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Pets & Cruelty

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

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

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Image courtesy of iStock.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

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

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

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Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

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

PREVENTING ANIMAL CRUELTY

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

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

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

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

ANIMAL AND PUBLIC SAFETY

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

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

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

ENDING SLAUGHTER OF WILDLIFE

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Update: Trump signs omnibus funding package with wins for horses and burros, companion animals, animals in research and more

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

President Trump has signed into law the omnibus appropriations package with major victories for animals, including horses and burros, companion animals, marine mammals and animals in zoos and research facilities.

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Michelle Riley/The HSUS

The package, comprised of two bills (H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158) funding all federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2020, was passed by the House on Tuesday with bipartisan votes of 297-120 and 280-138, respectively, followed by Senate votes of 71-23 and 81-11 yesterday.

The wins for animals in the package include:

  • Wild horses and burros: The funding package provides an additional $21 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program—funds that can only be accessed after the agency submits a comprehensive plan on how it will implement an aggressive, non-lethal program. The program must be based on scientifically sound, safe and humane fertility control tools that exclude surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation of wild horses and burros to larger, more humane pastures instead of perpetually warehousing these animals in holding pens. Additionally, the bill prohibits the BLM and, for the first time ever, also the U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending healthy horses or burros to slaughter.
  • Wildlife trafficking whistleblowers: The package includes the Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act, which authorizes the State Department to award monetary incentives to persons who disclose original information concerning transnational wildlife crimes that result in a successful enforcement action.
  • USDA inspection and enforcement records: Language in the omnibus directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act in their entirety without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos and other businesses cited for violations. This is the first time Congress has included bill language (rather than report language) to fix this problem, and the USDA will have no choice but to follow this directive.
  • Companion animals in domestic violence situations: The package provides $2 million for a new grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. The grant program will help provide emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. House committee report language directs the USDA, and the Departments of Health and Human Services as well as Housing and Urban Development to coordinate implementation during FY20 (House and Senate committee report language not explicitly reversed is deemed agreed to by both chambers in the omnibus).
  • Horse slaughter: Prohibits USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • Animal Welfare Act enforcement: The House committee report calls on the USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices that the agency has promoted during the past few years. The omnibus includes $31,310,000 for Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement.
  • Horse soring: Provides $1 million (a $295,000 increase) for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.
  • Alternatives to animal research/testing: Provides a $40 million increase to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is charged with making direct applications of non-animal alternatives for research and regulatory needs by federal agencies. The additional funds will help speed the transition to non-animal methods.
  • Trafficking of companion animals for research and testing: Renews the prohibition against USDA using funds to license Class B random source dealers who are notorious for trafficking in dogs and cats obtained through theft for research and testing.
  • Use of primates in research: Omnibus report language directs the National Institutes of Health to report to Congress on alternatives to reduce and replace primates in biomedical research.
  • USDA enforcement: House committee report presses the USDA Inspector General to strengthen its animal fighting enforcement and to audit USDA’s enforcement of the AWA, HPA, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Humane slaughter of farm animals: Renews bill and report language directing USDA to ensure that inspectors focus attention on compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive at slaughter plants and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas, and that all inspectors receive robust training.
  • Pet food safety: Provides $500,000 for the Food and Drug Administration to address pentobarbital contamination in pet food, which has caused illness and death in pets.
  • Disaster planning: Continues funding for the USDA to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to support state and local governments’ efforts to plan for protection of people with animals and incorporate lessons learned from previous disasters. Directs the USDA to work with producers that want to voluntarily develop disaster plans to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
  • Vet care: Provides $8,000,000 for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment program that encourages veterinarians to locate in underserved rural or urban areas.
  • Wildlife protection funding: Maintains level funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs that protect species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Provides an increase of almost 30% from FY19 for the internationally focused Multinational Species Conservation Fund. The omnibus also rejects a proposed cut to the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Program, maintaining funding for its grants supporting proactive, non-lethal measures by livestock producers to reduce the risk of livestock loss by wolves, and to compensate producers for livestock losses caused by wolves.
  • Marine mammals: Provides $3 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for North Atlantic right whale conservation, with $1 million specifically reserved for a pilot project for research and development of safer fishing gear to lessen entanglements with these critically endangered whales. Also maintains funding of the Marine Mammal Commission—a key independent federal agency tasked with addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems—overcoming its proposed elimination in the President’s budget.
  • Trophy imports: Directs the USFWS to reevaluate its current policy allowing imports of hunting trophies on a case-by-case basis and analyze how targeted investments and technical assistance to the exporting countries' conservation programs would impact the survival of elephants and lions, improve local communities, and sustain species’ populations. The omnibus expresses concern that the current trophy import policy is detrimental and may not adequately determine whether a country has proper safeguards in place to protect species vulnerable to poaching.
  • Wildlife trafficking: Dedicates funds under the State Department and the Department of the Interior to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. Prohibits use of State Department funds by any military units or personnel credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking.

We are grateful to the many congressional champions of these provisions with whom we worked over the past year, to House and Senate leadership for keeping the process on track, and to all the legislators who voted for these measures. We also thank President Trump for signing both appropriations bills, helping us create a brighter future for animals in 2020 and beyond.

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

Cockfighting ban in U.S. territories takes effect tomorrow, despite resistance in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Tomorrow, a hard-won federal law goes into effect to close a loophole that allowed cockfighters to continue operating in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We’ve strongly supported this law because it seeks to end a cruel practice that results in severe suffering and death for countless birds each year.

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Photo by Heather Severt/the HSUS

Regrettably, however, cockfighters and their associated lobbies in the territories have been putting up resistance and seeking to undermine it. Puerto Rico, for instance, has passed a law that aims to keep cockfighting alive there. But the federal law has already been challenged by cockfighters, and they have lost. In late October a federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico found that Congress was well within its power to clarify that the existing federal ban on cockfighting in the U.S. states applies equally to the U.S. territories.

Our hope is that lawmakers in the affected territories will respond in the way that governors of U.S. states and other jurisdictions have done in the past when such cruelties have come within the scope of law enforcement in an increasingly humane society. They ought to be thinking ahead to ways to lay the groundwork for the implementation and respect of such statutes.

All too often, those who are involved in this blood sport, anywhere in the world, claim cockfighting as a tradition and a culture. But tradition and culture are not a defense for animal cruelty. Cockfighting pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment. The birds suffer terribly: they are often drugged to heighten their aggression and razor-sharp weapons are attached to their legs for the fight. Common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes. Dead and dying birds are thrown away like trash. And that’s simply not right.

That’s why the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act was introduced in Congress in 2017—and that’s why we’ve supported it in every way.

Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States fought hard for this legislation because there shouldn’t be one set of rules against animal fighting in 50 states and another set for the U.S. territories. We worked with the bill’s many champions in Congress to get it enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support.

What makes such a law even more necessary is the fact that animal fighting is often associated with other criminal activity, including gangs, gambling, drug trafficking, illegal weapons dealing, public corruption, and violent crimes against people. It also endangers public health; cockfighting has been directly implicated in the spread of bird flu and other diseases that have caused human deaths and cost taxpayers and the poultry industry millions of dollars.

We look forward to PACE taking effect tomorrow. The HSUS, with other animal organizations, is active in the U.S. territories and elsewhere in the world, helping to strengthen the human-animal bond and to build out a culture of petkeeping and kindness to animals. We are very committed to the spread of humane values throughout the United States and its territories, and, indeed, throughout the world. That’s our mission and that’s our standard that we’ll assert and defend in the years to come.

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: CDC ties Petland to outbreaks of superbug illnesses in 13 states

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Petland is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons, this time in connection with a multistate outbreak of a superbug that has sickened 30 people in 13 states.

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Photo by the HSUS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that four people have been hospitalized after being infected with a strain of the campylobacter bacterium that’s resistant to multiple drugs. "Many of the cases had contact with puppies or were employees at pet stores, including Petland," the CDC concluded, after its investigations linked 12 of those sickened with the national pet store chain that still sells dogs sourced from puppy mills. Five of the affected individuals were Petland employees.

The Humane Society of the United States has turned a red-hot spotlight on Petland’s substandard procedures and deficient animal welfare practices with undercover investigations at eight of its stores over the past two years, and as saddening as the news today from the CDC is, we are not surprised. Petland has been endangering the health of its employees and its consumers for years now. In previous years, the CDC has linked more than 118 cases of human campylobacter bacterial infections to contact with Petland puppies, which resulted in a number of people being hospitalized. Our investigations have repeatedly shown that despite these reported outbreaks, Petland has refused to take adequate proactive steps to prevent such outbreaks. 

  • During our last investigation, at the Petland in Florence, Kentucky, a store manager admitted on hidden camera that the store doesn’t test puppies with diarrhea for the disease because "they all have it."
  • Jasper, a puppy we bought at the store as part of our investigation had been sick for weeks with bloody diarrhea and had a poor appetite, but it appears the store never even took him to a veterinarian for his illness. After we acquired Jasper and took him to a veterinarian, he tested positive for campylobacter. Fortunately, Jasper did not seem to have the drug-resistant strain, and recovered after finally receiving much-needed care. A Petland manager who talked to our secret shopper during Jasper’s sale emphatically stated Jasper did not have campylobacter after our shopper saw him with diarrhea. The manager claimed his stool had been tested, but when we called both Petland and the store’s veterinarian, they did not provide any proof that Jasper was ever tested.
  • Records we obtained from the Kentucky Department for Public Health showed that at least six people became ill with campylobacter this year alone after touching or buying puppies at the Florence store; at least two of the victims were hospitalized.
  • Our investigations of both the Frisco, Texas, and Florence, Kentucky Petland stores this year ended promptly when our undercover investigators at both stores were diagnosed with campylobacter after going to urgent care clinics for persistent flu-like symptoms. Fortunately, neither investigator seemed to have the drug-resistant strain of campylobacter, and they both responded to medical treatment.
  • Our investigation at a Novi, Michigan, Petland store found that customers regularly called with complaints about sick puppies they had purchased. A staff member at the store revealed that she had contracted campylobacter and had been hospitalized for four days. The store was sued this year for the third time in recent years after a customer in the Novi store became ill with the drug-resistant strain of campylobacter; he too was hospitalized. 
  • CDC recommends diligently testing any animals with symptoms for campylobacter, but as our investigators uncovered, Petland was not doing that. At best, stores routinely had low-level employees dose sick dogs with antibiotics instead of having them (or even a stool sample) taken to a vet.

One of the reasons we also see so many campylobacter outbreaks at Petland is because the chain continues to source animals from puppy mills, which do not provide adequate professional medical care or sanitation to their animals. Dogs shipped to pet stores from dozens of different breeders are intermingled during transport in such a way that the CDC has had great difficulty tracing the original source of the outbreak, making future cases of illness almost a certainty. On the other hand, Petland spends a vast amount of its resources each year fighting commonsense laws to protect animals in puppy mills.  

No business should be allowed to put its bottomline above the health of its customers and employees, and the animals in its possession. With more and more localities banning the sales of dogs from puppy mills in pet stores, and with these continued outbreaks of diseases, the writing is on the wall for pet stores like Petland which, in their own way, perpetuate the miseries caused by puppy mills.

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Urgent alert: Help us stop the USDA's latest attempt to protect puppy millers, horse sorers

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Recently, in a shocking move, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plans to continue to conceal crucial animal welfare records from public view, including inspection reports and enforcement records of puppy mills, roadside zoos, and horse shows where Tennessee walking horses and related breeds are vulnerable to soring. This is a blatant attempt to keep Americans in the dark about how a taxpayer-funded agency is enforcing animal welfare laws, and we urgently need your help to stop it.

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Photo by Meredith Lee/The HSUS

With this proposal, published at the end of October in the Federal Register, the USDA is trying to completely normalize its purge in January 2017 of substantive Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act records from its website. It’s a disservice to the American public and an action meant to let regulated industries and interests carry on without oversight or accountability.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund have been fighting a hot war against this lack of transparency within our federal agencies for the last several years because we believe that there ought to be an unambiguous standard when it comes to our government’s commitment to animal welfare. This is one of the most important fights of this kind--to preserve the American public’s right to know how enterprises that keep or use animals are treating them--for many reasons. For instance, recent outbreaks of diseases such as drug-resistant campylobacter infections and brucellosis have been linked to USDA-licensed puppy mills, and the public has a right to know what, if anything, the agency is doing to make sure that animals are cared for in clean and healthy environments.

The institutions, industries and operations now regulated by the USDA are commercial entities that sell or use animals, not individuals who keep animals for their own private companionship. Over the years, access to the USDA's inspection and enforcement records has made it possible for us and others to track the rigor of the government’s efforts to regulate such stakeholders, and in some cases, to use that information to advance or to publicize compelling animal welfare concerns. Were this misconceived proposal to go into effect, our government would give puppy millers, horse sorers, laboratory managers, roadside zoo operators and other entities a free hand to conduct their affairs with no fear of public scrutiny.

We cannot let this happen. So far, more than 5,000 people have commented on this regulatory change, almost all in opposition to it. But in order to win this fight, we need more people to weigh in before the Dec. 26 deadline. Please leave your comment at this link, and let the USDA know quickly that you do not approve of this regulatory change that blocks public online access to key animal welfare records. The American people needs full searchable access to this data to ensure government transparency and proper enforcement of the AWA and HPA—laws that are intended to protect animals and the public.

Please use or personalize this message:

I am writing to oppose the USDA’s decision to further hide crucial Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA) records from the public. USDA should reinstate its public, searchable database for all AWA and HPA inspection reports and enforcement records including warning letters, administrative complaints, stipulations, settlement agreements and court orders, consistent with USDA’s practice of many years prior to 2017.

Full access to this data is crucial to ensure government transparency and proper enforcement of the AWA and HPA, laws which are intended to protect animals and the public. The parties regulated under these laws are not private individuals, but commercial entities acting as businesses, so the personal privacy concerns cited by USDA when removing the records from its site are invalid.

Moreover, the public has a vital interest in the information. Inspection and enforcement records allow, for example, a consumer to check if a puppy breeder is complying with the AWA to ensure the animals are being treated adequately and to prevent the spread of disease. Providing consumers access to this information encourages regulated entities to comply with the law. These records are also needed to determine whether USDA is doing its job under the AWA and HPA. Rather than protecting commercial entities by concealing their bad behavior from the public, USDA should focus on the legitimate public interests in government transparency, animal welfare, and public health and safety.

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

Monday, December 16, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: Congress has reached a deal to fund the government and it’s good news for animals!

There are various approaches the HSLF team uses to bring about changes for animals, and one of our best tools is to pursue bill and report language in the annual appropriations bills that Congress must enact each year to fund the federal government and its agencies. We’ve been hard at work on this all year long—and it paid off in significant wins. We are thrilled to report that the U.S. House and Senate have struck a deal on a Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations package (known as an “omnibus”), which impacts our companion animals, wildlife, wild horses and burros, marine mammals, and animals in zoos and research facilities. Here are some highlights in the package:

Capitol
iStock Photo

  • Wild horses and burros—Provides an additional $21 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, funds that can only be accessed after the agency submits a comprehensive plan on how it will implement an aggressive, non-lethal program. The program must be based on scientifically-sound, safe and humane fertility control tools excluding surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation of wild horses and burros to larger, more humane pastures instead of perpetually warehousing these animals in holding pens. Additionally, the bill prohibits the BLM and, for the first time ever, also the U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending to slaughter healthy horses or burros.
  • Wildlife trafficking whistleblowers—Includes the Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act, which authorizes the State Department to award monetary incentives to persons who disclose original information concerning transnational wildlife crimes that result in a successful enforcement action.
  • USDA data purge—Directs USDA to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA), in their entirety without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other businesses cited for violations. This is the first time Congress has included bill language (rather than report language) to fix this problem, and USDA will have no choice but to follow this directive.
  • PAWS—Provides $2 million for a new grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to help provide emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. House committee report language directs the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development to coordinate implementation during FY20 (House and Senate committee report language not explicitly reversed is deemed agreed to by both chambers in the omnibus).
  • Horse slaughter—Prohibits USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • AWA enforcement—House committee report calls on USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices that the agency has promoted during the past few years. The omnibus includes $31,310,000 for Animal Welfare Act enforcement.
  • Horse soring—Provides $1 million (a $295,000 increase) for USDA enforcement of the HPA, to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.
  • Class B random source dealers—Renews the prohibition against USDA using funds to license these dealers who are notorious for trafficking in dogs and cats obtained through theft for research and testing.
  • Use of primates in research—Omnibus report language directs the National Institutes of Health to report to Congress on alternatives to reduce and replace primates in biomedical research.
  • USDA Inspector General—House committee report presses this office to strengthen its animal fighting enforcement and to audit USDA’s enforcement of the AWA, HPA, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Humane slaughter—Renews bill and report language directing USDA to ensure that inspectors focus attention on compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive at slaughter plants and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas, and that all inspectors receive robust training.
  • Pet food safety—Provides $500,000 for the Food and Drug Administration to address pentobarbital contamination in pet food, which has caused illness and death in pets.
  • Disaster planning—Continues funding for USDA to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to support state and local governments’ efforts to plan for protection of people with animals and incorporate lessons learned from previous disasters. Directs USDA to work with producers that want to voluntarily develop disaster plans to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
  • Vet care—Provides $8,000,000 for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment program that encourages veterinarians to locate in underserved rural or urban areas.
  • Wildlife protection funding—Maintains level funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs that protect species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Provides an increase of almost 30% from FY19 for the internationally focused Multinational Species Conservation Fund. The omnibus also rejects a proposed cut to the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Program, maintaining funding for its grants supporting proactive, non-lethal measures by livestock producers to reduce the risk of livestock loss by wolves, and to compensate producers for livestock losses caused by wolves.
  • Marine mammals—Provides $3 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for North Atlantic right whale conservation, with $1 million specifically reserved for a pilot project for research and development of safer fishing gear to lessen entanglements with these critically endangered whales. Also maintains funding of the Marine Mammal Commission—a key independent federal agency tasked with addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems—overcoming its proposed elimination in the President’s budget.
  • Trophy imports—Directs the USFWS to reevaluate its current policy allowing imports of hunting trophies on a case-by-case basis and analyze how targeted investments and technical assistance to the exporting countries' conservation programs would impact the survival of elephants and lions, improve local communities, and sustain species’ populations. The omnibus expresses concern that the current trophy import policy is detrimental and may not adequately determine whether a country has proper safeguards in place to protect species vulnerable to poaching.
  • Wildlife trafficking—Dedicates funds under the State Department and the Department of the Interior to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. Prohibits use of State Department funds by any military units or personnel credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking. 

These victories are the product of months of effort, as we worked with Appropriations Committee leaders in the House and Senate and mobilized constituent support and strong bipartisan engagement for them. The package demonstrates again how animal protection transcends party lines and reflects core American values. We are hopeful that the House and Senate will swiftly approve this package and President Trump will sign it into law before Friday’s deadline, to bring all these accomplishments over the finish line.

Friday, December 13, 2019

HSLF and HSUS deliver big wins for animals in 2019: Our banner year in the nation's capital

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Given the highly polarized atmosphere in Washington, DC, these days, our crucial bipartisan wins for animals in 2019 give great cause for celebration. Thanks to the support and engagement of countless Americans, we hit our marks this year. We succeeded in getting one of our highest priorities, a landmark federal anti-cruelty bill, signed into law. And that’s not all. Read on to learn about some of the other achievements you helped to make possible.

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Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

Animal Cruelty

The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, P.L. 116-72, enacted on November 25 following unanimous approval in the Senate and House, strengthens the 2010 federal animal "crush video" law by banning extreme animal cruelty in or affecting interstate commerce regardless of whether a video was produced.

Horse Soring

The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, won a sweeping bipartisan vote of 333-96 in the House in July, and S. 1007, the identical companion bill, counts half the Senate as cosponsors. The PAST Act cracks down on the cruel practice of "soring" Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.

Wildlife Protection

With our urging, Congress moved forward on measures to address some of the most urgent threats to the world’s iconic and at-risk wild species, including:

  • Wildlife trafficking—The Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, H.R. 97/S. 1590, passed both the House and Senate. It authorizes the U.S. Department of State to target wildlife traffickers globally and combat international crime networks, including terrorist organizations. We hope to see the President sign this bill into law soon.
  • Sharks—The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, H.R. 737/S. 877, passed the House by a resounding 310-107 vote in November, having cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in April. It prohibits the commercial trade in this country of shark fins and products containing shark fins, thereby reducing global demand for shark fins, helping reduce cruel finning and protecting ocean ecosystems.
  • WhalesThe Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) North Atlantic Right Whales Act, H.R. 1568/S. 2453, won approval by the House Natural Resources Committee in October and the Senate Commerce Committee in November. With no more than 400 North Atlantic right whales surviving, this bill provides vital federal funding for research to develop, test and use innovative technologies and other strategies to reduce the two main threats to the species: entanglements in fishing gear and vessel collisions.
  • Big cats—The Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 1380/S. 2561, received House Natural Resources Committee approval in September. It reduces the number of captive tigers, lions, cougars, and other big cats living in substandard conditions and protects public safety by banning public contact activities—such as “cub petting” and photo ops—and by prohibiting possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license.
  • Trophy imports—The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, H.R. 2245, passed the House Natural Resources Committee in September. This bill substantially restricts the import and hunting of any species listed or proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Appropriations

We brought home some big victories for animals in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 omnibus bill signed into law in February, and within the House and/or Senate FY20 Appropriations bills, including:

  • PAWS—The Senate bill provides $3 million for a grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to support emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. The House bill provides $2 million for these grants and includes language directing relevant federal agencies to coordinate implementation during FY20.
  • Horse slaughter—The House and Senate bills both prohibit USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • USDA data purge—The House bill directs USDA to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA), in their entirety without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other businesses cited for violations.
  • AWA enforcement—The House committee report calls on USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices adopted by the agency in recent years.
  • Wild horses and burros—The House bill provides $6 million for a non-lethal pilot program using scientifically-based safe and humane fertility control tools excluding surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation to larger, more humane pasture facilities instead of perpetual warehousing in holding pens. The Senate bill provides $35 million to expand these humane and non-lethal management strategies to all wild horses and burros in the Bureau of Land Management’s care, and both the House and Senate bills prohibit the BLM and U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending to slaughter healthy wild horses or burros.
  • Animal testing alternatives—The House bill provides $39.4 million more than the President proposed for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Computational Toxicology Program and Endocrine Disruptor Program, which develop replacements for animal tests.

We also delivered big results on the regulatory front, including:

Animal Testing

In September, the EPA announced that it plans to phase out and end all animal testing on mammals for chemicals and pesticides. Instead, the agency will focus on non-animal alternative technologies that are faster, more reliable and do not cause suffering. The agency plans to substantially reduce animal tests, including those it commissions in-house, as well as those that it requires businesses to conduct, by 2025, and to end them altogether by 2035.

Wild Horses

In March, the BLM agreed to return to a 2014 policy that allows individuals and organizations to buy only four wild horses over a six-month period, a necessary safeguard to ensure wild horses and burros aren’t bought by kill buyers who will send them to slaughter. Last year, the administration had put in place a new sales policy that allowed 25 horses to be purchased at a time, with no time limit between the purchases.

Licensing Requirements for the Animal Welfare Act

In March, USDA proposed a rule regarding much-needed changes to AWA licensing procedures. The rule includes a number of positive regulatory changes, such as requiring that licensees demonstrate compliance with the AWA regulations before being issued a license or a renewal, and requiring that dog breeding facilities provide continuous access to water, annual veterinary checks, and immunizations for diseases.

Relocation of Wolves to Isle Royale National Park

In March of 2018, the National Park Service announced its decision to augment the dwindling Isle Royale, Michigan wolf population with 20-30 animals within three years, as it was crucial for genetic diversity and ecological stability of this National Park. Currently, there are 17 wolves in the park, up from 2 when the relocation effort began.

When you sign on as a supporter of the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, it’s because you want to see the passage and implementation of positive protection measures for animals, prohibitions against cruelty across the range of issues, and legislative and regulatory action that makes both our nation and our planet much, much better for animals. We’re gearing up big-time for 2020, and we’re going to bring fight, poise, and will to the ambitious agenda we’ve set for ourselves. We work hard for animals, but we’re also working hard for you, our donors and supporters, and we never forget the simple fact that none of this would be possible without your support. We’re counting on you to stay with us in the fight for ALL animals in 2020.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and President of Humane Society International, the international affiliate of the HSUS.

Monday, November 25, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: President Trump signs PACT Act; law will crack down on some of the worst animal cruelty crimes

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Starting today, those who commit the most extreme acts of cruelty against animals will face severe federal penalties.

Pact-act
At the White House for the bill signing, from left,
Anna Marie Malloy, Kitty Block, Sara Amundson,
and Tracie Letterman.

President Trump has just signed into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act that authorizes the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute malicious animal cruelty, including crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating and impaling live animals, and other abuses such as sexually exploiting them. Under PACT, prosecutors will be able to bring federal felony charges when these acts occur within federal jurisdiction (including on federal property), or when animals are moved across state lines, or the internet is used as part of a criminal enterprise.

This is a day we—and you—have long worked for, and we were honored today to attend the bill signing ceremony at the White House with our colleagues Tracie Letterman and Anna Marie Malloy.

Animal cruelty is a felony in all 50 states because of laws we fought hard to put in place. In 2010, Congress passed the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which banned the creation, sale and distribution of obscene videos depicting extreme acts of animal cruelty. But as our Animal Protection Litigation team discovered, the law had a glaring loophole—federal law enforcement could not take legal action if the animal cruelty occurred within federal jurisdiction, unless a video was produced.

After that law passed, HSUS attorneys and HSLF legislative staff worked with members of Congress to lay the groundwork for the introduction and passage of the PACT Act. Now, as a result of this law, federal law enforcement and prosecutors will have recourse when the crimes occur on federal property, such as national parks or federal prisons, or in interstate commerce, regardless of whether a video was produced.

We applaud President Trump for signing this bill, and we are deeply grateful to the lead sponsors—Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and former Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas—as well as all the U.S. Senators and Representatives who cosponsored and voted for the PACT Act. We would also like to thank the president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump and animal advocate and entrepreneur Blair Brandt for championing this bill and helping to shepherd it into law. The Senate passed this common-sense bill unanimously twice, in the 114th and 115th Congresses, but the former House Judiciary Chairman, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., repeatedly blocked it from coming to the floor. This time, with the support of current Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., one of the bill’s original cosponsors, the bill went to the House floor and was unanimously approved.

We are also extremely grateful to you, our supporters, who are the strongest voice on our side. You tirelessly called and wrote to your members of Congress to help pass PACT, and you made all the difference. This law will ensure that those who hurt animals shamelessly, callously, and without remorse do not go scot-free. The passage of a national anti-cruelty law is a historic moment, and it sets the stage for continuing progress in our work to build out federal protections for all animals.

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

USDA moves to permanently hide animal welfare records on puppy mills, walking horse shows and other regulated businesses

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to permanently conceal crucial animal welfare records, including inspection reports and enforcement records of puppy mills and horse shows where Tennessee walking horses and other related breeds are vulnerable to the heinous practice of soring.

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Photo by Meredith Lee/The HSUS

Last month, the agency posted a notice in the Federal Register announcing a regulatory change and cited privacy as the reason for concealing the records. But that excuse doesn’t hold water, since the records pertain to commercial businesses that sell or use animals, not to individuals who keep animals for their own private use.

The proposal would further solidify the obfuscation that began when the administration purged all Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA) records from the USDA website, just a few weeks after President Trump took office in 2017. This is a change we’ve been fighting in the courts and in Congress, with some success, because it is a blatant attempt to keep Americans in the dark about how a taxpayer-funded agency is enforcing animal welfare laws. Worse, the absence of public scrutiny could provide AWA and HPA violators with a cover to continue with their substandard and frequently abusive animal welfare practices, even after they have been cited for such mistreatment.

USDA oversight of businesses that use animals is already at a record low. We have been reporting on a disturbing drop in enforcement of the AWA and HPA, and in August, the Washington Post revealed the lengths the administration is going to in order to prevent USDA inspectors from documenting and reporting violations of these important animal welfare laws.

Now, with this attempt to permanently black out certain records from public access, the administration is showing us just how far it will go to put industry interests over the most basic animal welfare needs and transparency. The regulation change, if finalized, would also make it impossible for the public to learn, for example, about puppy mills where there are recent serious disease outbreaks that can affect animal and human health. These puppies are often transported across the country, bringing with them very contagious illnesses.

This is a very real concern—just yesterday, HSUS released their eighth investigation into a Petland store, this one in Florence, Kentucky. Their investigations into this chain, notorious for sourcing animals from puppy mills, have repeatedly revealed that the animals at its stores suffer from untreated contagious health problems, such as campylobacter, which can be—and often is—passed on to humans.

In the past, whenever there’s been a proposal like this, we’ve called on you to submit your comments on the regulations.gov website, and you’ve always responded by the tens of thousands to help animals. We need your help this time too: public comment on the proposal closes soon, on Nov. 25, and we need you to speak up immediately and let the USDA know that you do not approve of this regulatory change that blocks public access to key animal welfare records. Please also share this blog with your friends and encourage them to comment as well.

Your help could make all the difference in stopping our government from moving forward with this dangerous regulation. Let’s work together to make sure that the agency charged with the mandate of protecting our most vulnerable animals does not provide a cover to some of the very businesses that mistreat them.

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

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