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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Animal protection rules could be chopped by regulation ax

In the first days of the 115th Congress, lawmakers are poised to take up the so-called Midnight Rules Relief Act and the REINS Act, which both have the potential to undermine Presidential authority and set the stage for the elimination of popular and bipartisan rules, taking an ax to a circumstance that requires far more precision and a more merits-based analysis on rules. This potentially includes a profound impact on rules that implement animal protection laws and improve enforcement of them.

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Photo courtesy of The HSUS

The Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017, H.R. 21, would amend the Congressional Review Act to allow en bloc disapproval of multiple regulations finalized during the last year of a President’s term. Such action would prevent due consideration of the merits of individual regulations. For animal protection rules adopted during the Obama Administration, including in the final year of his term, most have been many years in the making, have elicited overwhelming numbers of favorable public comments, and have enjoyed strong, bipartisan congressional support.

For example, a bipartisan group of 182 Representatives and 42 Senators wrote to USDA in support of the anti-horse soring rule, which corrects deficiencies in USDA’s current regulations in ways that mirror provisions in the PAST Act, legislation that had 273 House cosponsors and 50 Senate cosponsors in the 114th Congress. The PAST Act was introduced largely to force the agency to fix these very problems, many of which were identified by a damning 2010 USDA Office of Inspector General report urging regulatory changes to overhaul the existing enforcement regimen. And the agency itself warned horse sorers that it was considering some of these changes in public notices going back to 1979. So this rule is a long time in coming. But this rule, likely to be finalized within the next few days, could be characterized as a “midnight rule” and eliminated, despite the enormous number of lawmakers from both parties who have urged its adoption. It would be a terrible mistake for Congress to sweep them away and undercut these reasonable efforts—in the works for years, after getting substantial input from Congress—to ensure that animal protection laws are carried out effectively. There was nothing nefarious or undercutting about this rulemaking, and if anything, the Obama Administration has dragged its feet on it, rather than rushing it through at the last minute.

Another example is a rule made final in July that closes a loophole for the processing of downer calves—animals too sick, injured, or weak to walk—to prohibit sending them into the food supply, just as was done for downer cattle by USDA regulations in 2009. A series of undercover investigations documented that downer calves are subjected to the same heinous abuse as adult downer cows to get them on their feet for inspection, and showed the serious food safety concerns from eating calves unable to stand, as there were for downer cattle. This rule was anything but precipitously adopted—the agency had said back in 2013 that it would update its regulations to close the loophole—and a bipartisan group of 92 Representatives and 14 Senators urged USDA and OMB to finish this rulemaking in letters sent in 2014 and 2015.

One report found that rules issued during the “midnight” or presidential transition period spent even more time in the rulemaking process and received even more extensive vetting than other rules. That’s our experience with the measures we’ve encouraged final action upon. Analysis of all economically significant rulemakings finalized since 1999 showed that such rules issued during the transition period took on average 3.6 years to complete compared to 2.8 years for such rules issued at other times during a term.

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2017, H.R. 26, would require that both houses of Congress approve a major rule (including those issued during the 60 legislative/session days prior to adjournment of the previous session), with no alteration, within a 70-day window. If both chambers are unable to swiftly approve a major rule, it would not take effect and reconsideration during that Congress would be precluded. By doing nothing, Congress would prevent existing laws from being implemented, including common sense, non-controversial rules affecting animal welfare. The bill forces expedited floor consideration by both chambers of resolutions to approve major rules and to disapprove nonmajor rules, and it bars judicial review of any actions taken under the REINS Act.

Congress already sets the boundaries for agency rulemaking, making the REINS Act needless and redundant. It is already the case that agencies can only exercise authority that has been delegated by Congress in authorizing legislation, and if agencies overstep their authority, judicial scrutiny can be invoked and agency actions can be reversed.

We urge Congress to reject both of these unwarranted bills, which take a sledgehammer approach to regulations and could negate well-considered and broadly supported rules to implement and enforce animal protection laws.

Contact your U.S. Representative TODAY and urge him or her to oppose the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017, H.R. 21 and the REINS Act of 2017, H.R. 26.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The 2016 congressional year in review for animals

The 115th Congress convenes today, and it’s set to be a busy next few months as legislators take up appropriations for FY17 and FY18, as well as many other presidential and congressional priorities. It’s going to be hectic, and at times contentious, but we’ll be there every day on the front lines driving change for animals.

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iStock Photo

As we gear up for the new year, let’s take a look back and reflect on some of the key victories for animals during the 2016 session. That list should include key rulemaking actions, where lawmakers advocated for executive agencies to take action and strengthen the regulations associated with major laws for animals.

Animals in Research and Testing: Signed into law in June 2016, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (P.L. 114-182) phases out archaic, costly, and non-predictive animal testing protocols in favor of 21st century technology. It reauthorized the 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with new landmark provisions to reduce, and ultimately replace, the use of live animals for testing tens of thousands of chemicals in the marketplace, potentially saving millions of dogs, rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pigs, and other animals over time. This language was supported by the chemical industry, environmental and animal protection organizations. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency moved to phase out some of the especially cruel and obsolete animal testing practices used by pesticide manufacturers for hundreds of new pesticide products brought to market each year.

Leads: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Tom Udall, D-N.M., David Vitter, R-La., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.

Wildlife Trafficking: Congress passed the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act (P.L. 114-231, signed into law in October 2016) to support global anti-poaching efforts, require greater collaboration with NGOs and governments of countries affected by wildlife trafficking, and allow serious wildlife crimes to trigger substantial penalties under money-laundering statutes. Separately, bipartisan letters signed by 108 Representatives and six Senators helped set the stage for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a final rule to curtail the commercial ivory trade in the United States, estimated to be the world’s second largest market for ivory product sales behind China. House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports for FY17 also reiterated the need for agencies to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking and highlighted the role of this trade in financing armed insurgencies and terrorist organizations.

Leads: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chris Coons, D-Del., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., Peter King, R-N.Y., Betty McCollum, D-Minn., and Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Farm Animals: After an appalling exposé of abuse and neglect at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and both chambers prevailed on the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service to cover all its research practices under the standards of the Animal Welfare Act and institute regular inspections of all its animal research facilities. In addition, a bipartisan group of 92 Representatives and 14 Senators successfully pushed the USDA to close a loophole in the agency’s 2009 regulation, which previously banned the slaughter of downer cattle (those too sick, weak, or injured to stand on their own) but did not cover downer veal calves, leaving them vulnerable to abuse. The USDA also made clear in its final rule that the humane handling regulations apply to all animals as soon as they arrive at slaughter facilities.

Leads: Sens. Merkley, Udall, Feinstein, Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Booker, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Chris Smith, R-N.J., Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y.

Horses: Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved bipartisan amendments in their FY17 Agriculture bills to sustain language preventing horse slaughter plants from reopening in the United States. The continuing resolution passed in December 2016 will keep these despicable operations shuttered through April 28, 2017, the deadline Congress set to complete action for FY17 appropriations. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees also included language in their FY17 Interior bills to ensure that healthy, unadopted wild horses are not sent to slaughter and directed the Bureau of Land Management to continue researching viable, humane solutions, such as fertility control, to be used on the range to curb the ever growing wild horse numbers. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum also joined efforts to end the cruel practice of injuring horses to induce an artificial, pain-based, high-stepping gait known as the “big lick” in Tennessee Walking Horse shows. The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act garnered 323 Senate and House cosponsors, and 42 Senators and 182 Representatives voiced support for the USDA’s still pending rule to fix its outdated regulations to eliminate the corrupt system of industry self-policing and the use of devices integral to soring (mirroring key provisions in PAST).

Leads: Sens. Udall, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Graham, Feinstein, Coons, Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., and Reps. Farr, Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Ted Yoho, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Fitzpatrick, Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., David Jolly, R-Fla., and Schakowsky, D-Ill.

Animal Cruelty: In December 2016, the Senate gave unanimous approval to the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, which would create a federal anti-cruelty statute, complementing the state cruelty laws by prohibiting malicious animal abuse on federal property or in interstate commerce. While it was too late for the House to act, this priority legislation will start the 115th Congress with strong momentum, thanks to the Senate’s action. A bipartisan letter signed by 14 Representatives helped ensure inclusion of a provision in an executive order amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice to explicitly establish an animal cruelty standard on military bases. Though animal abuse is thankfully rare among military personnel, this provision will help deter tragedies like some high-profile cases of animal cruelty on military bases in the news in recent years.

Leads: Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Blumenthal, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., Blumenauer, and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

Reintroducing Priority Bills: We saw a lot of support for several important bills in 2016, which we’ll seek to get reintroduced as soon as possible. Those included:

  • Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act—The PACT Act would amend and strengthen the federal animal crush video law enacted in 2010 by prohibiting those extreme acts (animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other heinous abuse) when they occur on federal property or in interstate commerce, regardless of whether an obscene video was produced (253 House cosponsors and 39 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Toomey and Blumenthal, and Reps. Lamar Smith, Deutch, Marino, and Blumenauer.

  • Pet and Women Safety Act—The PAWS Act would make it harder for abusers to prey on battered partners and their pets by allowing pets to be protected across state lines when restraining orders are issued in domestic violence and stalking cases and authorizing grant money so that domestic violence shelters can accommodate pets or help arrange for pet shelter. Currently, one-third of those subjected to domestic violence delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their pets’ safety, and only three percent of domestic violence shelters allow pets; up to 84 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners abused or killed the family pet (224 House cosponsors and 36 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Ayotte and Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

  • Safeguard American Food Exports Act—The SAFE Act would protect both 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 hundreds of drugs over their lifetimes that can be toxic to humans if ingested. Horses destined for slaughter are often seriously injured or killed in long-distance transit, and the methods used to kill horses rarely result in quick, painless deaths as they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. This predatory industry doesn’t “euthanize” old, sick horsesthey buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions (200 House cosponsors and 31 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Menendez, Graham, Mikulski, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., Schakowsky, Buchanan, and Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.

  • Humane Cosmetics Act—The Humane Cosmetics Act would phase out the testing of cosmetics on live animals and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics in the United States. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in countries that have already undertaken such action, including the European Union and India. There are many alternative methodsfaster to perform and less costly to industry than expensive animal testingto ensure that products are safe for human use, and 195 companies including Paul Mitchell, Coty, Lush, and The Body Shop support this legislation (174 House cosponsors).
    Leads: Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif.

  • Prevent All Soring Tactics Act—The PAST Act would amend the 1970 Horse Protection Act to more effectively rein in the use of caustic chemicals, chains, weights, sharp objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to inflict pain on the hooves and legs of certain breeds to achieve an exaggerated high-stepping, pain-based gait. The bill incorporates reforms recommended by the USDA’s Inspector General in 2010 and by a broad cross-section of horse industry and veterinary groups, to end the failed industry self-policing scheme, ban devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all who participate in the abuse (273 House cosponsors and 50 Senate cosponsors).
    Leads: Sens. Ayotte and Warner, and Reps. Yoho, Schrader, Fitzpatrick, Cohen, Jolly, and Schakowsky.

With a new Congress and a new president, we can expect to face new challenges, but the advances made in 2016 remind us that animal protection reflects shared American values and transcends partisan politics. In the 115th Congress, it’s likely that the Farm Bill a major rewrite of our agricultural lawswill be taken up, and that presents both concerns and opportunities for us.

At the Humane Society Legislative Fund, we stand ready to work with lawmakers across the political spectrum to advance a common-sense animal welfare agenda, and at the same time, to fight harmful policies that threaten animals. We welcome the incoming class, and thank you for all your support and advocacy that made these 2016 achievements possible, and for your continued efforts in 2017 and beyond.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

FTC to consumers: Don’t be duped by "fake" fur

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Photo courtesy of Richard-Seeley

This holiday season, shoppers around the country are looking for the perfect gifts and last-minute deals. It’s also a time when more and more consumers are thinking about conscious ethical purchasing choices and what impact the products they buy have on the world. This includes animal issues, whether it’s a puppy purchased from a pet store, cosmetics tested on animals, or food sources from factory farms.

When it comes to the fashion industry, there is still some misrepresentation of garments labeled as “faux fur” when they really contain animal fur. Recently, The Humane Society of the United States asked the Federal Trade Commission to bring enforcement action under federal protection laws against 17 retailers for false advertisement of fur garments. These retailers sold a combined 37 different styles of apparel and accessories that were advertised or labeled as “faux fur,” but actually included animal fur from raccoon dogs, rabbits, and coyotes.

While FTC is still reviewing this enforcement action, the agency has taken steps to help educate consumers this holiday season by releasing a blog that highlights the difference of faux fur and real fur, which I have posted below. We hope you use this information when shopping this holiday season, and we are grateful to the FTC for raising awareness of this important consumer protection and animal protection issue in the marketplace.


When fake fur is real

December 21, 2016
by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC

Do you have faux fur on your holiday wish list—maybe a jacket, hat or throw? It turns out that some faux fur is actually real fur, but manufacturers and retailers say it’s fake. And misleading people is against the law.

Both the federal Fur Act and the FTC’s Fur Rule (yes, there’s a Fur Act and a Fur Rule) say that companies have to give shoppers accurate information about what they’re buying—whether in a store, online, or in advertising. And, if it’s a real fur product, the law says it has to be labeled with the type of animal and the country where the fur comes from.

  • As you’re shopping, here are some ways make sure you’re getting the kind of fur—real or faux—that you’re after:
  • Don’t go by feel and color alone. Some fake fur is actually softer than some real fur. Also, fake fur can be dyed.
  • Separate the fur and look at the base. Fake fur usually has a mesh or threaded backing, while real fur usually is on a backing of skin or leather.
  • Look at the tips of the hairs. Unless they’ve been sheared or cut, the tips of animal fur taper to a fine point—like a sewing needle or sharpened pencil. The tips of faux fur don’t taper.

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Do you think you’ve spotted a company selling real fur as fake? Report it to the FTC. Your complaints help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies put an end to unfair and misleading business practices.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trump’s holiday bonus for big ag

A number of anti-animal politicians have been under consideration for cabinet posts in the Trump administration, but the president-elect has selected one of the very worst to lead the Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. An elected official who abused the power of his office to attack charities on behalf of agribusiness interests will now lead the federal agency responsible for a number of important animal issues, including animal testing for pesticides and chemicals, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution from factory farms.

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Shaun Lowe/iStock

Pruitt has been so aligned with factory farming special interests that last year he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, which celebrated his work to sue the EPA over the Clean Water Act and to attack animal protection groups. Just a few days before the election, he was a keynote speaker at the convention of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which vigorously fought our successful ballot initiative to outlaw cockfighting in the state and unsuccessfully tried to block the use of the ballot initiative process on any animal welfare issues.

In 2016, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and Pruitt led a third unsuccessful fight to push a “right to farm.” State Question 777 would have amended Oklahoma’s constitution to give special rights to corporate and foreign-owned factory farms, and block future restrictions on agriculture. It was so broadly written that it could have prevented restrictions on puppy mills, horse slaughter, and even cockfighting. Pruitt penned an op-ed in the Tulsa World advocating for passage of the ballot measure, and later tried to defend it by saying it wouldn’t have any adverse impact on water quality in the state, after so many local government leaders panned SQ 777 and said how dangerous it was.

Voters saw through this deceptive and overreaching ballot measure, and soundly rejected it with 60.3 percent on the “no” side. Donald Trump won all 77 counties in Oklahoma, one of the reddest states in the country, but 37 of those counties sided with animal advocates and family farmers against Pruitt and Big Ag.

Pruitt also filed a lawsuit with Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and other states’ Attorneys General to try to strike down California’s law that sets basic animal welfare and food safety standards for the sale of eggs in the state—requiring that the hens have enough space to turn around and stretch their wings. Pruitt and the other AG’s claimed to sue on behalf of their states and sought to allow egg factory farms to sell eggs in California, no matter how extreme the confinement of the hens or how bad the food safety standards. A federal judge dismissed the case, finding that Pruitt and the other AG’s were suing on behalf of special interests, not the citizens of their states. The federal appeals court upheld that dismissal last month.

Pruitt had previously used his position as Attorney General and used government channels, press releases, and social media to criticize The Humane Society of the United States, mounting a political attack on a charitable organization because of that group’s mission and beliefs. His playbook came straight off the script handed to him by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which has long stitched a phony and false narrative about the diverse work of The HSUS. This was an affront, and an example of the heavy hand of government trying to squelch the speech of an organization that holds views at odds with his political funders. It’s not the role of government to decide whose voice should be heard, and Pruitt’s abuse of power should outrage religious leaders, pro-life groups, and others with a values-based view of the world. Pruitt’s campaign against The HSUS was a sop to the Farm Bureau and his political allies who don’t like organizations working to crack down on cockfighting, puppy mills, and intensive confinement of animals on factory farms.

The Agitator, a blog that covers nonprofit marketing, called it “an ugly, dangerous and utterly frightening campaign of distortion and intimidation,” under the guise of “consumer protection," and warned of “how some politicians and their special interest supporters are attempting to intimidate, discredit and destroy nonprofits that oppose them through the misuse of fundraising regulations.” The HSUS sued Pruitt over this abuse of power and campaign of harassment and public vilification, and then later withdrew the suit after the AG’s office announced it was no longer investigating the organization.

Trump has also appointed Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be U.S. ambassador to China. Many family farmers claim that China is buying up American farms and treating our land and animals as China’s new outpost for factory farming, getting all the economic benefits of production and leaving the United States with all of the externalities. The fear is that Branstad, who’s viewed as an architect of this strategy, will now accelerate this move. Branstad was one of the first governors to sign an “ag-gag” measure in recent years, and he, too, has a poor record on a wide range of animal issues. 

With these selections, President-elect Trump has turned to two of the most anti-animal welfare politicians in America. It remains to be seen what’s to come for selections to the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, and other key agencies that shape the policies that affect millions of animals.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Court tears into Michigan wolf hunting law 

The State of Michigan Court of Appeals this week sided with wolf protection advocates, and declared unconstitutional the Michigan legislature’s attempt to force a trophy-hunting and trapping season on the state’s small population of wolves. The ruling is the latest blow to the blatant and outrageous power grab by politicians to subvert the will of the people of Michigan and their decision-making authority. It also restores the people’s decision in two statewide votes that occurred in November 2014. Those votes overwhelmingly rejected killing wolves solely for their heads and fur.

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iStock Photo

In 2014, in the first-ever statewide votes related to wolf hunting in any state, Michigan voters sent a loud and clear message against a wolf-hunting season and against the Natural Resources Commission having unilateral authority to transfer any “protected” species to the “game species” list. Voters repealed Proposal 1 (moving the wolf to the game species list) with a 55 percent “no” vote, and they defeated Proposal 2 (giving the NRC the authority to decide which species can be hunted), with a 64 percent “no” vote. Proposal 2 was rejected in 69 of 83 counties, in a landslide verdict that said the NRC should not be able to open seasons on species. Michigan voters cast more than 1.8 million votes against Proposal 2—more votes than any other candidate for statewide office received in that same election.

It’s a story that had many twists and turns – perhaps more than any in my 20-year history of organized animal advocacy. State legislators, in their haste to circumvent a citizen’s referendum on wolf hunting, tried to cut voters out of the decision-making process by handing over power to the NRC’s seven, partisan political appointees. In their arrogance, they tried to ram this through, believing they knew better than the voters. The ringleader of this fiasco – state Senator Tom Casperson -- was defeated in a Republican primary this year, partly because he was called out for intentionally misleading voters and fabricating stories to stir up a fear of wolves.

What the legislature tried to do was an abuse of power.  It was their right to pass a bill to open up a trophy-hunting season for wolves. But there’s a constitutional process that allows voters to try to nullify that. The HSUS, HSLF, and our coalition partners through Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, including the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Audubon Society, and Native American tribes, led the fight to try to overturn their action, and that was Proposal 1.  After we got hundreds of thousands of signatures, but before there was a statewide vote of the people, lawmakers passed a second wolf trophy-hunting measure – this time, by giving the NRC the authority to set a wolf season.

We were appalled by this abuse of power.  But we rallied and launched a second petition drive, which became Proposal 2.

As we were gathering signatures for that measure, lawmakers worked with trophy-hunting groups to pass a third wolf-hunting measure – the convoluted measure that the Court of Appeals struck down today. That third measure included a clause that attempted to make that legislation immune from a referendum. Only our action in court cut down their attempt to disregard the interests of voters.

The Michigan Court of Appeals found that the legislature unconstitutionally bundled together multiple subjects in the bill, combining desirable provisions for waiving fees for hunting licenses, “while surreptitiously slipping inside” a legislative override of prior referenda votes and putting wolves on the game species list.

This case was just one of two major pending legal actions concerning the protection of wolves. In 2013, The HSUS filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In December 2014, in a 111-page ruling, a federal court overturned that rule, holding that the agency misapplied the requirement in the ESA and failed to explain how the “virtually unregulated” killing of wolves by states in the Great Lakes region does not constitute a continued threat to the species. The federal government appealed that case and a decision is expected in the next several months.

We and our partners have been fighting in the courts, in state legislatures, and in Congress, to prevent the trophy hunting and commercial trapping of hundreds of wolves. As Aaron Payment, chairperson of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and newly elected president of the United Tribes of Michigan, said, “The Three Fires people ~ the Anishinabek are hunters, gatherers and fishers. However, an enduring value is that you ‘take what you need and leave the rest’. We don't hunt our Brother Mae-ungun (wolf) because to do so is only for sport.”

The people of Michigan understood it’s unnecessary to hunt wolves because people don’t eat the animals and because it’s already legal to kill problem wolves. The people of Michigan don’t want trophy hunting, trapping, or hounding of wolves; they don’t want more legislative tricks; and they don’t want to cede authority to an unelected group of political appointees. This week’s state ruling restores the will of the people in Michigan, and combined with the federal court ruling draws a line in the sand against the persecution of wolves.

It should also be a wake-up call to lawmakers in other states and in Congress. This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections in six states. Decision makers across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies should pay attention to this vote in Michigan and see how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.

In the meantime, we can today be thankful that both state and federal courts have sided with us in making sure federal protection remains in place for wolves in the Great Lakes, and that Michigan’s democratic process is not subverted in favor of cruel wolf hunting and trapping that the voters have twice rejected at the ballot box. It’s time to respect the will of the people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The looming fight on states’ rights and animal welfare

We knew before the election that Donald Trump’s agricultural advisory committee included a long list of extraordinarily strident voices against animal welfare. Now, according to a leaked memo of talking points prepared for that group, we have a window into the possible agriculture policies of the incoming Trump administration. And we know that our movement must rally once again to defeat one of the most sweeping attacks on animal protection and food safety laws we’ve ever faced.

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Photo courtesy of Greg Latza/For The HSUS

As the memo indicates, “The Trump administration will work with Congress to ensure that the Interstate Commerce Clause is enforced to keep individual states from dictating policy for food growers in the United States.”

That’s a thinly veiled reference to a discredited proposal from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that seeks to negate most state and local laws regarding the production or manufacture of agriculture products. It’s a radical federal overreach that would undermine the longstanding constitutional rights of states to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and local businesses.

The King amendment takes aim at state laws such as California’s Proposition 2—approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008—to ban extreme confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in small crates and cages, as well as a law passed subsequently by a landslide margin in the state legislature, with the support of the egg industry, to require any shell eggs sold in California to comply with the requirements of Prop 2. Its effect would extend to the recently approved Question 3 in Massachusetts, banning the confinement of farm animals and the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from crates and cages, which passed two weeks ago with an astonishing 78 percent of the vote.

In short, the King amendment could nullify dozens of state laws dealing with intensive confinement of farm animals, bans on horse slaughter and the sale of horsemeat, bans on the sale of foie gras produced by force-feeding ducks and geese, bans on tail docking of dairy cows and processing downer livestock, bans on possession and commerce of shark fins and rhino horn, and potentially even bans on the sale of dog and cat meat. It could also preempt a wide range of state laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish.

Since then, the world has changed, and the idea of extreme confinement is on its way out, with more than 200 food retail companies pledging to cleanse their supply chains of products that come from these sorts of inhumane confinement systems. On the same day that Donald Trump was elected president, the landslide vote on Question 3—which passed in 362 of 365 cities and towns in the Commonwealth—put a closing argument and exclamation point on the changes we’ve seen in society.

But opposition to the King amendment is nothing new. As a Washington Post editorial noted when it slammed King’s loser of a proposal, “Mr. King’s reactionary amendment would precipitate a disaster. Not only would laws regarding animal cruelty be upended, but so would laws protecting the environment, workers’ rights and public health.” Newspapers ranging from the Des Moines Register to USA Today also criticized the effort.

During consideration of the Farm Bill in 2013, the King amendment was added by voice vote by the House Agriculture Committee and passed the full House. When the House and Senate negotiated the final package, we succeeded in nixing the language from the Farm Bill. A broad and diverse coalition of bipartisan lawmakers, public officials, law professors, and organizations—such as the County Executives of America, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Fraternal Order of Police, and National Sheriffs’ Association—weighed in and helped to stave off this destructive provision.

It’s ironic that politicians like King often say they are for states’ rights when they agree with what the states are doing, but when they don’t like the result, they are perfectly fine with federal mandates telling states what they can and cannot do.

We heard so much talk during this recent election season about reducing the role of big government and keeping Washington off the backs of local communities—yet the King amendment would impose the will of Washington on our states as a legislative fiat and eviscerate local decision making on animal issues and other issues as well.

It’s unclear, of course, whether the King-type proposal that’s referenced in the campaign memo would get a real push from the Trump administration, or whether it’s just a fringe suggestion by some radical element of the transition team that will be rejected by the president-elect and his advisors. But if this threat does emerge when the new Congress convenes in January, or in the run-up to the consideration of next Farm Bill in 2018, it’ll be necessary for our movement to again marshal our forces and fight such a devastatingly harmful policy. We did it before, and we must gear up to defeat a similar measure again.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election 2016 wrap-up: What does this mean for animals?

Upending the predictions of pollsters and pundits and scoring a major upset, Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States. This news of course dominates the election headlines now, and it’s left his followers euphoric and his critics crestfallen. It was not, however, the only race that will have an impact on animal protection. Many animal protection supporters were elected or reelected to Congress and state legislatures, and animal advocates had big wins with lopsided margins on key ballot measures in red states and blue states. Here’s what we know so far on how the 2016 election results will affect animals.

Capitol
iStock Photo

Presidential Race

HSLF endorsed Hillary Clinton based on her record of supporting animal protection policies, and expressed concern about Donald Trump’s campaign surrounding itself with supporters of trophy hunting and factory farming who may have significant influence in a Trump administration. The rulemaking and enforcement actions by the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and other federal agencies will have an enormous impact on a wide range of animal issues, and we’ll be watching closely during the transition to see how these issues develop. We’ll also be redoubling our efforts across the board, and asking for your help in protecting existing rules and blocking hostile actions that could adversely affect animals.

We also know that  the nation is deeply divided and very skeptical, perhaps even more so than in previous presidential elections, with the bitterness of the campaign and the candidates evenly splitting the popular vote. What’s clear from recent elections is that the pendulum swings back and forth between Democrats and Republicans running for national office. The party that wins today is likely to come out on the losing side in upcoming elections, if past patterns hold. Animal issues have made progress, and have had setbacks, during both Democratic and Republican administrations, and we will look for opportunities to work with the new administration on issues of concern.

Congress

With Republicans maintaining narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, we are fortunate to have many Republican lawmakers championing our cause in Congress, and will continue to maintain our bipartisan approach to animal protection. Overall, HSLF-endorsed candidates won twelve races and lost five in the U.S. Senate, for a 71 percent win rate so far, with two additional races still not determined. In the House, HSLF-backed contenders won 210 races and lost thirteen, for a 94 percent win rate, with a few remaining races still too close to call.

In the more competitive races, HSLF helped to reelect Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the lead sponsor of the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act to establish a federal anti-cruelty law, and he won by a 1.7 percent margin in a swing state. We welcome some new animal protection supporters to the U.S. Senate, including Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and look forward to working with them. We are awaiting the outcome of the New Hampshire race, where Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), the lead sponsor of both the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act to protect pets in domestic violence and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to crack down on the abuse of show horses, is currently trailing by 716 votes, or 0.1 percent out of more than 700,000 cast. We are sorry to know that Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) will not be in the 115th Congress, and we thank them for their strong support of animal protection over their years of public service.

On the House side, a number of strong animal protection supporters facing competitive races were reelected. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), the lead sponsor of the Humane Cosmetics Act to phase out animal testing for cosmetics, won with 56.7 percent of the vote; Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who helped defeat the overreaching King amendment and pass legislation to allow pets on trains, won with 52.4 percent; Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), a strong supporter of animal protection, won with 53.0 percent. We welcome a number of new animal protection supporters to the House, including Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who earned 54.5 percent of the vote and succeeds his brother Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, the outgoing co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus; Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), an opponent of modest animal welfare policies such as cracking down on animal fighting and protecting pets in disasters, by 3.3 percent; and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), who defeated incumbent Rep. Cresent Hardy, a near-zero on animal issues, by 4 percent. HSLF was actively involved in all these races, and these are great outcomes for animal protection.

State Races

A number of elections for state houses and legislative seats across the country were important for animal advocates. The one that HSLF was most invested in was Missouri’s gubernatorial race, where we strongly urged voters to oppose Democratic candidate Chris Koster, one of the nation’s most anti-animal politicians. Koster worked to undermine Prop B, the landmark ballot measure to protect dogs in cruel puppy mills, and to repeal its core provisions before they even took effect. He stumped in favor of a “right to farm” amendment to the constitution that forbids the enacting of state rules to regulate agriculture and hands big agribusiness the opportunity to operate with no oversight. Koster’s biggest play against animals, however, was his attack on a California law that restricts the sale of eggs into the state that come from laying hens jammed in cages. HSLF ran radio ads on this career politician crusading against animals to curry favor with Big Ag, and Koster lost the race to Republican candidate and ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens who earned 51.3 percent of the vote.

Ballot Measures

The biggest successes for animal advocates last night came in a clean sweep of ballot measure campaigns in which HSLF, The HSUS, and our coalition partners had invested most heavily this election cycle. Massachusetts voters passed Question 3 in a landslide vote of 78 to 22 percent, banning the extreme confinement of farm animals in small cages where the animals are virtually immobilized for their entire lives and banning the sale of products that are not cage-free or crate-free. This is the fourth consecutive win on farm animal confinement issues since 2002, by larger margins each time, with voters approving anti-confinement measures in Florida (55 percent), Arizona (62 percent), California (63.5 percent), and now Massachusetts (78 percent). This sets the trajectory for more pressure upon the pork and egg industries to continue accelerating the transition to cage-free and crate-free housing systems, and complements the policies adopted by so many major food retailers. Massachusetts voters saw through the false claims and rhetoric of the factory farming industry about food costs, and sided with commonsense standards to protect farm animals and food safety.

In Oklahoma, animal advocates and family farmers are celebrating the defeat of State Question 777, with more than 60 percent of voters opposing the measure. Despite a multi-million dollar campaign by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and other corporate factory farming interests, Oklahoma voters across rural, urban, and suburban areas of the state saw through the measure and rejected this power grab. State Question 777 was referred to the ballot by politicians seeking to amend the state constitution with a so-called “right to farm.” It would have protected corporate interests and foreign-owned big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals, and prevented local communities from passing laws to protect clean water and public health. The measure was so broadly worded that it could have prevented future restrictions on any “agricultural” practice, including puppy mills, horse slaughter, and raising gamefowl for cockfighting. The crushing defeat sends a strong signal to corporate agriculture that no industry is above the law or should have special rights.

By another overwhelming majority of 70 to 30, Oregon voters issued a powerful statement for the protection of the world’s endangered animals by passing Measure 100, to stop endangered wildlife trafficking in Oregon. The measure shuts down the local market for products like elephant ivory, rhino horn, and sea turtle shells, and follows similar action taken by voters in Washington and California lawmakers to ensure that the states don’t provide safe harbor to traffickers and profiteers. The new law will ban the trafficking of 12 types of animals most targeted by wildlife traffickers: whales, sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, sharks, rays, and pangolins, and impose felony-level fines on anyone caught buying or selling the parts or products from those creatures.

While HSLF and The HSUS were most actively involved in Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Oregon, there were other measures we supported or were watching closely. California voters approved Proposition 67, by a vote of 52 to 48 percent, to protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into our rivers, lakes, streams, and ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds. We supported the measure, as did SeaWorld and others, because sea birds and marine animals often mistake bags for food, fill their stomachs with plastics, and die of starvation. Unfortunately, Coloradans approved Amendment 71, which will make it more difficult to pass future constitutional amendments, including those on animal issues, and Montanans rejected I-177, a grassroots effort to restrict trapping on public lands.

Our strong success on ballot measure campaigns illustrates that no matter what the challenges are with representative government, when we bring animal issues directly to the people, most of the time they side with animal protection and voters strongly support common-sense animal welfare reforms. We must take the long-term view as a movement. Our nation is in the business of democracy, and it's endured for 240 years. Our resiliency is part of what makes our nation great. Thank you for doing your part to contribute to democratic decision-making and getting out the vote for animals. Now it’s time for governing, driving reforms, and working to make our world a truly humane society.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Election Day preview: Get out the vote for animals

It’s been a wild and unprecedented election season, and all votes will be cast by late tomorrow. So much is at stake for the future direction of our country, and that includes the fate of animals.

The nation’s eyes are mostly focused on the presidential race, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund is backing Hillary Clinton as the best candidate for animal protection. She built a strong and consistent record on animal welfare as a U.S. Senator and as Secretary of State, and she has pledged to take on wildlife trafficking, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other animal issues as President. Her positions on animal protection have animal advocates spreading the word that #ImWithPurr.

Donald Trump, in contrast, represents perhaps the greatest threat ever to animal protection policymaking at the federal level. His campaign surrogates and the names being floated as possible Trump cabinet picks for the very agencies that oversee such policies include the most ardent anti-animal voices in the country. Advocates for puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and trophy hunting of rare species such as leopards and elephants would be at the steering wheel of a Trump administration. The choice is clear, and that’s why HSLF has been running TV ads in swing states informing voters that Donald Trump is a threat to mainstream humane values.

 

In Congress, 34 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election, and dozens of those races are competitive. In Wisconsin’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson has opposed animal protection reforms and worked to weaken the Endangered Species Act; he is the sponsor of a bill to delist wolves in the Great Lakes region, seeking to reverse a federal court ruling and to subvert further judicial review of that case. HSLF is supporting Russ Feingold, who has a strong record of advocating for wildlife conservation and the protection of pets, and is airing TV ads to support his candidacy.

 

There are a number of important state races around the country. In Missouri, HSLF is urging voters to oppose Attorney General Chris Koster in his bid for Governor against ex-Navy SEAL Eric Greitens. Koster worked to undermine Prop B, the landmark ballot measure to protect dogs in cruel puppy mills, and to repeal its core provisions before they even took effect. He stumped in favor of a “right to farm” amendment to the constitution that forbids the enacting of state rules to regulate agriculture and hands big agribusiness the opportunity to operate with no oversight. Koster’s biggest play against animals, however, was his attack on a California law that restricts the sale of eggs into the state that come from laying hens jammed in cages. Listen to HSLF’s radio ad on this career politician crusading against animals to curry favor with Big Ag.  We are also working in favor of Russ Carnahan and against Mike Parson in the Lt. Governor’s race. Carnahan is as good on animal issues as Parson is bad; Parson led the effort to repeal Prop B and to pass the “right to farm” measure, and he’s in the pocket of Indiana millionaire Forrest Lucas, who has donated lavishly to keep Parson’s political career afloat.

HSLF is involved in dozens of races at the federal and state level, and we urge you to consult our roster of endorsements and our Humane Scorecard to guide your voting. 

In a number of states, voters will decide not only on candidates to represent them but also on critical animal protection ballot measures:

  • In Massachusetts, a “Yes” vote on Question 3 would phase out the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens in small crates and cages where they are virtually immobilized for their entire lives, and will ban the sale of products that come from these confinement systems.
  • In Oregon, a “Yes” on Measure 100 will help save endangered sea turtles, elephants, rhinos, and other wild animals threatened with cruel poaching and extinction, by shutting down the destructive wildlife trade.
  • In Oklahoma, animal advocates are urging a “No” on State Question 777, a measure to protect corporate factory farms and big agribusiness at the expense of Oklahoma’s family farmers, land, and animals, which could prevent future restrictions on extreme factory farming practices, and even puppy mills, horse slaughter, and cockfighting.
  • In California, a “Yes” on Proposition 67 will protect the state’s ban on plastic grocery bags, which wash into rivers, lakes, streams, and the Pacific ocean, where they are ingested by or entangle sea turtles, otters, seals, fish, and birds.
  • In Montana, a “Yes” vote on I-177 would restrict the use of cruel traps and snares on public lands.
  • In Colorado, Amendment 71 would make it more difficult for citizens to have a say on future constitutional ballot measures, including those dealing with animal protection. A measure to ban cruel steel-jawed leghold traps passed in Colorado in 1996, but would have failed under the onerous new standards imposed by Amendment 71. We are urging Coloradans to vote “No.”

No matter where you live, please visit our election site to find candidates HSLF has chosen to endorse for federal and state races based on their records or positions on animal welfare issues. Animals only win when humane candidates and issues do. Tomorrow is the day to get out the vote for animals.

Election crucial to fate of animals

Border-collie-flag-blog
Mark Bacon/Alamy

As HSLF executive vice president Wayne Pacelle writes in the Tallahassee Democrat, tomorrow’s election is about the values we hold dear in society. That includes the value of humane treatment toward all creatures, and protecting animals from cruelty, suffering, neglect, and abuse. If you haven’t voted early, or mailed in your ballot, please make your voice heard tomorrow on Election Day. 

We are fortunate that so many officials across the political spectrum share our basic concern for the welfare of animals, but we should not take it for granted, either. Visit HSLF’s election site for more information.


Election crucial to fate of animals

In the maelstrom that is the election, let’s remember that the 2016 election is ultimately about the values we hold dear in our society. Important things, treasured things, life and death things. The future of our children. The health of our environment. The safety of our communities. The security of our nation. Even the interests of the largest non-voting constituency in the nation.

Nothing less than the fate of untold billions of animals—endangered species, pets, farm animals and others—hangs in the balance this time around.

Decades of incremental, bipartisan, consensus progress around the humane consideration of animals are up for grabs. Do we continue our forward motion toward a more compassionate world? Or do we retreat into a darker past where animals can be exploited in any fashion thought to bring short-term profit or even wicked pleasure?

Globe-trotting trophy hunters, factory farming titans, puppy mill apologists, advocates for horse slaughter, those seeking to eliminate the protective space of our nation’s parks and refuges—these are just some of the backward-looking people aligned with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. That cast includes Trump’s own sons—who prowl the world with that 19th-century eye to slay big and majestic creatures who they line up in their gunsights for trophies and bragging rights.

As a leader within the animal protection movement, I bring a non-partisan approach to elections, wanting all people of good intention to embrace the universal value that cruelty to animals is wrong.

Among its many harms, staying home sends a message that one does not care about making the lives of animals bearable, never mind great.

So together we have a choice this election. Candidate Hillary Clinton has a long and unmistakable record of defending animals against cruelty. She was a leader for animals as a U.S. senator. In this campaign, she framed the issue as plainly as can be: The way our society treats animals is a reflection of our humanity.

Indeed. America is great because of its humanity, its heart. America is great because of its enduring faith in itself and in better tomorrows.

Animals have a magic place in our journey. For the blind, the elderly, the war wounded, the ill, the bedridden, the lonely, animals aren’t just companions, they are sometimes the only warm presence to hold on to, and we are grateful. Millions and millions of us rejoice at the sight of animals in the wild. Consumers have been heard in the marketplace, and food purveyors are reducing the cruelties of intensive confinement agriculture. Entrepreneurs are in hot pursuit of innovations that will reduce animal suffering and strengthen our economy at the same time.

America is great not because of what divides us, but because of what holds us together across the divides. Our compassion for the least among us is one of those undergirding values. We owe them an hour and our wise vote on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fairs are not fair for tigers and dangerous wildlife

A dramatic video taken by a student on a field trip to the Pensacola Interstate Fair in Florida shows a trainer being attacked by a tiger during a performance, with children and adults watching in horror just a few feet away behind a fence. The tiger appears to knock the trainer down, begins to chew on her leg, and drags her across the cage. Another trainer enters the cage and frantically beats the tiger away with a rod.

It’s a much different image than the typical memories of cotton candy, carnival rides, and funnel cake conjured up by a trip to the county or state fair. Unfortunately, it’s part of a reckless and controversial trend emerging, with many fairs hosting exotic animal exhibits with dangerous wildlife on display for the public.

Tigers, bears, monkeys, and other exotic species are easily stressed by unfamiliar surroundings, loud noises, and crowds of people. They are often subjected to lengthy periods of transport and confinement in cramped cages and poorly ventilated trailers, which only exacerbates the problem. If brought into contact with the public, they are typically trained and controlled with physical abuse. When a wild animal rebels against a trainer’s physical dominance, the animal often pays a hefty price after the incident in order to remind them “who’s the boss.”

Many, if not most, wild animal exhibitors who frequent state and county fairs have histories of poor animal care, as well as violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act such as failure to provide animals with veterinary care, proper food or shelter, and poor animal handling practices that endanger the public and the animals. Conditions are no better during the off-season when animals may be warehoused for months in undersized transport cages.

Such displays are also detrimental to conservation efforts. Studies confirm that seeing humans interact with endangered animals leads people to falsely believe that these animals are not threatened or endangered in the wild. In addition, when people watch trainers handle and physically interact with wild animals they often want to do so themselves an impulse increasingly catered to by shady exhibitors who profit by charging members of the public to handle and pose with tiger, lion, and bear cubs as well as primates. It’s a practice that is cruel for the animals, can end badly for the people involved, and is all too often featured at fairs. Consider the following dangerous incidents with exhibitions that allowed the public to handle these animals:

  • A 5-year-old boy suffered facial cuts that required plastic surgery after being attacked by a 4-month-old tiger cub at a photo booth at the state fair in North Dakota.
  • A 13-year-old girl was rushed to the emergency room after being bitten on the hand by a tiger during a photo session at the Marshfield Fair in Massachusetts. The exhibitor fled the state before authorities could quarantine the tiger. Animal control officials reported several other bites associated with the fair’s tiger exhibit.
  • A monkey performing at the Mississippi Valley Fair in Iowa went berserk and jumped on a woman, hitting her head and biting her as she posed for a photograph. The woman filed a lawsuit against the fair and the animal exhibitor.
  •  A man was bitten while having his photo taken with a 2-month-old lion cub at the Lake County Fair in Illinois.
  • A tiger cub bit a man on the arm during a photo op at the New Mexico State Fair, resulting in a lawsuit.

How many incidents are needed before we stop allowing commercial profiteers and careless carnies to put entire communities at risk?

The Humane Society of the United States and other groups petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue revised regulations that prohibit public contact and close encounters with big cats, bears, and primates, regardless of the age of the animals. Multiple HSUS undercover investigations of public handling operations using tiger cubs revealed the cubs were denied veterinary care, fed a nutritionally deficient diet, deprived of proper rest, subjected to physical abuse, and in some cases suffered premature death.

Earlier this year, the USDA took an important step toward cracking down on the abuse of big cat cubs by traveling zoos and roadside menageries. The agency issued guidance making clear that exhibitors violate the Animal Welfare Act by allowing members of the public to handle or feed infant exotic cats like tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, or leopards. While there is still much more work to be done to fully address the concern, this is a significant step forward.

We are calling on USDA to completely prohibit public contact with big cats, bears, and primates of any age. It’s time for the current administration, or the next one, to take action. In the meantime, please contact your county or state fairs if you see exotic animal exhibits featured as entertainment, and urge them to establish a policy against allowing dangerous wild animal displays at future fairs—and not to play Russian roulette with animal welfare and public safety.

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