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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Primary election results for animals, and important fights on the November ballot

A number of states, including Michigan and Missouri, held primary elections yesterday, and there are a number of important outcomes for animal protection.

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Photo by iStock.com

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is pleased that Gretchen Whitmer won the nomination last night in the Democratic primary for Michigan’s gubernatorial race, with just over 50 percent of the vote. HSLF ran an ad campaign against one of her Democratic opponents, Shri Thanedar, highlighting the alleged neglect of animals at a testing facility he once owned. Thanedar reportedly continued this neglect by fighting efforts to place the dogs and monkeys into sanctuaries. HSLF had spread the word about his record on animal cruelty and urged citizens to sign a petition at www.TellShri.com.

Whitmer will now face Republican nominee Bill Schuette in the November general election.

In a matter of great importance to animal advocates, voters in Springfield, Missouri, shot down Question 1, which would have banned the ownership of pit bull-type dogs within city limits, with about 68 percent siding with the “No” vote. Last fall, the city council, in a misguided attempt to improve public safety, passed the measure by a vote of 5 to 4, with the mayor casting the tie-breaking vote. But the dedicated advocates of Springfield refused to give up and collected more than 8,000 signatures to require the ordinance to go to a vote of the people.

Ordinances targeting dogs based on how they look are ineffective, have no basis in science, and are not supported by animal welfare experts or veterinarians. Congratulations to the Citizens Against BSL coalition for soundly defeating this misguided anti-dog measure.

As we get closer to the November general election, there are two important statewide ballot measures to watch. A “Yes” on Prop 12 in California will upgrade the state law to prevent baby veal calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens from being crammed inside tiny cages for their entire lives on factory farms. The measure is backed by HSLF and a coalition of animal welfare groups, veterinarians, and food safety experts.

A “Yes” on Amendment 13 in Florida will end the cruelty of greyhound racing in Florida, the hub of the industry where 11 of the nation’s 17 remaining dog racing tracks are located. Last week, a circuit court judge ruled that Floridians should not be allowed to vote on the measure. This ruling was immediately appealed by the state of Florida and “stayed,” which means Amendment 13 remains on the ballot while the Florida Supreme Court takes it up for review. We are working with Grey2K, the Doris Day Animal League, and other coalition partners to make sure the voters have an opportunity to have their say on greyhound racing.  

Please support these critical animal welfare ballot measure campaigns, and stay tuned for more updates from HSLF on important candidate races.

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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Animals fare better in the Senate Farm Bill as it makes it way out of committee

Today, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee approved its Farm Bill—and it’s a much brighter picture for animals than the House counterpart bill.  We are grateful to Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) for working together to craft a bipartisan bill that avoids major anti-animal provisions and includes an important pro-animal measure. 

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The HSUS

A highlight of the Senate bill is that it contains nothing like the outrageous power grab Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tacked on the House bill. Rep King’s measure aims to impose a lowest-common-denominator approach across the country. Under the King amendment, if any one state permits the production or sale of a particular agricultural product, no matter how hazardous the product or unacceptable the production process, every other state could have to do so as well. This could undermine hundreds of duly-enacted laws reflecting the public will on a wide range of concerns—for example, bans on the sale of horse and dog meat, laws against the sale of products that are the result of extreme confinement of farm animals, and sales of  dogs from puppy mills, as well as a host of other issues such as food safety, child labor, pesticide exposure, diseased livestock, manure management, alcohol, raw milk, seed standards, fire-safe cigarettes, import of firewood free from invasive pests, and labeling of flagship state products such as catfish, wild-caught salmon, maple syrup, and wine. A bipartisan group of 119 Representatives and more than 200 organizations from across the political spectrum —including FreedomWorks, Fraternal Order of Police, Natural Resources Defense Council, Consumers Union, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, United Farm Workers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Conference of State Legislatures, and National League of Cities—have joined us in opposing King’s dangerous legislation. We will work to ensure that the Senate bill remains free of this poison pill, and push to keep it out of the final Senate/House package, as we were able to do in the 2014 Farm Bill when King last tried this.

We are thrilled that Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow included, in the Farm Bill they brought to the committee, essential language mirroring the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, S. 322, introduced by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.). The PAWS provision will help protect battered partners and their pets by extending current federal domestic violence protections to include pets, and authorizing 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. While 32 states have adopted similar legislation, PAWS will provide protection across the country. The PAWS legislation is supported by a broad network of domestic violence, law enforcement, veterinary, and animal welfare organizations.

We’re also relieved that Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) decided not to pursue his amendment to eliminate the Animal Welfare Act requirement that USDA conduct annual inspections at animal research laboratories. Having an inspection once a year to check for compliance with minimal standards on such issues as food, water, and basic veterinary care is certainly not an onerous burden. It would be a terrible mistake to make these federal inspections less frequent, especially since 20 percent of research facilities were cited for violations during just a 6-month period last year. Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) had filed a similar amendment to the House Farm Bill, but it did not get a floor vote.

As the Farm Bill heads to the Senate floor, we hope there will be further opportunities to consider these additional worthy animal welfare provisions:

  • Checkoff: Opportunities for Fairness in Farming (OFF) Act, S. 741/H.R. 1753, to make agricultural commodity checkoff programs—such as those for beef, pork, and dairy—more transparent and accountable and prevent checkoff dollars from being misused to lobby against animal welfare reforms and family farmers. This legislation is endorsed by more than 80 farm organizations representing over 250,000 family farmers and ranchers, as noted in this op-ed.
  • Animal Fighting: Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act, S. 2971/H.R. 4202, to clarify that federal prohibitions against dogfighting and cockfighting activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce apply to all U.S. jurisdictions, including the U.S. territories. This provision will protect animals from vicious cruelty, protect communities from criminal activity often linked to animal fighting such as drug trafficking and gangs, protect public health and the food supply from bird flu and other disease transmission, and enhance enforcement of federal animal fighting law across the U.S. It was incorporated into the House Farm Bill by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51.
  • Dog and Cat Meat: Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act, S. 1406, to ban the slaughter, trade, import, and export of dogs and cats for human consumption. While uncommon in this country, the practice does occur and only six states have laws against it. This legislation, incorporated into the House Farm Bill by voice vote in committee, will prevent the appalling dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide.

We look forward to working with Chairman Roberts and Senator Stabenow to sustain the pro-animal positions in the bill approved by the Agriculture Committee today, and build on this package as the Farm Bill advances.  As always, our success will depend on your continued engagement. Contact your two U.S. Senators today and ask that the Farm Bill protects animals.

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.

Friday, May 18, 2018

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

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

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Photo courtesy of iStock.com

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

House Ag Committee votes to keep dogs and cats off the menu but obliterates states’ ability to protect animals

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

Today, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee passed the 2018 Farm Bill on a straight party-line vote, and now the bill advances for a vote by the full House of Representatives.

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Leandro Hernandez/i.Stock.com

Despite one bright spot, the bill is fraught with peril for animals. The committee adopted a disastrous proposal that is nothing short of an assault on animal welfare and states’ rights. Members approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, based on his H.R. 4879, that could upend countless state and local laws across a wide range of concerns including animal protection, food safety, labor, and environmental protection.

King’s legislation is highly controversial—a diverse array of more than 180 groups opposes it—and it must be kept out of the final Farm Bill. It takes a “race to the bottom” approach by mandating that if any one state tolerates the way a particular agricultural product is manufactured or produced—no matter how hazardous the product or unacceptable the production process involved—every other state could be forced to accept it or to acquiesce. King’s amendment has the potential to wipe out state laws protecting animals used for food from intensive confinement, such as California’s Proposition 2, and could also negate state-level efforts to combat puppy mills and sales of foie gras, shark fins, and even meat from horses, dogs, and cats. It also could negate state laws on everything from pesticide exposure to child labor, fire-safe cigarettes, alcohol, and seed standards.

Representative Jeff Denham, R-Calif., offered a substitute to King’s amendment, co-led by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif, requesting a study of the impacts on interstate commerce of numerous state laws. Denham also spoke eloquently about the broad adverse impacts of King’s legislation. Unfortunately, his substitute amendment failed, despite bipartisan support.

"This proposal goes far beyond attacking California egg production and beyond its guise of protecting interstate commerce. Rather, it indiscriminately targets any and all state laws that can be deemed a burden to out of state entities. Even laws democratically passed by popular vote, which, in California, Prop 2 was passed by a popular vote of the people."  - Rep. Denham

Although we are outraged by the addition of the King amendment to the Farm Bill, and we’re preparing to fight it with all we’ve got, we did score an important victory for dogs and cats in committee, thanks to an amendment offered by Rep. Denham to protect these animals from the inhumane dog and cat meat trade. This provision, if enacted, will prohibit the domestic slaughter, trade and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption. It would prevent the dog and cat meat trade from taking hold in the U.S., serve as a symbol of unity with countries that have already enacted bans, and give us greater standing to encourage other nations to follow suit.

The American public has vocally called for passage of the dog and cat meat ban—originally introduced as H.R. 1406 by Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Dave Trott, R-Mich, and Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.—which has bipartisan support of 239 cosponsors. Congress should ensure that this language is included in the final version of the Farm Bill.

We must and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the final Farm Bill includes strong protections for animals. Please call your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators (you can find his or her contact information here) and urge them to reject Rep. Steve King’s egregious Farm Bill amendment and support the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act. Furthermore, although the House Agriculture Committee did not include additional safeguards to prevent horse soring, animal fighting, and domestic violence against pets, please let your legislators know that the final bill should include these vital protections as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Recognizing Humane Legislators on Capitol Hill

Last night, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and The Humane Society of the United States co-hosted the annual Congressional Humane Awards to honor a bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the way for animals during the last year. Dozens of Senators and Representatives plus staff members from additional offices (and some charming office dogs) attended the event in the U.S. Capitol to celebrate the federal lawmakers who are working to make the world a better place for animals.

The top awards this year went to Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who were honored as the 2017 Humane Legislators of the Year. The Humane Legislator of the Year award recognizes federal lawmakers who have initiated path-breaking animal protection legislation and demonstrably advanced these reforms.

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Bill Petros/For The HSUS
Rep. Smith with HSLF president, Michael Markarian
and acting HSUS president and CEO, Kitty Block.

For 18 years, Rep. Smith has been the lead Republican mobilizing his colleagues to seek needed funds and provisions to enforce key animal welfare laws. Working closely with Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., he has steadily built bipartisan support, with a record 184 Representatives joining the effort in 2017 and 190 this year. Their joint annual letters to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee have been remarkably effective—for example, more than tripling funding for the Animal Welfare Act (which requires basic standards of care for millions of animals at breeding operations, laboratories, zoos, and other facilities) from $9 million per year in the 1990s to $30.8 million in FY18, despite challenging budget constraints. These letters have delivered results on a wide range of concerns, including enforcement of laws on animal fighting, humane slaughter, and soring of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds, as well as programs to ease the shortage of veterinarians in underserved areas and to address the needs of animals in disaster planning and response. Last year’s letter called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore inspection reports and other documents abruptly purged from the agency’s website in February 2017, leaving the public in the dark about violators of the AWA and the Horse Protection Act on soring. The House Appropriations committee report addressed this issue last July and the FY18 omnibus included even stronger language directing USDA to promptly restore online searchable access to this information. Smith led a letter to Agriculture Secretary Perdue last month protesting the agency’s plan to outsource AWA oversight to third-party inspectors in the regulated industries, including puppy mills, labs and roadside zoos.

Additionally, Smith co-led a letter to USDA in 2015 voicing support for a proposed rule—finalized the following year—to humanely euthanize downer calves (those too sick, injured or weak to stand and walk on their own) rather than sending them through to the food supply. In the wake of an exposé on cruel treatment at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Smith led a letter to Appropriations Committee conferees urging that the final FY16 legislation require federal facilities conducting research on farm animals to comply with AWA standards, something the omnibus did. Smith has for years been the lead Republican sponsor of the Pet Safety and Protection Act to end theft of pets sold into research by Class B dealers. He sponsored the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to improve research and treatment of rabies among other diseases, legislation approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee in November 2017. He has also voted in favor of animals consistently on the House floor, such as rejecting efforts to allow extreme trophy hunting methods of wolves and grizzly bears on National Wildlife Refuges and National Park Service land in Alaska. 

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Bill Petros/For The HSUS
Rep. Roybal-Allard with HSLF president, Michael Markarian,
acting HSUS president and CEO, Kitty Block,
and HSLF executive director, Sara Amundson.

Rep. Roybal-Allard has been an exceptionally strong voice for animals used in research, testing, and education. She won enactment of appropriations provisions in each of the past three years (FY16-18) barring USDA from issuing licenses for Class B dealers selling “random source” dogs and cats. These dealers are notorious for keeping dogs and cats in awful conditions and obtaining them through fraudulent means—such as pet theft and misrepresenting their intentions when responding to “free to good home” ads—to sell them to research facilities. Roybal-Allard began laying groundwork for this achievement in 2008, when she first obtained committee report language on the Class B dealer issue. In 2017, she secured appropriations committee report language encouraging the National Institutes of Health to expedite retirement of NIH-owned chimpanzees and consider expanding the national chimpanzee sanctuary system to better accommodate the many animals needing space. She persuaded the U.S. Coast Guard to suspend for at least six months its use of live animals for trauma training, following reports of cruel procedures on goats, pressing the service to utilize high-tech human simulators that offer a superior training alternative. In 2015, she obtained appropriations committee report language calling on NIH to review (with outside experts) its ethical policies and processes for primate research. This provision helped spur NIH to develop a plan to shut down one of its primate facilities in Maryland where decades-long research had subjected infant monkeys to maternal deprivation, an issue she mobilized colleagues to protest in a 2014 letter to NIH. She co-introduced the Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act in 2017 to improve reporting by the EPA, FDA, NIH, USDA and other government agencies on their efforts to replace live animal testing methods for chemicals, drugs, foods and other substances. 

Further, Rep. Roybal-Allard introduced an Appropriations Committee amendment and sought to co-lead a floor amendment in 2017 to prohibit USDA from spending tax dollars to oversee horse slaughter inspections, a provision that was incorporated in the final FY18 omnibus package and effectively blocks cruel horse slaughter operations from starting up this year on U.S. soil. She also worked to protect America’s wild horses and burros from slaughter for food consumption. She co-led a letter to President Trump objecting to USDA’s purge of inspection reports and other enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act and requesting that the records be restored for public access. She has been a consistent champion across the full range of animal protection legislation, earning a 100+ on the 2017 Humane Scorecard.    

In addition to honoring these extraordinary legislators, The HSUS and HSLF recognized a broader, bipartisan group of outstanding lawmakers based on their leadership on animal protection issues and their ratings on the 2017 Humane Scorecard. In total, 207 legislators—36 Senators and 171 Representatives and Delegates (representing 41 states and the Northern Mariana Islands)—were honored for their work in 2017. The animal protection community is grateful to all of these Members of Congress who are helping to forge a path to a more humane future through their demonstrated leadership. Congratulations to the recipients of the 2017 Humane Awards.

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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