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Wildlife

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

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 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.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Breaking: Trump administration proposes new changes to weaken Endangered Species Act

Today's blog post is authored by Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund and Kitty Block, acting President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States

During the past year and a half, the Trump administration and the 115th Congress have launched over a hundred attacks on the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock law that protects endangered and threatened animal species and their habitats. Today, the administration dealt the latest body blow to this law by proposing changes that would weaken it and make it harder to secure federal protections for endangered and threatened species.

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Photo courtesy of hkuchera/iStock.com

Under today’s proposal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would establish additional roadblocks to securing comprehensive protections for threatened species. The administration also wants to make the process of removing species from the ESA easier.

This death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach aims to extinguish one of the country’s most effective and popular statutes, on which the survival of so many wildlife species depends. The ESA has saved more than 99 percent of listed species from going extinct. This results in part from the statute’s flexibility and the collaboration it facilitates among federal, state, triba,l and local officials. The ESA enjoys wide support with the American public too. A 2015 poll by Tulchin Research found that 90 percent of Americans, including 82 percent of self-described conservatives, support upholding the ESA. Another study by Hart Research Associates from 2016 found that 70 percent of Americans oppose removing ESA protections from threatened species such as gray wolves and sage-grouse.

We are grateful that the administration will not apply any of these regulations retroactively to previous decisions for species receiving protections under the ESA, but there is little doubt about what’s going on with this proposal. It’s an attempt to decimate the effectiveness of the ESA, plain and simple.

Congress has launched its own attacks on the ESA, and on Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to discuss a bill, authored by EPW Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., to gut the ESA’s efficacy and harm conservation organizations’ ability to enforce the law’s protections. The draft proposal contains many damaging provisions, including turning over much ESA decision-making authority to the states.

Unfortunately, states do not always prioritize wildlife protection, as we saw when gray wolves and grizzly bears lost federal ESA protections in Wyoming and the states promptly declared hunting seasons on these animals. The bill also would make litigation over ESA listing and delisting more difficult.

A similar attack surfaced in the House when the Congressional Western Caucus oversaw the introduction of nine bills assailing various aspects of the ESA. One of the bills allows information provided by states, tribes or localities to constitute the “best available science” regardless of its quality or scientific merit, for making ESA decisions. Another bill makes it easier for the Fish and Wildlife Service to dismiss ESA-listing petitions without thorough evaluation.

Keeping the Endangered Species Act strong is critical if we are to ensure that threatened and endangered animals, including species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and African lions and elephants, do not go extinct. The Humane Society of United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund are at the forefront of the battle to protect the ESA, but we need your help. The administration and your congressional delegation need to hear that you don’t support a dismantling of our nation’s cornerstone law designed to protect and save iconic wildlife, in the United States and around the world. The ESA is essential to the protection of animals, and we’re doing our best to turn back threats to its integrity and efficacy. And so can you.

Let the Administration know that you strongly oppose a dismantling of our nation’s cornerstone law designed to protect and save iconic wildlife, in the United States and around the world by leaving a comment here. Below is suggested text:

"The proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service would weaken the ESA regulations by making it harder to secure and maintain federal protections for imperiled species. The FWS and NMFS should keep the existing ESA protections to save threatened and endangered animals from extinction."

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.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

From Atlanta to Umbabat, American trophy hunters pose a threat to endangered species

This week, the International Wildlife Conservation Council, a Department of the Interior advisory group dominated by big-game trophy hunters, held its second public meeting, in Atlanta. This advisory group seeks to promote the trophy hunting of charismatic animal species on the taxpayer dime—and questions and discussions at the meeting underscored that the council aims to weaken existing protections for threatened and endangered species, all to make it easier for trophy hunters to import animal trophies into the United States.

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Skye, the lion, who was allegedly killed by a
trophy hunter

Council members appeared miffed by the widespread negative perception of trophy hunting and attributed this to the American public’s lack of understanding about the purported multitude of conservation benefits that they themselves attribute to trophy hunting. They also sounded the customary—and false—note that animals will go extinct if trophy hunting were stopped.

This council’s membership is stacked with trophy hunting enthusiasts, celebrity hunters, and industry lobbyists, and the two public proceedings they have held so far have demonstrated how it’s imbalanced and outside the mainstream of American views on conservation and wildlife protection. The council takes the Orwellian approach that the only way to save wild animals from going extinct is to shoot them.

A 2017 analysis found that trophy hunting has relatively low economic value as a wildlife-related activity. While tourism contributes to at most 5.1 percent of the GDP among the eight African study countries, the total economic contribution of trophy hunting is at most about 0.03 percent of that figure. Foreign hunters make up less than 0.1 percent of tourists on average and they contribute 0.78 percent or less of the $17 billion in overall tourism spending. Trophy hunting’s contribution to tourism employment is only 0.76 percent or less of average direct tourism employment.       

Moreover, the trophy hunting of imperiled species is biologically unsustainable. Trophy hunters target the biggest and strongest animals with impressive tusks, horns, manes, and other distinguishing characteristics. Science has shown that trophy hunting alters the biological characteristics and population dynamics of the hunted species, too.   

In a terrible coincidence, just days before the Atlanta meeting, we learned of the alleged killing of a male lion named Skye in the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Reportedly, the lion was baited to facilitate the hunt; in any event, Skye has not been seen since June 7 when the hunt took place, according to local sources, and it’s possible that an American hunter could be responsible for his death. 

Skye, with his stunning mane and majestic posture, is a favorite subject of wildlife photographers and tourists. He’s a dominant male who heads a pride known to frequent both the Kruger National Park and Umbabat; the pride consists of three cubs, three sub-adults, and six lionesses.

One of the pride’s young cubs has reportedly been killed by a competing pride following Skye’s disappearance. If the cub’s killing is confirmed, it is a somber reminder that trophy hunting of lions carries a significant ecological price tag affecting not just the animal hunted but also the pride members left behind.  

The Umbabat Private Nature Reserve and the Mpumalanga Parks and Tourism Agency, the provincial authority that grants permits for trophy hunts, have vehemently denied that the hunted lion was Skye. However, they have not publicly presented photographic evidence of the hunted animal to verify this; nor have they granted third party requests to view and examine the skin of the hunted lion. Photographs are especially critical to establishing a hunted animal’s identity. Skye, for example, has a distinguishing scar under his left eye and S-shaped scar on his right flank.

Even if the killed lion is not Skye, it is a cause for alarm that lions protected in Kruger National Park could fall victim to senseless and bloody trophy hunting when they step over its invisible geographical boundaries into the adjoining private reserves. More than 1.4 million visitors flock to Kruger National Park each year to view wildlife, including lions, bringing in tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. In South Africa, trophy hunting brings in only 1.2 percent of the income brought in by tourism. Math makes the indictment real: trophy hunting is robbing South Africa of the very thing that tourists will pay to see, over and over again: live lions and other animals. A lion or elephant can be enjoyed alive by hundreds or thousands of photographers and tourists—but only killed once by a trophy hunter.

It’s a long way from Atlanta to Umbabat, but there is a direct connection between the formation of the International Wildlife Conservation Council and the growing threat to threatened and endangered animal species in Africa and elsewhere. The United States has long been the world’s largest importer of lion hunting trophies—even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed African lions as threatened and endangered in 2016, the agency continues to allow American hunters to import lion trophies from certain African countries, including South Africa. The Service is responsible for forging an intelligent conservation policy and it would be unlawful for it to rely on advice from a council stacked with big-game trophy hunters. South Africa has approximately 2,800 of the 20,000 lions in the world, and we need to do what we can to keep every one of them alive.

Please take a minute to send a letter to USFWS and ask them to deny any application to import wild lion trophies from South Africa.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Key House committee okays Interior spending bill with harmful provisions for grizzly bears, wolves

The Interior spending bill that passed the House Appropriations Committee yesterday brought some good news for animals, including animals used in research and testing. But the bill poses a threat to some of America’s most iconic wildlife species, including grizzly bears and wolves, and takes the wrong track on the management of wild horses and burros.

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Photo courtesy iStock.com

Here are some of the most important provisions affecting animals:

Animals used in testing: We strongly support language in the bill that encourages the Environmental Protection Agency to report on its development, use, implementation, and interagency coordination on test methods and strategies that assess the human and environmental safety of chemical substances without causing harm to animals. This further builds on the EPA’s recent actions to limit the number of animal tests required for the registration of pesticides, as well as the passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which gives preference for non-animal methods of determining toxic chemicals’ safety hazards. There is room for the EPA to do more to prevent animal testing conducted within the agency itself or in coordination with other federal agencies, and this provision in the spending bill is a good step forward.

Wild horses and burros: The committee approved an amendment by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) that increases funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s wild horse and burro program. However, the amendment would direct funds for the agency to permanently sterilize wild horses, return them to the range and create non-reproducing herds. While permanent surgical sterilization methods have long been practiced and perfected on domestic dogs and cats, field sterilization of wild, ungentled mares, has not. Strong concerns remain not only regarding the feasibility and economic burden of permanently sterilizing large numbers of horses in the wild, but also about the humaneness of performing invasive procedures on wild mares that could result in numerous painful and life-threatening complications. Moreover, the concept of non-reproducing herds negates the intent of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and BLM’s own regulations which require the agency to manage these animals, in part, by creating self-maintaining herds of wild horses and burros. We urge Congress to provide increased funding to the wild horse and burro program but to push for humane solutions, such as PZP, an already available reversible birth control tool, to manage wild horses and burros on the range.

Grizzly bears: In March, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his support for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades Ecosystem of Washington State, emphasizing the “ecological devastation” that the permanent loss of grizzly bears to this ecosystem would cause. The unexpected announcement seemed to signal a shift from last June, when the Interior department finalized a rule delisting grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. However, an amendment offered yesterday by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and approved by the committee, would bar the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from moving forward with a plan to transplant or introduce grizzly bears in the North Cascades Ecosystem.

Gray wolves: The spending bill bars judicial review of a previous final rule removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming, directs the interior secretary to reissue a final rule removing federal ESA protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states, and bars judicial review of that action. As if that weren’t enough, it directs the interior secretary to issue a final rule removing federal ESA protections for the gray wolf in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia, and bars judicial review of the action. The western Great Lakes wolf delisting language also overrides a federal appeals court ruling last year that maintained these very protections for these wolves. Congress should not be cherry-picking species from the threatened and endangered lists based on political whim, circumventing sound science and shutting the public out of the process.

There is still time to ensure that some of the harmful provisions in this bill do not become law. The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the spending bill next, so please call both of your senators and urge them to vote to keep protections for wolves and grizzly bears and push for humane solutions for wild equines in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Horses, wolves, other animals win big in omnibus bill

For almost six months, Congress has delayed passing the 2018 budget to fund the government. Finally, the negotiations have ended. Congress and the White House have struck a deal, and late last night released a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, just 52 hours before a government shutdown deadline.

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Photo courtesy of hkuchera/iStock.com

As always, animal issues were part of the discussions and we worked tirelessly with our House and Senate animal protection champions and other groups to successfully fight for positive provisions and sufficient enforcement funding of our key animal protection laws and to stave off harmful riders to kill horses and wildlife.

We’re still going through 2,232-page bill, but we’ve spotted a lot of good news for animals. Here’s a breakdown of some of our top priority items in this massive spending bill: 

Horse Slaughter:

The bill includes language that prohibits wasteful government spending on horse slaughter inspections and effectively bans horse slaughter in the United States for human consumption. This language has been maintained all but one year since 2005, and ensures that millions of taxpayer dollars are not expended on resuming an inhumane and predatory practice in which young and healthy horses are rounded up by “kill buyers”—often misrepresenting their intentions—and their meat shipped to Europe and Japan.

Wild Horses and Burros:

The bill includes language to prevent the Bureau of Land Management and its contractors from sending wild horses to be slaughtered for human consumption, or from killing excess healthy horses and burros. A provision allowing wild horses removed from public lands to be transferred to federal, state, or local governments to serve as work horses continues to make clear that these horses cannot be destroyed for human consumption, or euthanized except upon the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian in cases of severe injury, illness, or advanced age. Additionally, the explanatory statement accompanying the omnibus criticizes the Department of Interior for failing to provide a comprehensive plan, and states that until DOI provides such plan and corresponding legislative recommendations, the slaughter prohibitions will be maintained and program resources will be reduced. The statement directs DOI to submit to the Appropriations Committees within 30 days of enactment of the bill a science-based, comprehensive proposal that “has the goal of reducing costs while improving the health and welfare of wild horses and burros, and the range.”

National Park Service Lands in Alaska:

The omnibus does not include any provision allowing inhumane and scientifically unjustified trophy hunting methods on National Preserves (a category of National Park Service lands) in Alaska. This is a particular victory because the House Interior Appropriations bill contained a rider to undo an NPS rule prohibiting such cruel trophy hunting methods, and in February 2017, Congress enacted a rollback of a similar U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule prohibiting such practices—including luring grizzly bears with bait to shoot them at point-blank range, and killing wolf, black bear, and coyote mothers and their young at their dens—on 76 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.

Great Lakes Wolves:

The omnibus omits harmful language—which had been in both the House and Senate Interior Appropriations bills—directing the FWS to remove Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the western Great Lakes states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan) and Wyoming, and barring judicial review of the action. This action reaffirms that the FWS should make ESA listing decisions, based on the best available science; this is not something that Congress should do, cherry-picking species based on political whim and shutting the public out of the process.

Animal welfare Enforcement:

The omnibus provides increases in some key U.S. Department of Agriculture programs. It includes $30,810,000 ($2 million more than FY17) for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, including a directive for continued inspections of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service facilities that conduct research on farm animals to ensure their adherence to the AWA; $705,000 ($8,000 more) for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, which prohibits cruel “soring” abuse of show horses; and $8,000,000 ($1.5 million more) for veterinary student loan repayment to encourage veterinarians to locate in underserved areas. It holds the line on other items such as oversight of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and funding for the Office of Inspector General which helps enforce the federal animal fighting statute and the AWA, HPA, and HMSA.

USDA Data Purge: 

The explanatory statement accompanying the omnibus includes this strong directive: “On February 3, 2017, USDA restricted the public's access to the search tool for the Animal Care Inspection System, saying it needed to conduct a comprehensive review of the information on its website. USDA is now posting heavily redacted inspection reports that make it difficult in certain cases for the public to understand the subject of the inspection, assess USDA's subsequent actions, and to evaluate the effectiveness of its enforcement. USDA's actions to date do not meet the requirements in H. Rpt. 115-232 that the online searchable database should allow analysis and comparison of data and include all inspection reports, annual reports, and other documents related to enforcement of animal welfare laws. USDA is directed to comply with these requirements and is reminded that as part of its oversight responsibilities, Congress has the right to make any inquiry it wishes into litigation in which USDA is involved. USDA is directed to respond to any such inquiries fully.”

Animal Testing Alternatives:

The omnibus sustains level funding of $21.41 million (rejecting a $4.24 million cut proposed by the President) for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Computational Toxicology program to develop replacements for traditional animal tests, as required in the 2016 reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act. Additionally, it calls on the agency to finalize the report to create a pathway to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, animal testing under TSCA. Finally, it increases the National Institute of Health’s National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences by more than $36 million, which will help with the development of faster, more efficient, non-animal tests, rejecting a $212 million cut proposed by the President. 

Therapeutic Service Dog Training:

The omnibus doubles the funding for the Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program, providing $10 million compared to $5 million in FY17, for grants to nonprofits that train and provide therapeutic service dogs to veterans and active duty personnel facing physical injuries and emotional scars from their military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, blindness, loss of limb, and paralysis.   

Equine-Assisted Therapy:

The omnibus includes a $1 million increase for the Adaptive Sports Program that awards small grants for equine therapy, to expand this program that has focused in the past on helping veterans with physical disabilities to now include mental health issues including PTSD. 

VA Experiments on Dogs:

The omnibus prohibits the Department of Veterans Affairs funding of “research using canines unless: the scientific objectives of the study can only be met by research with canines; the study has been directly approved by the Secretary; and the study is consistent with the revised Department of Veterans Affairs canine research policy document released on December 18, 2017.” It also requires the VA Secretary to submit to the Appropriations Committees a “detailed report outlining under what circumstances canine research may be needed if there are no other alternatives, how often it was used during that time period, and what protocols are in place to determine both the safety and efficacy of the research.” 

Class B Dealers:

The omnibus contains the same language as in recent years prohibiting the USDA from licensing Class B random source dealers, who are notorious for keeping dogs and cats in awful conditions and obtaining them through fraudulent means such as pet theft to sell them to research facilities. 

Marine Mammal Commission:

The omnibus sustains funding for the Marine Mammal Commission, an independent federal agency whose mandate is to conserve marine mammals. While the President’s budget requested that the Commission’s budget be zeroed out, Congress recognizes the important role the Commission plays in seeking practical solutions to conservation challenges and human-caused impacts facing marine mammals. 

House Report Items (deemed approved because not changed in omnibus):

  • Chimpanzee Sanctuary—Encouraged NIH to expedite retirement of their chimpanzees and consider expanding the national chimpanzee sanctuary system.
  • Predator Poisons—Encouraged USDA’s Wildlife Services program to evaluate alternatives to M-44 cyanide bombs for livestock protection and overall safety.

There are some anti-animal provisions in the omnibus, such as exempting concentrated animal feeding operations from reporting toxic air emissions, and restating previously-enacted riders such as the prohibition on regulating toxic lead content in ammunition and fishing tackle which poisons wildlife.

But overall, this omnibus has a lot to cheer about for animals. We’re grateful for the inclusion of key language such as on horse slaughter and the USDA purge, for the funding increases, and for the removal of some extremely hostile provisions against wildlife. And we’re committed to keep pressing forward—with your essential help—to advance animal protection through the annual budget process.

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