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Tuesday, February 04, 2020

State of the animals under the Trump administration: a year of highs and lows

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

This past year has been a mixed one for animals under President Donald Trump. On the one hand we’ve seen federal agencies take steps to improve the fortunes of animals used in testing and the wild horses and burros on our public ranges, and also to end breed discrimination of companion animals. On the other hand, we’ve also seen some shocking anti-animal actions, including a conspicuous decline in the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, a continued lack of transparency over recorded violations of these laws, and the dismantling of the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock U.S. law protecting imperiled species across the globe.

Wolf-iStock-97652273_480740 (1)
Photo by Nathan Hobbs/iStock.com

Today, as President Trump prepares to deliver his third State of the Union address, here’s a brief look at how his administration dealt with issues of importance to us at the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Among the positive actions taken for animals:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to end all tests on mammals, including dogs, mice, and rabbits, by 2035. The agency will devote $4.25 million to the development of non-animal testing technologies at five universities.
  • The Bureau of Land Management agreed in 2019 to return to a 2014 policy designed to prevent horses from being funneled to slaughter by allowing individuals and organizations to buy only four wild horses over a six-month period. In 2018, the Trump administration had moved to allow 25 horses to be purchased at a time, with no time limit between purchases, making the animals vulnerable to mass purchases by “kill buyers.”
  • The Department of Transportation issued a proposed rule prohibiting airlines from banning certain breeds of service dogs, such as pit bull-type dogs, and prohibiting exotic animals like capuchin monkeys from flying as service animals—a designation that could lead to health, safety and welfare risks.

Among the damaging actions taken by the administration over the past year:

Looking ahead, we urge the Trump administration to take the following actions in 2020:

  • Issue a final rule from the USDA to strengthen licensing and basic care requirements at puppy mills, roadside zoos and other facilities under the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Significantly increase the use of humane population growth suppression toolsby the Bureau of Land Management to manage wild horse and burro populations on public rangelands, and eliminate research into sterilization as a management technique.
  • Issue a proposed rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to mitigate the harm being caused to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, including measures to reduce deadly entanglements in vertical fishing lines.
  • Prioritize the relocation of chimpanzees owned and supported by the National Institutes of Health to the national sanctuary, Chimp Haven. NIH should also prioritize replacing animals in harmful research with approaches that represent the best available science and prevent the suffering of millions of animals in laboratories each year.
  • Improve enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act and federal animal fighting laws, cracking down on puppy millers, horse sorers and cockfighters, and reinstate the final HPA rule to end horse soring that was withdrawn at the beginning of the Trump administration. Following a mandate in the FY20 appropriations bill, the USDA must reinstate all AWA/HPA inspection and enforcement records it took down in 2017 and resume posting them without redacting the identities of violators.
  • Continue to provide necessary protections for endangered and threatened species, including rejecting permit applications for trophies of species like rhinos, elephants and lions, and ensuring that egregious and inhumane hunting methods are not permitted on federal lands.

Animal protection ought not be a partisan issue. Even in a highly polarized Congress, we saw major progress for animals last year with the passage of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act and other milestones such as the House approving the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Most Americans feel a deep compassion for animals and moving forward we urge President Trump to put the policies and resources of this administration squarely behind this very American value.

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

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