important pieces of wildlife conservation legislation today, including bills concerning the establishment of wildlife corridors to address disjointed habitats and the development of integrated national climate change resiliency strategies. These bills include:

The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, H.R. 2795, to establish a National Wildlife Corridors Program for federal public lands as well as authorize funding for states, tribes and other entities to pursue comprehensive corridor network projects on non-federal lands to boost biodiversity, protect ecosystems, and help safeguard iconic species like the Florida panther and bighorn sheep.

The Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act, H.R. 5179, to support efforts by Native American tribes to establish a Tribal Wildlife Corridors System on tribal lands.

The Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act, H.R. 2748, to require federal agencies to work together and in conjunction with state, tribal and local governments to identify and prioritize specific conservation and management strategies responsive to the challenges of extreme weather and climate change.

Committee members also marked up a bill to establish the Western Riverside County National Wildlife Refuge in California that would provide habitat for 146 species of plants and animals.

We are grateful to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz. for moving these five bills forward, and to all of the members who voted in favor of them. We look forward to all of them moving soon to debate and vote on the full House floor.

A United Nations report last year warned that one million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival. By passing these bills, we can ensure that our nation is doing its part to help conserve global and American wildlife. But before they go to the House floor for a vote, we need to ensure that all five have a high cosponsor count. Please contact your Representative in Congress today and urge them to cosponsor these important bills.

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

With racehorses dying on the track, and racing in turmoil, a Congressional committee holds hearing on industry reform

Horseracing is at a crossroads, as today‘s congressional hearing on the future of horseracing made plain. An epidemic of racetrack deaths has highlighted a serious problem in the sport: the abuse of medications that place animals’ lives at risk by masking their injuries in order to keep them going on race day. Today, we hope, marks the start of a new era of heightened sensibility and enhanced protection for horses.

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Photo courtesy of marlenka/istock.com

We’ve been leading the fight for urgent reforms within American racing for a long time, pushing for federal legislation to protect the nation’s racehorses from irresponsible doping and medication. The bill we’re supporting, the Horseracing Integrity Act H.R.1754/S.1820, would replace the outdated state-by-state drug and medication rules, ban race day medication, and empower the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency—a non-profit organization that runs anti-doping programs for Olympics and Pan American sport in the U.S.—to establish an authority that will ensure a nationally uniform set of rules on the use of medication  in horseracing.

At today’s hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce/Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection, we witnessed strong and broad support from leaders in the racing industry, two U.S. Congressmen, and Hall of Fame jockey, Chris McCarron, who all testified on behalf of the bill.

Joe DeFrancis, chair of the Humane Society of the United States National Horseracing Advisory Council and former CEO and controlling shareholder of the Maryland Jockey Club, testified that, “When baseball had its problems with performance-enhancing drugs, the players who cheated chose to put their bodies at risk in pursuit of the win-at-all-costs mentality. Racehorses have no say. Trainers determine what drugs are used, and when. If rogue trainers want to cheat, there is little in the current system to catch them, or more importantly, to deter them.”

McCarron, a founding member of the HSUS National Horseracing Advisory Council, told legislators that, “on average, two jockeys die each year due to training or racing accidents and two more are left paralyzed. The vast majority of these tragedies occur due to a horse’s breaking down. Very often these horses are racing with pre-existing conditions that have been masked by medication.”

Congressmen Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.—the bill’s lead sponsors whose districts each include major horseracing venues—are motivated by a deep desire to protect the lives of both horses and jockeys. 

“This hearing is an important step in furthering the conversation around the need for transparency and standardization in horseracing,” said Congressman Barr, who represents Lexington, Kentucky, a racing stronghold. “As the Representative of the Horse Capital of the World, I will continue to fight for the future of horseracing and build on this momentum to bring this vital legislation to the House floor for a vote.”

“Congressman Barr and I have worked for years to strengthen this bill,” said Rep Tonko, whose district includes the storied race track at Saratoga Springs. “We broke new ground in recent weeks by securing the support of more than half of our colleagues in the House of Representatives. News that the Subcommittee is moving forward with a legislative hearing dedicated to the bill reflects the momentum we have built and the unprecedented support we are now seeing in the halls of Congress and throughout the horseracing world,” he stated.

Today’s hearing was a key milestone in the campaign to secure better treatment for racing horses, but to get the measure across the finish line will take a lot more effort. We’ll continue to press Congress to bring the bill to the floor soon and to work with racing industry leaders to press for immediate and meaningful safety changes in the sport. And you, as advocates who care about protecting horses, can do the same. Please contact your federal legislators to urge them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity Act if they haven’t yet, and do all they can to enact this bill swiftly.

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!

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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:

ANIMAL CRUELTY
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.

WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING WHISTLEBLOWERS
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.

HORSE SORING
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.

APPROPRIATIONS
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.

WILDLIFE PROTECTION
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.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Canadian Safari Club chapter shuts down Botswana elephant trophy hunt auction following protests

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The Safari Club International chapter in Calgary has just shut down its planned auction of the first elephant hunt in Botswana in seven years, following widespread protests by animal protection organizations in Canada. While this does not represent a break for Botswana’s elephants—the outfitter organizing the hunt will still be free to auction the hunt directly to a bidder anywhere in the world—the outcome shows the rising tide of public opinion against those who pillage and plunder the world’s most endangered and threatened animals for fun.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.com

“SCI Calgary has agreed with the outfitter for them to sell [the hunt] directly at this time instead of at the auction, and so it has been withdrawn,” the chapter of the world's largest trophy hunting group announced on its website today. The auction had a starting bid of Canadian $82,000, with the hunt expected to take place between May and November this year.

"Canadians were rightfully outraged by this auction,” said Michael Bernard, deputy director of Humane Society International/Canada, which has, along with other groups in the Ivory Free Canada Coalition, petitioned the Canadian government to ban the import, domestic sale and export of all elephant ivory, including hunting trophies. “It is so encouraging to see that most Canadians will not simply stand by while a privileged few kill an elephant for an expensive thrill," he added.

The hunt follows a decision last year by Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi to overturn his nation’s much-lauded ban on trophy hunting elephants, in place since 2014. He did this despite the fact that elephants in his country are already in a fight for their lives, with poachers increasingly targeting them for their ivory and habitat loss limiting their ranges.

In a newspaper interview, David Little, the president of the SCI Calgary chapter, compared the hunt to “a trip for two to Tahiti. It’s the same genre of (adventure travel),” he told the Calgary Herald.

But elephant trophy hunting is not a lighthearted pursuit. A recently released census found that elephant populations in African Savannah nations, including Botswana, declined by 30 percent (equal to 144,000 elephants) between 2007 and 2014, or by about 8 percent per year, primarily due to poaching. Research shows that legal trophy hunting drives up the demand for elephant ivory and therefore poaching, and has serious consequences on elephant reproduction. That’s why we have made ending trophy hunting a priority at HSLF, HSUS, and our affiliates.

Here in the United States, elephant conservation took a giant step backward under the Trump administration in 2017, when the government reversed an Obama administration ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and authorized lion trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe for the first time since the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Zimbabwe and Tanzania elephant bans had led to a 60 percent drop in the number of elephant trophies imported into the United States—a number that will no doubt rise once again following the reversal. We’re now fighting these decisions in court.

Together, the Humane Society of the United State, Humane Society International and Humane Society Legislative Fund are also pushing in Congress for the passage of the Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act, which would ban the import of any trophy of a species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act into the United States. The HSUS, HSI and our partner organizations have also petitioned the U.S. government to uplist the elephant from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and there has been some progress on that front, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicating that such action may be warranted

Botswana’s government has tried to pass off its decision to reopen trophy hunting as an attempt to resolve human-wildlife conflict, but conservation scientists warn that poorly regulated trophy hunting can actually worsen such conflict by disrupting animal groups and creating social chaos among their ranks. There are many peaceful and non-lethal ways to address human-wildlife conflict, and they don’t and shouldn’t involve trophy hunters.

We’ve already shown the way forward on this in countries committed to constructively addressing human-elephant conflicts where growth of very specific local populations requires management, like South Africa. There, we have been using innovative and non-lethal immunocontraception—a non-hormonal, non-steroidal, reversible population fertility control method—to humanely control the growth of populations, thereby reducing local elephant population densities.

Botswana’s decision to allow elephant trophy hunting has put the nation, once called the last safe haven for elephants, on the wrong side of history. But as the outcry in Canada shows, most people are fed up with trophy hunters and want more, not fewer, protections for these beloved gentle giants. President Masisi should take notice of the writing on the wall and act quickly to reverse course for his nation and its elephants before it's too late.

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

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Dept of Transportation moves to end breed discrimination on airlines

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The Department of Transportation today announced its plan to issue new regulations that would prohibit airlines from banning certain breeds of service dogs. This represents a much-needed move toward ending discriminatory policies by individual airlines that cause unnecessary and cruel hardships for customers with disabilities and their animals.

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The proposal follows a summertime announcement by Delta Airlines that it would no longer allow pit-bull-type dogs on its airplanes, even if they are certified service dogs. That decision failed to acknowledge what scientists and animal experts have agreed upon for years—that there is no evidence supporting the assertion that a dog poses a direct threat because of his or her breed.

With its decision, Delta placed an extreme and unnecessary hardship on its own customers, asking them to choose between air travel and essential service animals. It also ignored guidance from the DOT in August 2019 that instructed airlines not to prohibit service dogs on flights based on their breed or physical appearance alone.

The DOT confirmed that guidance in its announcement today and stated that it is not aware of nor has been presented with evidence supporting the assertion that an animal poses a direct threat simply because of its breed.

There is, in fact, absolutely no evidence that pit-bull-type dogs have more aggressive tendencies than other breeds. On the other hand, such dogs are increasingly serving as seeing eye and hearing dogs, as physical support dogs for balance and mobility, as medical alert dogs responding to various health issues such as low blood sugar, oncoming seizures, or low oxygen levels, and as support animals for individuals with psychological conditions such as PTSD.

What adds to the confusion is that there isn’t a specific breed called a “pit bull.” Instead the term is used loosely to refer to any medium sized and short haired dog with a large head. As a result, a large number of breeds are clubbed together under this moniker, including the Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier and endless variations of mixed breeds.

Experts like the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Bar Association, American Kennel Club, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, National Animal Control Association and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association oppose any and all policies that discriminate against dogs whose physical characteristics are lumped into a breed. As awareness grows, dozens of municipalities have also done away with breed specific legislation in the last couple years. Just this month, Washington became the 21st state to prohibit its localities from passing such legislation.

There are some serious practical problems with such policies, too. Even professionals who work in the animal industry, including veterinarians, animal control officers and shelter employees, are unable to accurately identify breed based solely on the physical traits of the dog. An airline employee would find it impossible to decide which dog should be banned on the basis of his or her breed, leading to highly discretionary and inconsistent decisions. Airline personnel already have the discretion to prohibit an individual animal from flying if they are displaying unsafe behavior, and instead of creating breed discriminatory policies, airlines should train staff to look for signs of behavioral stress in dogs.

We applaud this proposed amendment that would bring airlines in line with the latest science while ensuring that individuals with disabilities and their service animals are adequately protected from frivolous discriminatory policies. The DOT also announced today its intent to prohibit exotic species, including capuchin monkeys and other primates, as service animals—concerns we have flagged in the past because of the health, safety and welfare risks involved. Please submit your comments supporting this rulemaking, and help us make air travel a safe, comfortable and stress-free experience for all individuals, including those with disabilities, and the animals who play such an important role in their lives.

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

As racehorse death toll continues to climb, Congress moves to salvage the 'sport of kings'

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Horses dying at the racetracks with alarming frequency is a sadly familiar scenario of late, but even by that measure the body count over the past week is nothing short of astonishing. Since Friday alone, three horses have been euthanized at Santa Anita Park in California. First, it was a four-year-old gelding, Harliss, who had to be put down after breaking his ankle in a turf race; on Saturday, it was five-year-old Uncontainable, who also broke his ankle during a turf race; and on Sunday, four-year-old Tikkun Olam was injured and later euthanized after colliding with another horse during training.

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Photo courtesy of marlenka/istock.com

There have now been five deaths at Santa Anita since January 1, bringing the number of deaths there to 42 since the beginning of last year. But that’s not the only track where horses are dying. Four horses have died over the last 10 days at the New Orleans Fair Grounds racetrack, and two horses fell and died on opening day at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, taking the number of deaths on Louisiana tracks to six so far this year.

This is a grave situation, and a shameful one, and you’d think the industry would be racing to clean up its act and implement safeguards to protect its horses. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. While some reform-minded racetracks and state racing commissions have developed and implemented new safety measures, this patchwork effort only helps horses racing at specific racetracks. Above all, there has not been nearly enough momentum among the biggest stakeholders to recognize and correct problems, like the drug crisis that has contributed to thousands of racehorse deaths over the years.

Instead, what we have seen from some members of the industry is a pattern of drugging animals to enhance performance and mask pain, ignoring problems when they arise, and then resorting to obfuscation and cover-ups to explain horse deaths.

Last year, we wrote about how the California Horse Racing Board, comprised of some in the highest echelons of power in the industry, bent and twisted the rules to allow Justify to run in and win the Triple Crown after he failed a drug test only weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Last week, a report released on the death of Mongolian Groom, a horse who died in November at the Breeders' Cup Classic in Santa Anita, said veterinarians missed opportunities to remove the gelding from the $6 million race because of time constraints or deficiencies in the process used to evaluate horses.

The problem began at least as far back as 1980, when Congress decided to leave it up to states to come up with their own rules on what drugs to allow in horseracing. This led to a confusing patchwork of state laws with no uniform national standard regarding which drugs are permitted, or penalties for doping. That in turn has allowed the widespread use of both legal and illegal drugs to flourish, leading to a multitude of problems, for horses and riders alike. Some drugs allow a horse to push through pain, intensifying an underlying injury, or make it possible to force worn-out horses to compete, resulting in career-ending mishaps and even death.

The bottom line is that we need significant medication reform at every racetrack in every state that sponsors horseracing. This means stopping the use of legal and illegal drugs that are used to enhance the performance of equine athletes or mask their pain, and ending the current scenario within the horseracing industry, where those who promote the sport are allowed to police themselves.

There is now a bill in Congress that would do all of this, the Horseracing Integrity Act H.R.1754/S.1820. The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association have been working with the Jockey Club, along with dozens of other groups, to press for its passage. The bill, sponsored in the House by Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., and in the Senate by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Martha McSally, R-Ariz., would ban race day medication and substantially increase out-of-competition testing. It would also grant independent control over rule-making, testing and enforcement oversight regarding drugs and medication to a new authority created by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent entity that oversees testing of athletes at the Olympics and many other sporting events in the United States, and it would create a uniform national standard for drug testing overseen by the new authority.

The HSLF prioritized the bill in its Humane Scorecard push, resulting in huge increases in its bipartisan cosponsor counts. From late September, when we first notified congressional offices that the Horseracing Integrity Act would be scored, the House cosponsor count jumped from 150 to 227 and the Senate count jumped from two to 25. The bill is now moving in Congress with over half the House of Representatives and a quarter of the Senate cosponsoring it. Next week we will be on the Hill, speaking out in its favor at a hearing of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. You too can help by contacting your lawmakers in Congress and asking them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity Act if they haven’t yet and press for its swift enactment. Horseracing is in a crisis, beset with a reputation problem and dwindling spectatorship, and with fatalities mounting, there is no time to lose.

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

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Momentous 1st session of the 116th Congress sets the stage for our 2020 agenda

In the wake of one of our most effective years ever, we’re gearing up for the second session of the 116th Congress. During a time in which legislators are grappling with some of our nation’s most divisive issues, the American people have shown that animal protection remains one of our greatest bipartisan values.

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Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

But many battles loom, and we’ll be fighting for animal welfare on numerous fronts, pursuing the prevention of systemic animal cruelty, the elimination of animal testing for cosmetics, a prohibition on the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and ending America’s contributions to the barbaric practices of shark finning and trophy hunting. Here are some key measures we’ll be working on:

PREVENTING ANIMAL CRUELTY

Humane Cosmetics Act:
Cosmetics tests on animals are poor predictors of human reaction, are painful to animals, and are unnecessary—there are other methods we can use to ensure that products are safe for humans. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in almost 40 countries and U.S. states that have banned the manufacture and sale of cosmetics tested on animals, including the European Union nations, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, California, Nevada, and Illinois. The Humane Cosmetics Act, which would prohibit the manufacture or sale of cosmetics tested on animals, will create a key incentive for the use of cutting-edge technologies that are more humane, more efficient, and less costly.

Puppy Protection Act and Welfare of our Friends (WOOF) Act:
So many Americans consider pets family members, and yet under the current federal standards, thousands of breeding dogs in puppy mills can spend their entire lives in small, cramped wire cages and the USDA renews licenses to breeders despite their facilities having inhumane conditions. The WOOF Act, prohibits the issuance or renewal of a license to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended and to their immediate family members who often serve as a cover for the same abhorrent facility. The Puppy Protection Act would bolster the Animal Welfare Act to improve weak and outdated standards of care.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act:
Despite enactment of the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to rein in the cruel practice of horse soring, the deliberate infliction of pain on horses’ legs and hoofs to gain competitive advantage in the show ring continues today. The PAST Act, which the House overwhelmingly approved last year, would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and strengthen penalties to protect horses from this torment.

Horseracing Integrity Act:
Modern horseracing is still conducted under outdated, haphazard state-by-state drug and medication rules despite its national and international scope. In large part due to race-day enhancement and pain-masking drugs, the U.S. is experiencing some of the highest rates of fatal racing injuries the sport has ever seen. The Horseracing Integrity Act, supported by animal welfare and horseracing industry groups alike, will ban race-day medication, substantially increase out-of-competition testing for racehorses, and create a uniform medication policy under the oversight of a new non-profit headed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the official anti-doping agency for the Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sports in the U.S.

ANIMAL AND PUBLIC SAFETY

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act:
Horses—an integral part of American life as loyal companions and comrades in battle—are being exported by the thousands to slaughter for human consumption. They’re shipped abroad for long distances without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks, and the slaughter methods used at foreign plants rarely result in quick, painless deaths. The meat that’s put on the market contains unregulated, toxic chemicals unfit for human consumption. Passage of the SAFE Act would be a clear signal of Congress’s determination to maintain its prohibition on the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and finally end the export of our horses for slaughter.

Big Cat Public Safety Act:
All across the country, tigers, lions, and other big cats languish in substandard conditions caged in people’s backyards and basements and at roadside zoos, suffering inhumane conditions and posing serious public safety risks. Many of these animals are the byproduct of the “cub-petting” industry, which charges people for the chance to feed, play with, and take photos with big cat infants. Once the cats become too large for these activities, they often end up in unqualified hands while new cubs are bred to take their place in cub-petting businesses. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban public contact activities with big cats and prohibit possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license. 

Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act:
Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, preparing for disaster must include plans to safely care for and evacuate animals from affected areas. The PREPARED Act would require that entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (such as commercial animal dealers, exhibitors, research facilities, and animal carriers) do so. Disaster plans are already required under the accreditation process for research facilities, zoos, and aquariums; the PREPARED Act would ensure that puppy mills, roadside zoos and other outliers also have plans in place.

ENDING SLAUGHTER OF WILDLIFE

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act:
We’re working closely with the Senate to put this vital legislation over the finish line, following passage of the bill in the House and the Senate Commerce Committee last year. To meet the global demand for shark fin soup, fins cruelly obtained from as many as 73 million sharks are traded on the global market annually. Some shark populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in recent decades. This bill prohibits the commercial trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins, removing the U.S. from this destructive global trade, strengthening the existing U.S. ban on shark finning, and helping preserve our oceans’ fragile ecosystems.

Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act:
The ProTECT Act would prevent American trophy hunters from importing trophies of species listed under the Endangered Species Act or from killing threatened or endangered species in the U.S. Species listed under the ESA have a demonstrated scientific need for additional protections against population pressures such as poaching, trophy hunting, and other human-caused mortalities. As the world’s largest importer of animal trophies, the U.S. must do more to end the corruption of conservation programs worldwide and push strong development alternatives to trophy hunting.

We’re proud of the difference that we can make because of your support. When you make calls to and email your members of Congress to support animal protection issues and when you take steps to engage others, you make a real difference for animals. In the New Year, we’re counting on your continued engagement, and we look forward to working with you!

Monday, January 06, 2020

HSLF mourns the loss of Mike Fitzpatrick – a true animal champion

Our hearts ache from news of the passing of our dear friend, former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who represented the Bucks County suburbs of Pennsylvania from 2005-2007 and 2011-2017. He walked the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives with a quiet confidence rooted in living his ideals through the legislation he sponsored and the causes he championed. As the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (CAPC) in the 114th Congress, he set the tone for the House to consider the merits of federal animal protection issues regardless of party affiliation. And this ethic has been continued by his brother Brian Fitzpatrick, who successfully ran for his seat in 2017 when Mike opted not to seek reelection, citing his belief in term limits. This ethic is also reflected by the 162 current members of the CAPC.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Mike Fitzpatrick was an inspirational and compassionate congressional leader who has left a profound impact. Through the CAPC, a bipartisan organization dedicated to supporting animal welfare issues, he hosted numerous briefings on key issues and championed countless bills, letters, and amendments. From 2012-2016, he was the lead sponsor of the Captive Primate Safety Act, a bill to prohibit interstate trade in primates for the exotic pet trade; these animals are often taken from their mothers shortly after birth and kept chained in a backyard or confined in a basement cage, and can become aggressive and dangerous and pose public health risks by transmitting diseases.

He also helped lead efforts to require humane treatment of farm animals used in federal research and to end vicious “soring” of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds. He was never afraid to speak out. For example, we recall his eloquent defense of regulations to bar cruel hunting methods—such as killing hibernating mothers and cubs in their dens and using steel-jawed leghold trap—on National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge lands in Alaska. He worked to increase penalties for participants of dog fighting and cockfighting and to prohibit knowing attendance and bringing a child to these gruesome spectacles. He prioritized the safety of victims of domestic violence and their pets through his early support of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, signed into law in 2018, and fought to criminalize acts of extreme abuse in interstate commerce and on federal property through the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, enacted this past November. He was a consistent opponent of horse slaughter and was always vigilant in pushing for animal protection provisions in federal spending bills.

We are so grateful to Mike Fitzpatrick for all that he did to advance the cause of making this a more humane world and we share our deepest condolences with his family. In the course of our efforts to help those who have no voice, it is good to know that we have had such a hero in our ranks. We’ll miss him deeply.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Let’s make this the year we end cosmetics testing in all of the United States

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Residents of three U.S. states can now buy cosmetics in stores without having to worry whether they may have been tested on animals. On New Year’s Day yesterday, a ban on the sales of cosmetics newly tested on animals went into effect in California, Illinois and Nevada. This signals the dawn of a new era when it comes to this practice that results in great suffering for tens of thousands of animals worldwide.

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Paul Morigi/AP Images for HSLF


The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund supported efforts to pass the laws—in California in 2018 and in Illinois and Nevada in 2019—and we are happy that these three states have stepped up. But even as we celebrate, it is important to remember that we still lack a nationwide ban on cosmetics animal testing and the sale of cosmetic products tested on animals.

Fortunately, there is now a bill in Congress, the Humane Cosmetics Act, to do just that, and we need to do our best to make 2020 the year it becomes law.

The HCA would, with certain exceptions, end all animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients in the United States and prohibit the import of cosmetics that have been tested on animals anywhere else in the world. The bill prohibits companies from labeling their products as cruelty-free if they are selling their products in China where animal testing is still required.

This bill would put our country on par with nearly 40 nations, including the member states of the European Union, Australia, Guatemala, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey, all of which have passed laws prohibiting or limiting cosmetic animal testing.

With Humane Society International, we’ve driven this global momentum to end cosmetics testing in which substances are forced down the throats of animals, dripped into their eyes, or smeared onto their skin. The animals are left to suffer for days or weeks without pain relief. Most people do not want their beauty products to come at such great cost to innocent animals, and this has led to more and more consumers scanning labels on products to ensure they are cruelty-free.

With thousands of ingredients having a history of safe use and an increasing number of non-animal test methods available to provide data more relevant to humans, often in less time and at a lower cost, companies can still create new and innovative cosmetics without any additional animal testing. Many cosmetics producers, in fact, have been happy to comply with consumer demand for cruelty-free products, and already more than 1,000 brands in North America have committed to producing cosmetics that are free of new animal testing. Even global beauty giants Unilever, Procter & GambleAvon and the Estée Lauder Companies have joined with HSI and our #BeCrueltyFree campaign to ban animal testing for cosmetics in all major global beauty markets by 2023.

The Humane Cosmetics Act has the endorsement of close to 300 stakeholders, including the Personal Care Products Council, the trade group representing the cosmetics industry in the United States.

There is no need for Congress to drag its feet on ending cosmetics testing nationwide. California, Illinois and Nevada have already set an example by showing us that so many Americans prefer the humane path forward on this issue. The Humane Cosmetics Act also has bipartisan support—it was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and in the House by Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Ken Calvert, R-Calif.—showing that this is an issue that cuts across party lines and political beliefs.

We now need your help to get more lawmakers to sign on to this important bill. Please call your Representative and Senators in Congress and urge them to cosponsor the Humane Cosmetics Act if they haven’t already, and do all they can to get it enacted quickly. With the cosmetics industry, consumers and states increasingly turning away from cosmetics testing, there has never been a better time to set our nation on a decisive path away from the cruelty.

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

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