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Federal Legislation

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: House votes to end shark fin sales in the U.S.

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The U.S. House just said a decisive and resounding “no” to the terrible shark fin trade, in which fishermen cut the fins off sharks and dump them back into the waters to drown, be eaten alive by other fish, or bleed to death.

Photo by Vanessa Mignon

House members voted 310 to 107 to pass the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, H.R. 737, a bill that would end all commercial trade in the United States, including all imports, exports, trade, distribution and possession for commercial purposes of shark fins and products containing shark fins. Americans overwhelmingly oppose this brutal trade, in which fins from as many as 73 million sharks are traded globally each year. Worse, this trade—driven by a market for shark fin soup—is forcing many shark species toward extinction.

The action next moves to the Senate, where a third of the members have signed on to a parallel bill, S. 877.

While federal law already bans finning in U.S. waters, and 13 states and three U.S. territories have passed laws banning or limiting shark fin sales, our nation continues to be an end market for shark fins, with shark fin soup still appearing on the menus of some restaurants. The United States also serves as a destination for shark fins obtained on the high seas where finning is unregulated, or from countries lacking good policies or enforcement on finning.

That’s why the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund have been working so hard to secure a law that decisively ends this trade in the United States once and for all. By passing such a bill, our nation can reassert its standing as a global leader on the important issue of shark conservation. When the U.S. leads on such efforts, other countries follow, as occurred with the ivory trade.

Sharks are now being killed 30 percent faster than they can reproduce. It is estimated that between 2000 and 2011, 16,815 metric tons of shark fins were traded worldwide. This commerce is unsustainable, and some shark populations have declined by as much as 90% in recent decades, resulting in a crisis not only for sharks themselves but for the balance of ocean ecosystems.

Along with our affiliates stateside and globally through Humane Society International, we have been working to end finning. We helped enact federal laws in 2000 and 2010 that prohibited finning in U.S. waters, and we have worked in a number of states to secure the passage of laws banning or limiting the sale of shark fins, including California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington. We are continuing to work on similar bills in other states. Three U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands—also have such bans.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Parliament passed a shark fin sales ban for which HSI had vigorously advocated, and we continue to work on ending shark finning and reducing the trade and consumption of shark fins globally.

Today’s victory for sharks in the U.S. House is a proud moment for those of us who have long sought to strengthen protections for these animals, and we are especially grateful to the bill’s lead sponsors, Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas. We now look to the Senate, where a counterpart bill has been introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. In April, the Senate Commerce Committee passed S. 877 with a voice vote, and we are hopeful the bill will soon be brought to the full floor for a vote.

Time is running out for sharks. These iconic predators are important in marine ecosystems and serve as key indicators of ocean health. Declining shark numbers can cause irreversible damage to fragile ocean environments and, ultimately, to our earth. By taking decisive action now, Congress—and our nation—can reverse the tide for this keystone species, and for the ecosystems that depend on them.

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

Monday, November 18, 2019

Bill to end animal testing for cosmetics introduced in Congress with support from industry leaders

The movement to end the testing of personal care and beauty products on animals has gained unprecedented momentum in recent years, with three U.S. states, 39 countries, and more than a thousand manufacturers abandoning this outdated and unnecessary practice. Today, Congress took an important step toward ending cosmetics animal testing in all of the United States, with the introduction of the Humane Cosmetics Act.

Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

The bill 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 United States is one of the world’s largest cosmetics markets and this bill has the potential to spare the lives of thousands of mice, rabbits, rats and guinea pigs.

Although versions of the Humane Cosmetics Act have been introduced in past Congresses, we are especially optimistic it will succeed this time because there is unprecedented support for passing it from the cosmetics industry itself. In an exciting development, our Humane Society Legislative Fund and Humane Society of the United States teams worked with the Personal Care Products Council, the leading national trade association representing cosmetic and personal care products companies, to propose language for the bill in both its House and Senate versions.

Passing a law banning cosmetics testing would put us on par with many other nations globally who have, working in cooperation with Humane Society International, already passed laws banning or limiting the use of animal tests for cosmetics, including India, New Zealand, South Korea, Guatemala, Australia and all countries in the European Union. Multinational cosmetics companies must already comply with the laws in these countries to sell products there, and, starting January 2020, they must also comply with laws banning the sales of cosmetics newly tested on animals in California, Nevada and Illinois.

This cruelty-free surge is driven by consumers who are increasingly scanning store shelves for products not tested on animals. Cosmetics producers have been only too happy to comply, and already more than 1,000 brands in North America have committed to producing cosmetics that are free of new animal testing.

When creating their products, these brands can choose from the thousands of safe ingredients already available, or use advanced scientific alternative test methods and new technologies that are often more reliable, efficient and cost-effective than animal tests. And as the global market for non-animal tests expands, new and improved methods will continue to be developed, leading to safer cosmetics without harming animals.

In recent years, our #BeCrueltyFree campaign has partnered with global beauty giants, including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Avon and the Estée Lauder Companies, to ban animal testing for cosmetics in all major global beauty markets by 2023. We’ve worked together to standardize legislation to end cosmetics animal testing, share information on alternative testing methods, and invest in education and training for scientists.

For many of us here at the HSUS and HSLF, getting the Humane Cosmetics Act across the finish line has been a long-cherished personal and career goal. My own journey with ending cosmetics animal testing began as far back as 1988, when I worked at the Doris Day Animal League to secure the passage of state bills to require the use of alternatives to animal tests for industrial chemicals, cosmetics and other ingredients in California, New Jersey and New York as well as lobbying on important federal bills on the issue. These included measures to end to the cruel lethal dose 50 tests, where animals were forced to ingest a chemical until 50 percent of them died, and a state bill in California to ban the Draize rabbit eye test for cosmetics. In 1990, I helped draft the Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals. This standard for “cruelty free” cosmetics was subsequently adopted by the Leaping Bunny Program rolled out in 1996 by DDAL, the HSUS, and six other animal protection organizations, working with key members of the cosmetics industry, including Paul Mitchell and The Body Shop. In 2000, I was pleased to help win enactment of the Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), and in 2016, to secure provisions in the reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act that set the stage for replacing the use of live animals in chemical testing, as well as appropriations over the past many years to provide increased resources to make this research possible.

Cosmetics tests on animals are not only unnecessary, and ineffective; they involve serious animal suffering. Animals used in these tests have substances forced down their throats, dripped into their eyes, or smeared onto their skin, and they are left to suffer for days or weeks without pain relief. Our thanks to Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.,  Tony  Cárdenas, D-Calif., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Ken Calvert, R-Calif., for introducing this important bill designed to bring our nation’s laws into alignment with the wishes of the majority of American consumers. For our part, we promise to push with all our might and passion to make this the Congress that ends the ugliness of cosmetics animal testing.

Please take a moment to reach out to your legislators and ask them to support this important bill!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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 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.

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.

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.

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