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Pets & Cruelty

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Steve King, down for the count?

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution of disapproval concerning Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for recent remarks in which he questioned the offensiveness of white supremacy and white nationalism. Yesterday, the House Republican Steering Committee unanimously voted to exclude Steve King from any positions on House committees in the new 116th Congress, kicking him off the Agriculture, Judiciary, and Small Business Committees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also issued a statement condemning King’s words.

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Larry French/AP Images for The HSUS

King’s comments to the New York Times are only the latest signals of his affinity for white nationalism. In 2017, King tweeted that America can’t restore “our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Last year, King defended his meeting with  a far-right Austrian political party with ties to Nazism, while on a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial group, and retweeted a post from British author and self-professed Nazi sympathizer Mark Collett.

Stripped of his committee assignments, King’s effectiveness as a lawmaker will further shrink. Nowhere will this be more apparent than on the House Agriculture Committee where—attempting to shape policy for an industry central to his home state’s economy—King has launched many of his attacks against animal protection over the years.

These multiple condemnations directly threaten King’s political future. Last week, Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra announced his intention to challenge King in the 2020 Republican primary, and Iowa’s Republican Governor, Kim Reynolds, stated that she will not support King in the race. King might not even make it to that election: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) are among the Republicans who have already called for his resignation.  

The hatefulness implicit in King’s commentary concerning white nationalism spills over into his visceral opposition to animal protection. He has consistently made himself an outlier by fighting animal protection proposals of all kinds in Congress.

A prime example is King’s opposition to restricting animal fighting. Last May, King voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill, which sought to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply in all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. This amendment passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51 and was enacted in December. In 2007, he voted against the Animal Fighting Enforcement Prohibition Act, which strengthened penalties for illegal animal fighting and made it a felony to transport animals across state lines for the purpose of fighting. In 2013, King tried unsuccessfully to block legislation that made it a crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight.

King is also responsible for one of the worst threats to animal protection and most egregious power grabs in U.S. history. Thankfully, Congress rejected twice—in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills—the King amendment that threatened to nullify countless state and local laws regarding animals and a range of other concerns including food safety and the environment.  

As if this weren’t enough, King also has a history of voting against wildlife and equines. He has repeatedly voted to promote the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in foreign countries even though 80 percent of the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. He’s voted for legislation that undermines the Endangered Species Act, removing critical protections for some of America’s most iconic and imperiled species, including grizzly bears and wolves. He also voted to restore extremely cruel and scientifically unjustified methods of trophy hunting on National Park and National Refuge lands in Alaska.

King’s great hostility toward our cause may stem from the same core lack of empathy and ethics that prompt him to embrace a racist ideology that has so bedeviled this nation throughout its history. For that and other reasons, we wholeheartedly applaud the Congress for its resounding rebuke of King’s bigotry and malice.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

116th Congress brings new hope, opportunities for animal protection

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

We are on Capitol Hill today for the swearing in of the 116th Congress, along with Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund colleagues. We’re meeting with members of Congress, old and new, and gearing up for a new session of pushing for the passage of federal legislation to protect animals.

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iStock Photo

Toward the end of the 115th Congress in 2018, we achieved a great deal, including the passage of the Farm Bill without the harmful King amendment and with three pro-animal measures. Our priorities this year cover a wide range of issues, including banning the private possession of big cats, the prevention of basic animal cruelty, an end to the shark fin trade in the United States, a full ban on the cruel practice of horse soring, a prohibition on the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the elimination of animal testing for cosmetics.

While some fear a gridlock this year because of a divided Congress, we do not. People on both sides of the political aisle care about helping animals,  and we are extremely hopeful about getting a great deal accomplished for animals this year, just as we did in past years.

 Here are some key measures we’ll be working on:

THE PREVENTING ANIMAL CRUELTY AND TORTURE (PACT) ACT:

All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, and federal law bans 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. PACT would strengthen that law by prohibiting extreme animal cruelty when it occurs in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. It would complement state cruelty laws and provide an additional enforcement tool against extreme cruelty on federal property or in commerce. In the 115th Congress, PACT passed the Senate by unanimous consent and the House bill had 284 cosponsors.

THE BIG CAT PUBLIC SAFETY ACT:

Tigers, lions and other big cats are kept in private possession all across the country in people’s backyards, basements and at unaccredited roadside zoos. There is no uniform regulation regarding the keeping of big cats and the issue has been largely left to state governments to regulate. Just this past weekend, a young woman was attacked and killed by a lion at a privately run wild animal menagerie in North Carolina. This bill would create a national framework for the keeping of dangerous wild animals in private possession, and prohibit public contact with certain species. It would also end future ownership of big cats by unqualified individuals and contain exemptions for individuals meeting specific requirements.

THE SHARK FIN SALES ELIMINATION ACT / SHARK FIN TRADE ELIMINATION ACT:

The global demand for shark fins is causing a worldwide decline in sharks; some populations have dropped by as much as 90 percent. Congress can help stem this crisis by prohibiting the import, export, possession, trade and distribution of shark fins and products containing shark fins. Such action would strengthen the existing U.S. ban on shark finning—the cruel and wasteful practice of cutting the fins off a live shark, then discarding the mutilated animal to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten alive by other animals. It would also take our nation out of the destructive transnational shark fin trade, and reinforce U.S. leadership in global shark conservation.

THE PREVENT ALL SORING TACTICS (PAST) ACT:

Congress passed the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to rein in the cruel practice of “soring," in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds. These trainers use caustic chemicals, chains, weights, sharp objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to produce an artificially high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. But rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General and by HSUS undercover investigations in 2011 and 2015. PAST would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and strengthen penalties.

THE PUPPY PROTECTION ACT and WELFARE OF OUR FRIENDS (WOOF) ACT:

Most Americans consider pets family members, but under current federal standards, breeding dogs can spend their entire lives in small, cramped wire cages without ever touching the ground or having enough space to run and play. In addition, there are deficiencies in Animal Welfare Act enforcement of commercial breeding facilities, and the USDA often renews facilities’ licenses year after year despite severe and multiple violations. The Puppy Protection Act would improve weak and outdated standards of care and the WOOF Act would prohibit the issuance or renewal of a license to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended, or to their immediate family members at the same address.

THE HUMANE COSMETICS ACT:

More than 1.7 billion consumers live in countries that have banned the manufacture and sale of cosmetics tested on animals, including European Union nations and India. These tests are not predictive of the human experience, are painful to animals, and are unnecessary – there are many alternative methods to ensure that products are safe for human use. Congress can help the United States remain a leader in the cosmetics industry by prohibiting the manufacture or sale of cosmetics tested on animals. The Humane Cosmetics Act would create a key incentive for cosmetics to be tested with cutting-edge technologies that are more humane, faster to perform and less costly to industry.

BANNING HORSE SLAUGHTER:

Horses have long been an integral part of American history, as loyal companions and comrades in battle, yet every year thousands are slaughtered for human consumption. Horses are shipped for long distances without food, water or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At slaughter plants, the methods used rarely result in quick, painless deaths. Congress should keep horse slaughter plants shuttered in the United States by prohibiting the slaughter of horses here and end the export of horses for slaughter.

THE ANIMAL EMERGENCY PLANNING ACT:

Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, preparing for disaster includes having a plan in place to safely evacuate animals from affected areas. This bill would require that entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (such as commercial animal dealers, exhibitors, research facilities and animal carriers) have contingency plans in place to safely evacuate and care for animals in an emergency or disaster situation.

We’re proud of the difference that our organizations make, but the truth is that none of this can be done without your support. When you respond to our calls to action, when you take steps to engage others, and when you make calls to or email your members of Congress to support animal protection issues, you make a real difference for animals. In the New Year, we look forward to your continued support, and we look forward to working with you.

***

Kitty Block is acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Farm Bill: Mission accomplished!

The 2018 Farm Bill has now been signed into law by President Trump—most importantly without the odious King amendment—which makes this a banner day for our animal protection work. Stopping Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from hooking his massive power grab—to nullify state and local laws addressing animal welfare concerns—onto the package has been our top priority. To succeed, we marshaled a broad-based coalition of more than 220 groups to oppose it. And that strategy worked. 

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Jean Chung/For HSI

We never doubted that the King amendment would fall out as long as we could shine enough light on just how overreaching it was, but we didn’t take it for granted. If you were one of the many supporters and advocates who took action on this, we thank you. There was a lot at stake, but you came through. And together, we’ve done the whole nation a favor, because King’s amendment would have threatened more than just measures passed in the states concerning confinement of farm animals, shark finning, puppy mills, horse slaughter, and the like. It would also have jeopardized state and local laws focused on a vast sweep of social concerns including food safety, child labor, opioids, pesticide exposure, fire-safe cigarettes, and more.

Since the Farm Bill functions as an omnibus vehicle, we also worked full-tilt to see three animal protection measures incorporated into the final version. Each had been the subject of free-standing legislation for which we advocated and helped build overwhelming bipartisan support via leadership and cosponsorships. For over a year we’ve been working behind the scenes to secure their inclusion. And that worked too.

One of the measures bans domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption, which was until now only illegal in six states. This legislation prevents any possibility that the dog and cat meat industry can take root in our nation, and it strengthens our standing to press other countries to end their dog and cat meat trade. This will reinforce the voice and the hand of our sister group, Humane Society International, and others working on this issue around the globe. Countries such as Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines have already enacted similar prohibitions, and earlier this year the U.S. House passed a landmark resolution urging other nations to do the same.

Another provision extends federal domestic violence protections to include pets at risk. Abusers often exploit their human victims’ attachment to their pets, and the animals become victims in their own right, along with the people trying to protect them. This measure builds on laws already enacted by 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico allowing the inclusion of pets in domestic violence protection orders, thereby ensuring protections throughout the country. It also authorizes grants to provide housing assistance for survivors with pets—a desperately needed resource as only 3 percent of domestic violence shelters currently accommodate pets or help arrange pet shelter. Again, we mobilized a broad consortium of domestic violence, law enforcement, veterinary, animal welfare organizations, and pet product companies in support of this legislation.

The third provision clarifies that our federal prohibitions on dogfighting and cockfighting apply across every jurisdiction, including in all U.S. territories. This marks the fourth consecutive Farm Bill in which we have strengthened the federal animal fighting law, which was first enacted in 1976. It will protect animals from vicious cruelty, communities from associated criminal activity such as drug trafficking and gangs, and the public and food supply from transmission of bird flu and other diseases.  

When you support the Humane Society Legislative Fund, you do so with the expectation that we’ll put ourselves right at the heart of the action on Capitol Hill, to secure the best possible outcomes for animals. Thanks to you, we’ve succeeded. You are the vaunted “army of the kind” that the legendary author and animal advocate Cleveland Amory called upon to protect and defend the voiceless. We’re grateful, and we’re going to enter the New Year with confidence and the good feeling that when we bring the right constituencies together, we can make really great things happen in our work.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Breaking News: the final Farm Bill has been released and it’s great news for animals!

Update December 12, 2018: Great news! The Farm Bill passed its key test today with flying colors. The House approved the package by a whopping bipartisan 369-47 vote. With yesterday’s 87-13 approval in the Senate, it now heads to President Trump. We call on him to swiftly sign the Farm Bill into law to put to rest the disastrous King amendment that could have gutted countless state and local laws protecting animals and consumers, and to enact three key animal protection provisions—PAWS to protect pets and families from domestic violence, PACE to strengthen animal fighting law, and the Dog and Cat Meat Trade ban.

Thanks again to the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), for putting together this package that garnered such strong bipartisan support! Praise also to the sponsors of the pro-animal measures, those who pressed to keep out the King amendment, all who voted for the package this week, House and Senate leadership for getting it done, and especially to all the people who contacted their legislators over the past many months to make the case for animals!

Update December 11, 2018: The Senate has approved the 2018 Farm Bill by a vote of 87-13! That means we are one step closer to stopping the King amendment and passing three critical pro-animal welfare bills into law—a truly historic moment for animals. We applaud the Senate for moving quickly to approve this solid package and urge the House to do the same.

For the last year and a half, we have worked hard for the inclusion of key protections for animals in the Farm Bill, and today the Senate and House Agriculture Committees released a final version that rewards our effort.

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Photo by iStock.com

Above all, because of our resistance, the package excludes the disastrous amendment tacked onto the House Farm Bill in committee by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). We marshaled opposition to the King amendment from a diverse coalition of more than 220 groups across the political spectrum, 119 Representatives led by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and 32 Senators led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The King Amendment threatened countless duly-enacted state and local laws, including laws addressing horse and dog meat, extreme confinement of farm animals, shark finning, and puppy mills, as well as a range of concerns such as food safety, child labor, opioids, pesticide exposure, fire-safe cigarettes, manure management, and handling of diseased livestock.

The legislation also includes language incorporating the content of three animal protection bills we’ve long supported:

  • Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act introduced by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.). The provision, championed by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in the Senate version of the Farm Bill will extend current federal domestic violence protections to include pets. It also authorizes grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (only three percent currently allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. The measure enjoyed the support of a broad network of domestic violence, law enforcement, veterinary, and animal welfare organizations.

  • Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act introduced by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Buchanan, Dave Trott (R-Mich.), and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). The provision, championed by Denham in the House bill and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) in the Senate bill, will prevent this appalling trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide. Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are the victims of this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars, and finally subjected to unspeakable abuse only to end up on someone’s dinner plate. 

  • Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Blumenauer, Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Steve Knight (R-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and Buchanan. The amendment clarifies the point that federal prohibitions against dogfighting and cockfighting activity apply to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories, and will protect animals from vicious cruelty, insulate communities against associated criminal activity such as drug trafficking and gang violence, and safeguard the public and food supply from disease transmission.

We commend Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for reaching this strong bipartisan agreement

We couldn’t have achieved these wins without the faithful efforts of thousands of advocates across the nation who called, emailed, and met with their legislators, wrote letters to the editor, and spread the word in their communities. But the fight isn’t over yet—now we need to do our best to get this bill across the finish line. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package soon and approval is far from guaranteed.  Please click here to contact your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators today to urge that they support the 2018 Farm Bill.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Stop the King of cruelty

You may have heard U.S. Representative Steve King’s (IA-4) controversial remarks regarding the way he views people. But you may not know he also has a long record of ambivalence and hostility toward animals and their protection. Whether it involves animal fighting, horse slaughter, or the infamous amendment in the House version of the Farm Bill that carries his name, he has consistently fought to prevent any advancement in commonsense animal protections supported by the vast majority of Americans. Today, HSLF launched a digital ad campaign highlighting his longstanding contempt for humane values, and specifically for his obstructionist stand against cracking down on animal fighting and the criminal element that accompanies it.

King’s record on animal fighting puts him right at the bottom of the barrel, as he has repeatedly opposed legislation that would restrict it, making him a part of an infamous minority in the U.S. Congress. Last May, King voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill that would clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply in all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. This measure would protect animals from senseless cruelty, communities from other criminal activity often linked to animal fighting, reduce public health threats from bird flu and other diseases, and enhance enforcement of the federal animal fighting law across the U.S. It passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51.

King’s upside down record on animal fighting goes back a long way. In 2007, he voted against the Animal Fighting Enforcement Prohibition Act, which strengthened penalties for illegal animal fighting and made it a felony to transport animals across state lines for the purpose of fighting. In 2013, King worked to block legislation that made it a crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight.

These measures had bipartisan support and passed by wide margins, but each time, King was at the front of the parade of those staking out the wrong side of the issue.

King is also responsible for one of the worst threats to animal protection at the federal level in recent history. In its various forms over the last few years his bill, also known as the King Amendment is simply fanatical. It’s a radical federal overreach that could undermine thousands of state and local laws, including ones addressing intensive confinement of farm animals, horse slaughter, puppy mills, and shark finning. But the measure doesn’t stop at animal welfare. It could nullify any measure affecting the production of agricultural products, including those regarding alcohol, child labor, fire-safe cigarettes, and dangerous pesticides.

During consideration of the current Farm Bill, King again made plain his willingness to threaten countless state laws that protect animals from abuse and consumers from unsafe foods through his amendment. We’ve been working as hard as we can to stave off his reckless and dangerous attacks.

As if his mischief around the Farm bill weren’t enough, Steve King also has a history of voting against wildlife and equines. He has repeatedly voted to support the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in foreign countries even though the 80% of the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. He voted for a bill that undermines the Endangered Species Act, removing critical protections for some of America’s most iconic and imperiled species, including grizzly bears and wolves. He also voted twice to restore scientifically unjustified methods of trophy hunting on federal land in Alaska.

All of this makes it pretty obvious why HSLF has proudly endorsed J.D. Scholten, a fifth generation Iowan and supporter of commonsense animal protection issues. If we want to end dogfighting and other extreme cruelties that cause animals so much suffering and misery, we must elect humane legislators. And there is no place where this need is more urgent in IA-4.  If you live in IA-4, please cast your ballot to say no to animal fighting, horse slaughter, and harming wildlife and say “YES” to a J.D. Scholten.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Are your lawmakers making the grade?

One of our core objectives is to make it simple and efficient for voters to determine how federal lawmakers have sided on crucial animal protection legislation across a range of issues. As the midterm elections approach, the Humane Society Legislative Fund has just released its preview version of the 2018 Humane Scorecard for the second session of the 115th Congress to provide voters with such a tool as they head to the polls. The Humane Scorecard is a snapshot of each federal legislator’s votes on key matters that affect the lives and well-being of animals, along with their efforts to help animals through cosponsorship of priority bills and support for adequate funding of animal welfare enforcement, as well as extra credit for pro-animal leadership. While the scorecard does not include every measure that relates to animals, it scores a cross section of key bills and votes on which HSLF has advocated and that significantly impact the state of animal welfare in America.

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iStock Photo

This Congress has presented core challenges for animals, including the seemingly endless attacks to weaken historically critical laws such as the Endangered Species Act. The Humane Society Legislative Fund has been fighting tirelessly to preserve existing animal welfare policies and work with members of Congress from both political parties to push new legislation.

We’ve chosen to highlight a few key votes from the Farm Bill because it comes up only every five or six years and contains important animal protection provisions. The final Farm Bill is not yet settled, so we are continuing to press for positive outcomes on a number of issues in the House and Senate versions. The highly controversial House bill includes good amendments to strengthen federal law on animal fighting and prohibit the dog and cat meat trade, but it also contains the egregious and overreaching “King amendment,” which threatens to nullify hundreds of state and local laws on animal welfare, food safety, environmental protection, and many other concerns related to agricultural products. The Senate approved a much friendlier Farm Bill, which omits the King amendment and  includes essential language to address domestic violence against pets, as well as a provision (similar to House language) to prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide.

For animal protection measures to advance, robust cosponsorship is vital. The more members of Congress publicly supporting 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. Animal protection issues have long been bipartisan and that trend continues in 2018, with every scored bill having strong leadership and support from both sides of the aisle.

The PAST Act to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring has 285 cosponsors in the House and 37 in the Senate, the PAWS domestic violence bill has 251 House and 41 Senate cosponsors, the PACT animal cruelty bill has 282 cosponsors in the House and passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, the SAFE horse slaughter bill has 219 House and 31 Senate cosponsors, the shark fin trade bill has 257 House and 40 Senate cosponsors, the cosmetics testing bill has 183 House cosponsors, and the WOOF puppy mill bill has 127 cosponsors in the House.

There is still time to encourage your federal legislators to cosponsor these important animal protection bills if they are not already on board, and to press them to do all they can to help get these reforms over the finish line in the coming months. 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 on 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; the more constituents your legislators hear from, the more likely they are to take action in support of animal protection.

Here are summaries of the bills whose cosponsors will count on the 2018 Humane Scorecard. Some bills may have counterparts in both the House and the Senate, while others may only be introduced in one chamber.

Horse soring – S. 2957 and H.R. 1847, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., Chris Collins, R-N.Y. and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. This bill will crack down on the cruel practice of “soring,” in which trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds to force them to perform an unnaturally high-stepping gait for competitions. Congress passed the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to end this abuse, but rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA inspector general and by HSUS undercover investigations in 2012 and 2015. The PAST Act will end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and make illegal the actual soring of a horse—all without any additional taxpayer burden.

Pets and domestic violence – S. 322 and H.R. 909, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Mimi Walters, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. This bill will expand current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorize grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets or arrange for pet shelter. Currently, only 3 percent of these shelters allow pets, and many people delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety (a legitimate concern considering that up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet). While 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have adopted similar legislation, the PAWS Act would ensure protection across the country.

Animal fighting – S. 2971 and H.R. 4202, the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Rick Nolan, D-Minn., Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Steve Knight, R-Calif., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and John Faso, R-N.Y. This bill will clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply equally to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. The PACE Act will protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gang violence, reduce public health threats from the transmission of bird flu and other diseases, and enhance enforcement of the federal animal fighting law across the U.S.

Horse slaughter – S. 1706 and H.R. 113, the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M. This bill will protect horses and consumers by prohibiting the transport and export of U.S. horses to slaughter for human consumption. American horses are not raised for food and are routinely given drugs that can be toxic to people if ingested. Horse slaughter is cruel, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for long distances and are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At the slaughter plant, the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horses; young and healthy horses are purchased, often by buyers misrepresenting their intentions, and killed for the overseas horsemeat market.

Shark fin trade – S. 793 and H.R. 1456, the Shark Fin Trade/Sales Elimination Act, introduced by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J. and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-N. Marianas. This bill will protect sharks from cruelty and preserve our oceans’ fragile ecosystems by strengthening federal law against finning, in which fishermen slice off sharks’ fins and toss the mutilated animals back into the ocean to die. This bill will prohibit the trade in shark fins, expanding on the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000 and the Shark Conservation Act of 2010 (laws that banned shark finning and the transportation on U.S.-flagged vessels of fins not “naturally attached to the corresponding carcass”).

Animal cruelty – H.R. 1494, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, introduced by Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and Ted Deutch, D-Fla. This bill will strengthen the 2010 federal “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 abuse. The PACT Act will prohibit those same acts of extreme animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals; this legislation will complement state anti-cruelty laws and provide an additional enforcement tool when extreme animal cruelty occurs on federal property or in interstate commerce (e.g., in the puppy mill trade or wildlife trafficking).

Animal testing for cosmetics – H.R. 2790, the Humane Cosmetics Act, introduced by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Ed Royce, R-Calif., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. This bill will phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the U.S. These tests performed on rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and mice are intensely cruel and unreliable predictors of effects on humans. Cosmetics companies can choose from thousands of ingredients already known to be safe for humans. For new ingredients, there are faster, less expensive non-animal methods available to ensure products are safe for human use. More than 1.8 billion consumers live in countries that have already adopted similar restrictions, and 250 personal care product companies support this legislation.

Puppy mills – H.R. 4691, the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act, introduced by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla. This bill will address significant deficiencies in USDA oversight of commercial dog breeding facilities. The USDA often allows breeders with severe and multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act to be licensed year after year and allows those whose licenses have been suspended or revoked to operate under a new license using a family member’s name. The WOOF Act will prohibit the agency from issuing licenses to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended or to their immediate family members at the same address.

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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

After tragic death of puppy in airplane’s overhead bin, House passes bill to ensure it never happens again

Update 10/3/2018: Today the Senate passed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by a vote of 93-6. The bill includes the same language that was approved by the House last week—prohibiting the storage of live animals in overhead compartments of airplanes and authorizing civil penalties for violators. Thank you to Senators John Kennedy, R-La, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., along with Reps. Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., for spearheading this critical language. The bill now goes to the president’s desk for a signature, so please join us in urging him to sign it quickly!

On March 12th, a family lost their beloved 10-month old French bulldog, Kokito, after being forced to stow him in the overhead compartment during a three-and-a-half hour United Airlines flight from Houston to New York. Kokito had been a birthday gift for 11-year-old Sophia Ceballos. Her mom, Catalina Robledo—who had paid the $200 fee to bring Kokito aboard with the family, including a newborn baby—protested when the flight attendant insisted that she put Kokito (in his carrier) in the compartment. Sophie recounted to CBS News how her mom had told the flight attendant, “‘It’s a dog, it’s a dog.’ He can’t breathe up there.’ And she said, ‘It doesn’t matter, it still goes up there.’” As the family sat in their seats, worrying, “they heard Kokito barking for two hours, then he stopped.” They wanted to check on him but couldn’t. “We tried, but there was a lot of turbulence. And we weren’t allowed to stand up,’ Sophie said.” When they landed, the heartbroken family and fellow passengers discovered that Kokito was dead.

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Photo by iStock.com

Short-nosed breeds like pugs and bulldogs are particularly vulnerable in such situations, as they often have difficulty breathing and cooling their bodies efficiently. But no live animal should be stowed this way. As reported by CBS News: “Retired airline captain Denny Kelly says the pitch-black overhead bin is dangerous for any live animal. ‘There is no circulation at all in there. They’re scared, their heart rate goes up and they use more oxygen. And there’s not enough oxygen in the first place, that just makes it worse.’”

United issued an apology and took responsibility for the tragedy, refunding the family’s tickets and $200 fee—which Sophia told NBC News wasn’t really the point. “She said they’re not after money as she recalled how her dog enjoyed running around and doing flips in the park. ‘We don’t want the same thing to happen (to other pet owners). If flight attendants tell you to put your pet (in an overhead compartment), don’t do it.” United announced that putting animals in an overhead compartment was already against company policy, and instituted a new system of issuing brightly colored tags to make animal carriers stand out for airline personnel. 

Thankfully, a bipartisan group of federal legislators decided not to leave it to chance, company policy, or mere common sense. They swiftly joined forces to ensure that no other beloved pet ever suffers the fate that Kokito did. On March 15th, Senators John Kennedy, R-La., and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., introduced the Welfare of Our Furry Friends (WOOFF) Act, S. 2556, and Representatives Dan Donovan, R-N.Y., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced the Planes Ensuring Total Safety (PETS) Act, H.R. 5315. Both bills directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue regulations within a year to prohibit the storage of live animals in overhead compartments of airplanes and to establish civil fines for violators. Sens. Kennedy and Cortez Masto then got WOOFF incorporated into the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill (S. 1405).

Last Friday, House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on a final FAA reauthorization package (H.R. 302), which includes an even stronger provision—making it immediately unlawful for anyone to place a live animal in an overhead storage compartment of an aircraft and authorizing the Administrator to impose a civil penalty for each violation.

The House has just passed this FAA bill by a vote of 398 to 23. It now heads to the Senate, which we hope will quickly follow suit and send it to the president’s desk for signature into law. We shouldn’t need a law to prevent such an obviously dangerous and cruel practice. But Kokito’s tragic story reminds us we can’t always count on common sense and basic compassion to protect animals. So we’re grateful to Sens. Kennedy and Cortez Masto and Reps. Donovan and Cohen for making sure that our beloved companions will be safer when they fly with us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Great day for animals on the Hill as three critical animal welfare measures pass the House

Today we made major strides in our fight to improve the lives of animals everywhere with the passage of three critical animal welfare measures in the U.S. House of Representatives. All three of the following passed the House by voice vote after strong bipartisan floor statements:

  • the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 6720) to keep this brutal industry from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in pressing other countries to outlaw it;
  • Res. 401, a global resolution urging other countries to prohibit and enforce laws to end their dog and cat meat trade;
  • and the Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act (H.R. 6197) to authorize U.S. State Department rewards to combat international wildlife trafficking.

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Jean Chung/For HSI

The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act (H.R. 6720) makes it illegal to knowingly slaughter, ship, transport, move, deliver, receive, possess, purchase, sell or donate a dog or cat or his or her parts for human consumption, and authorizes a fine of up to $5,000 for each violation. H. Res. 401 urges the governments of China, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, India, and other nations to adopt and enforce existing laws banning the dog and cat meat trade. 

Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are subjected to this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars as they are subjected to unspeakable abuse, only to end up on someone’s dinner plate.

Momentum is growing around the world to end the dog and cat meat trade. Humane Society International/Korea recently delivered 1 million signatures to end the dog meat industry to South Korean President Moon Jae-In. HSI has worked with South Korean dog meat farmers to help them transition to more humane livelihoods, closing 12 dog meat farms and bringing more than 1,300 dogs to Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States for adoption.

Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore have all outlawed the dog meat trade, and the government of Indonesia has pledged to do so; some of them have banned the cat meat trade as well. In a 2016 poll, more than 8.6 million Chinese expressed support for a proposal to ban trade in dog and cat meat, making it the most popular of 142 legislative proposals presented for online voting in China that year.

We are grateful to Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., for their leadership in persuading the U.S. House to pass legislation to end the dog and cat meat trade. Today’s action demonstrates the commitment of Congress to end this horrific trade once and for all.

With the House global resolution over the finish line now, we are urging the Senate to swiftly approve the common-sense domestic ban bill, which mirrors provisions the Senate already passed in July as part of its Farm Bill. (The precursor ban bill, H.R. 1406, was incorporated into the House Farm Bill, and has 245 cosponsors.)

In addition to these two successes in the fight against the dog and cat meat trade, the House today reaffirmed its commitment to crack down on wildlife trafficking by passing the Rescuing Animals with Rewards (RAWR) Act (H.R. 6197). This bill authorizes the U.S. State Department to use its successful rewards program to target wildlife traffickers.

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 provides an important additional tool to combat illegal wildlife trafficking on a global scale. We are thankful to Reps. Dan Donovan, R- N.Y., and Joaquin Castro, D- Tex., for leading the charge on the RAWR Act.

Today was a good day for animals. We are incredibly grateful to each and every one of you who reached out to your legislators to push for action on these issues and support for other pro-animal measures. Your voice really does make a difference. We hope you will continue to use it as we work to move the dog and cat meat and wildlife trafficking bills through the Senate and onto the president’s desk for signature soon.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Bipartisan approach yields results for animals in Senate farm bill vote

Today's blog is guest authored by the Humane Society Legislative Fund's new president, Sara Amundson.

By a vote of 86-11 last night, the Senate approved its bipartisan Farm Bill. Overall, it’s a much better package than what passed the House on June 21. For animals, the Senate bill contains two important measures and omits the worse provisions that could have been included. We are grateful for the leadership of Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Here’s a quick run-down of key points:   

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Jean Chung/For HSI

PRO-ANIMAL OUTCOMES

King Amendment – The Senate wisely opted not to include anything like the outrageous power grab that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tacked on the House Farm Bill to try to negate state and local laws regarding agriculture products. The King amendment—which is opposed by a diverse set of more than 220 groups from across the political spectrum—threatens to unwind countless duly-enacted measures to protect animals, consumers, and many other concerns, and it must be kept out of the final House/Senate Farm Bill.

Domestic Violence and Pets – At the behest of Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who sponsored the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, S. 322, this essential language to protect pets and families was folded into the initial Farm Bill that Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow brought to committee a few weeks ago. It will extend current federal domestic violence protections to include pets and authorize grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (only 3 percent currently allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. Many delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, a legitimate fear considering up to 84 percent of women entering shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet. The PAWS provision is not in the House Farm Bill, so we’ll need to work hard with a broad coalition of supporters to ensure it is in the final package.

Dog and Cat Meat – Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) successfully appealed yesterday to Chairman Roberts and Sen. Stabenow to add their amendment to prohibit domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. It’s based on the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, H.R. 1406, which Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Dave Trott (R-Mich.), and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) introduced and Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) got into the House Farm Bill during committee markup. The House and Senate provisions will prevent this appalling trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide. Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are subjected to this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars as they are subjected to unspeakable abuse to end up on someone’s dinner plate. 

Dodged Bullets – In addition to keeping out anything like Steve King’s amendment, the Senate did not incorporate many harmful amendments that were filed, including:

  • Animal Welfare Inspections at Research Facilities – Senator Marco Rubio tried to eliminate the Animal Welfare Act’s modest requirement for annual inspections of animal laboratories and weaken enforcement, despite recurring problems cited by USDA’s Inspector General.
  • ESA Attacks – Several amendments to weaken Endangered Species Act protections were left out of the package, including amendments targeting prairie dogs, bald eagles, and sage grouse, and the “SAVES” Act  (S. 2778) offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing any foreign species as threatened or endangered under the ESA, which could allow invasive experiments on chimpanzees to resume and open the door to interstate commerce of elephant ivory.
  • Truck Driver Rest/Livestock – Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) tried to drastically expand already excessively long truck driving shifts, which would increase the risk of crashes that endanger everyone on the road and animals being hauled.

MAJOR MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

We are very disappointed that the Senate Farm Bill does not include two priority measures:

Checkoff – By a vote of 38-57, the Senate rejected the reasonable amendment offered by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to correct abuses by commodity checkoff programs such as those for beef, pork, and eggs. Based on the Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, S. 741/H.R. 1753, the amendment would bring greater transparency and accountability and prevent checkoff dollars from being misused to lobby against animal welfare reforms and family farmer interests. It has strong support by more than 100 organizations representing over 250,000 family farmers and ranchers and many other interests, including the Heritage Foundation, National Farmers Union, R Street, Organization for Competitive Markets, Family Farm Action, National Taxpayers Union, American Grass-fed Association, National Dairy Producers Organization, and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Animal Fighting – The Senate failed to consider a bipartisan amendment led by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and cosponsored by Sens. Booker, Heller, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting activity “in or affecting interstate commerce” are to be consistently applied in all U.S. jurisdictions including the U.S. territories. Mirroring the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, S. 2971/H.R. 4202, this amendment would protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gangs, protect public health and the food supply from bird flu and other disease transmission, and enhance enforcement of federal animal fighting law across the country. Fortunately, an identical amendment was incorporated into the House Farm Bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51, so we will push for it to be sustained in the final House/Senate bill.

It’s hard to know how quickly things may move to the next stage, since the House and Senate are far apart on key controversies such as reforms to nutrition assistance programs. But with your help, we’ll be ready, and will redouble our efforts to ensure that Congress enacts a Farm Bill containing the best of both from the Senate and House versions—keeping the King amendment and other harmful provisions out and including the pro-animal provisions on pets/domestic violence, dog and cat meat, and animal fighting.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The King amendment is dead—for now—with House failure of Farm Bill

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to kill the highly controversial Farm Bill. Although it contained some positive provisions for animals, on balance we called for the bill’s defeat because it contained an extremely sweeping and harmful provision—the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act” (H.R. 4879) inserted in committee by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). This radical federal overreach could nullify hundreds of state and local laws pertaining to agriculture products, including laws to restrict farm animal confinement, ban the slaughter of horses, and crack down on  puppy mills. A wide range of other concerns could be affected too, in such domains as food safety, environmental protection, promotion of local agriculture, and labor standards. Finally, the King legislation is a sweeping and radical attack on states’ rights and local decision-making authority. For these reasons, more than 200 organizations from across the political spectrum have gone on the record to oppose it, as did a bipartisan set of 119 Representatives led by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).

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Photo courtesy of iStock.com

Although the Farm Bill posed a major threat due to the King amendment, we were very pleased that the bill contained an amendment offered in committee by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) to ban the slaughter, trade, import, and export of dogs and cats for human consumption. While uncommon in this country, the practice does occur and only six states have laws against it. It is important for Congress to retain this provision in subsequent action on the Farm Bill, to prevent this appalling dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide.

Additionally, Congress should retain an amendment that passed today on the House floor by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51 to strengthen federal law on animal fighting. This amendment, sponsored by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Blumenauer, John Faso (R-N.Y.), and Steve Knight (R-Calif.), clarifies that federal prohibitions against dogfighting and cockfighting activity apply to all U.S. jurisdictions, including the U.S. territories. The amendment will protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gangs, protect public health and the food supply from bird flu and other disease transmission, and enhance enforcement of federal animal fighting law across the U.S. It mirrors the bipartisan Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, H.R. 4202. Forcing animals to fight to the death just for entertainment and gambling should be illegal no matter where it occurs.

Finally, we’re disappointed that House leadership denied votes on other critical animal protection measures. The House Rules Committee blocked consideration of an amendment by Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) to crack down on cruel and illegal “soring” of show horses. The amendment would have helped bring an end to the cruel practice of soring Tennessee walking horses and related breeds by directing USDA to fix its weak regulations that have allowed the problem to persist for decades. It mirrors the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1847, which has 281 cosponsors; but even with nearly two-thirds of House members cosponsoring the bill it was denied an up-or-down vote. Another amendment dealing with transparency and accountability requirements for agricultural commodity checkoff programs was withdrawn.

We thank everyone around the country who weighed in with their members of Congress to keep anti-animal welfare language out of the Farm Bill and to include critical animal protection provisions. As the House turns back to putting together a Farm Bill with stronger bipartisan support, we urge legislators to remove the intensely controversial King language and, as in past Farm Bills, include advances for animals such as the already approved provisions on animal fighting and the dog and cat meat trade as well as others.

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