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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Big Ag’s Power Grab in the Grand Canyon State

Factory farming profiteers know that consumers and voters care about animal welfare, and they increasingly try to dress up their activities and business models as having the best interests of animals in mind.

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The HSUS

They talk about gestation crates keeping pigs safe from each other—of course, if you lived your life in a closet you’d never get hit by a car, but it wouldn’t be much of a life.

They introduce “ag-gag” bills requiring anyone who documents or records animal abuse to turn such evidence over to authorities immediately. It sounds good at first blush, but in practice it prevents whistleblowers from documenting a pattern of abuse that’s not easily dismissed as a fluke incident. And so on.

Their latest gambit of deception is unfolding in Arizona, where the legislature has passed House Bill 2150, which contains some red herring provisions to give it the illusion of being pro-animal welfare. In reality, the bill would negatively impact the welfare of millions of animals in Arizona, and it serves no good purpose for the state, from any perspective. Among other things:

• It removes farm animals from the regular animal cruelty code and puts them in a separate code, where the industry can more readily weaken those standards in the future.
• It strips municipalities and counties of their right to promulgate stronger animal welfare protections.
• It would remove the crimes of “abandonment” and “medical neglect” for livestock and poultry, placing a heavier burden on prosecutors and law enforcement when they confront these situations.
• It has whistleblower-suppression implications that could prevent food safety issues and animal abuse on factory farms from being exposed.

As Linda Valdez wrote in the Arizona Republic,

Like so much of what Arizona's lawmakers are doing this year, the bill also weakens local control by prohibiting "a county, city or town from enacting an ordinance that relates to the treatment of livestock, poultry or animal husbandry practices that is more prohibitive or restrictive than current law."

This would prevent cities from banning backyard slaughter of animals. Nor could local communities step in to correct other animal husbandry "practices" that might occur across the alley from your house.

The Arizona Humane Society is among the many groups opposing this legislation, noting that all animals, including horses and farm animals, deserve humane treatment. The group wrote:

Even a child in kindergarten knows that cattle, sheep and horses are animals. However, under HB2150, livestock and poultry would be excluded from Arizona’s definition of animals found in our criminal code. Since they will no longer be considered animals, the 13 categories of animal abuse currently on the books will no longer protect these animals.

Arizona voters share this view and have sided with animal protection time and again in statewide elections to ban cockfighting, restrict steel-jawed leghold traps, and improve the treatment of animals on factory farms. In 2006, voters passed Proposition 204, banning the use of veal crates and pig gestation crates, with an overwhelming 62 percent of the vote, and it was favored in 12 of the state’s 15 counties.

For special interest groups to try to remove anti-cruelty protections for farm animals now flies in the face of what Arizonans want. It’s also an affront to the democratic process through which generations of Arizonans have sought to include animals within the protective ambit of their state’s laws and value set.

When Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ran for office last year, he issued a policy statement outlining his views on animal welfare and enforcement, declaring, “I do not support exemptions in our anti-cruelty codes for any class of domesticated animals. No animal should be the victim of unspeakable cruelty.”

He was right. And he should veto this power grab by the state legislature that would gut the cruelty law with loopholes and exemptions, take away local control from municipalities, and put so many animals at risk. That kind of maneuvering has no place in a modern world, one in which the needs of animals have become a matter of serious social, cultural, and political importance.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tiger Loopholes Put People and Animals at Risk

There is a crisis with captive tigers across the nation, and the Obama administration must do something about it.

By some estimates there are more tigers living in the United States today than there are remaining in the wild in Asia, because of federal loopholes that encourage reckless overbreeding and public handling of the animals. These tigers are kept in inhumane conditions at shoddy roadside zoos, are funneled into the exotic pet trade, and even dragged to shopping malls and fairs for photo ops.

Photo by The HSUS
Tigers are kept in inhumane conditions at shoddy roadside zoos, and are funneled into the exotic pet trade. Photo by The HSUS

While tigers are endangered in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently exempts mixed lineage or “generic” tigers from registration under its captive-bred wildlife regulations. Because of this lack of regulation the total number of tigers in our communities is unknown, and nearly all of them are held at unaccredited breeding facilities, substandard roadside zoos, pseudo-sanctuaries, traveling zoos, private menageries, and as personal pets.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule in 2011 to close the loophole and regulate generic tigers, but nearly four years later that rule is still languishing. It’s time for the administration to act and give these generic tigers the same legal protections as purebred tigers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, too, must prohibit the public from handling and having direct interaction with big cats, bears, and primates. In one of the most extreme cases of government being totally disconnected from the real world, the USDA has previously suggested that it’s acceptable for members of the public to hold and cuddle tiger cubs during a short window when the animals are between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks old.

This encourages the constant breeding of tigers so there’s a steady supply of infant cubs available for photos and interaction with the public at roadside zoos and shopping malls across the country. When the baby tigers grow up and become dangerous and difficult to handle, they’re dumped, with some ending up at sanctuaries and nonprofit animal welfare groups across the country that must then spend millions of dollars to care for them for up to 15 or 20 years. Far too many animals are in crisis because our laws still permit the private ownership and overbreeding of dangerous predators by reckless individuals—and it’s the rest of society, including government agencies and taxpayers, who have to clean up the mess.

In the last 24 years, four children have been killed and 66 have lost limbs or suffered other injuries in incidents involving captive big cats. Eighteen adults have been killed in similar incidents during that time, and many others have been mauled. To date there’ve been more than 330 recorded cases of dangerous interactions with big cats, with cases in almost every state since 1990.

The USDA has been considering a petition to close this dangerous loophole since 2012, but once again, it’s been years with no action. How many more tragedies will occur, and how many more millions of dollars will be spent caring for cast-off tigers, before the Obama Administration takes action? Closing the loopholes on generic tigers and public contact will make our communities safer, help animal welfare, and save taxpayers from footing the bill for this reckless trade. 

Friday, March 06, 2015

PAWS Act Would Protect Pets in Abusive Homes

Earlier this week, U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) reintroduced a critical piece of legislation to help domestic violence victims and their beloved pets. The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, H.R. 1258, would amend the Violence Against Women Act to extend existing federal domestic violence protections to four-legged family members.

Only three percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide currently allow pets. Just like many pet owners stayed behind during Hurricane Katrina and put themselves at risk because they couldn’t bring their pets with them, many battered women remain in dangerous situations rather than leave a beloved pet behind with an abusive spouse or partner. The PAWS Act establishes a grant program so that domestic violence shelters can make accommodations for victims' pets, keeping endangered women and their pets both safe and together.

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The PAWS Act establishes a grant program so that domestic violence shelters can make accommodations for victims' pets. Photo: iStockphoto

Twenty-eight states have enacted pet protective order legislation, allowing courts to include pets in restraining orders that prevent suspected abusers from having access to their victims. But under these differing state laws, what happens when a domestic violence victim must go to live with family in another state where pets are not covered under protective orders? The PAWS Act establishes a national policy on the issue and encourages states to expand their legal protections for pets in abusive households.

Domestic violence and animal cruelty often go hand in hand. A seminal study in 1997 found that between 71 and 83 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners had threatened, injured, or killed the family pet. For abusers, harming or threatening to harm a beloved dog or cat is a way of exerting control and intimidation, trading on the victim’s emotional connection with a pet, and using that love as a lever to prevent an escape from an abusive and sometimes life-threatening situation.

Last year, a Campbellton, Fla., man was charged with aggravated animal cruelty after he severely abused the family’s dog. He chased the dog with a rifle, forced her onto the porch, and shot her twice. After he ran out of ammunition, he beat the dog with the rifle, and later with an ax, until she was dead. He was also charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence toward his live-in girlfriend.

In Amsterdam, N.Y., a man slit the throat of his girlfriend’s cat and threw the cat out a window. Two days later, he attempted to strangle his girlfriend.

The examples are endless and horrifying, illustrating a direct link between animal cruelty and violence against people. Those who torture and abuse animals are the ones most likely to physically harm a human family member.

The PAWS Act has 49 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, and is supported by a number of animal welfare, law enforcement, and domestic violence organizations. Please ask your U.S. representative to cosponsor this common sense legislation and help pass it swiftly. There is simply no reason to deny these protections to pets, and the people who love them. 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Lawmakers Howl for Problem Solving on Wolf Protection

While some members of Congress continue to demagogue the wolf issue, calling for the complete removal of federal protections and a return to overreaching and reckless state management plans that resulted in sport hunting, trapping, and hounding of hundreds of wolves, 79 of their colleagues in the House of Representatives yesterday urged a more reasonable and constructive approach.

Led by House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the 79 House members sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking her to support a petition by The Humane Society of the United States and 21 other wolf conservation and animal protection groups to downlist the gray wolf from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act, rather than removing their federal protections entirely.

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A threatened listing for wolves would allow more management without ceding control entirely to state agencies that have consistently demonstrated an overreaching and cruel hand in dealing with the animals. Photo: Alamy

“I have always strongly supported this Administration’s efforts to protect and conserve endangered species because the Fish and Wildlife Service backs up its decisions and actions with sound science,” Congressman Grijalva said. “Unfortunately, I fear that’s not the case this time. Gray wolves are still subject to intense persecution where they are not protected. They currently inhabit only five percent of their historical range and are clearly still threatened with extinction. This downlisting is the right way to make sure they get the continued legal protection they need.”

The group sending the letter included four Republicans—Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), and Chris Smith (R-N.J.)—and five lawmakers from the Great Lakes states where the wolf issue has been so high-profile—Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). As they wrote in yesterday’s letter:

“The Service’s focus on removing wolves from the endangered species list not only ignores sciences but also poses a direct threat to the credibility of the agency and the long-term viability of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It is time for a new approach for wolves that more closely aligns with those that have resulted in the successful recovery of species such as the bald eagle.”

“We view a legislative delisting as an extreme proposal that is at odds with the intent of the ESA and the wishes of our constituents.…Undermining the law and the Department’s credibility in this manner would set a damaging precedent and would cripple our ability to protect and recover other threatened and endangered species in the future.”

“As an alternative, we urge you to direct the Service to follow the science and the law and modify the June 2013 proposed delisting of gray wolves to instead downlist the species to threatened status. This approach would allow states significantly increased certainty and flexibility in managing wolves within their borders while also ensuring that the species can continue to recover in suitable areas.”

Lawmakers should look for practical solutions to problems, and find a reasonable pathway forward to settle contentious policy issues when possible. This proposal does just that, and it balances federal oversight and protections for wolves with more flexibility to manage wolf conflicts, including the depredation of livestock. A threatened listing would allow more management without ceding control entirely to state agencies that have consistently demonstrated an overreaching and cruel hand in dealing with wolves.

We are grateful to these members of Congress for advocating for this rational, middle-ground approach that balances wolf protection with the practical realities of dealing with the occasional problem wolf. The Obama administration should embrace this compromise solution, and help to settle the issue and find balance in the wolf wars.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Little Engine That Could Carry Pets

The first animal protection bill of the 114th Congress is on track and leaving the station.

wrote last month about the introduction of the Pets on Trains Act, H.R. 674, by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and the practical impact this reasonable legislation would have on the lives of many pets and their families, especially in regions of the country where train travel is the most affordable or most convenient option. Today I’m pleased to report that the House of Representatives took up and passed a larger bill to reauthorize passenger rail programs and appropriate funds for Amtrak for the next four years, and included in that package is the provision directing Amtrak to allow pets on trains.

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There would be reasonable requirements for pet owners, such as keeping the pet in a kennel or carrier. Photo: iStockphoto
In a time of partisan rancor and gridlock in Congress, it’s especially encouraging to see a broadly supported reform that all sides can agree deserves to get out of the gate. When you can take your dog or cat on an airplane, and stay with your pet in many hotels, it makes little sense that you still can’t have a companion animal travel with your family on a passenger train.

Under the legislation, Amtrak would be required to develop a policy for people to travel with their pets, and to designate, where feasible, at least one car of each passenger train in which a ticketed passenger may transport a dog or cat. There would be reasonable requirements for pet owners who want to take advantage of this policy, such as keeping the pet in a kennel or carrier, traveling less than 750 miles, and paying a fee that covers the cost of administering the policy. The bill gives Amtrak the flexibility to develop the details of the policy to best fit the service and their customers. Just as you don’t have to sit in the quiet car if you’d rather  talk on your cell phone, you won’t have to sit in the car that allows pets if you have allergies or other concerns.

As Congressman Denham—who often travels with his 15-pound French bulldog, Lily—argued on the House floor, this legislation could attract new customers who previously wanted to ride Amtrak but opted for other travel arrangements because they couldn’t bring their pets with them. And it could be a profit generator for the train operator, as Americans are spending more every year on their pets and may want to take their best friend along on vacation or business travel.

Last year, in response to the awareness created by the bill, Amtrak launched a pilot program in Illinois to test the idea of allowing pets on passenger trains. As Congressman Denham said, “This legislation builds on the success of that pilot program and would help families nationwide save money and time in traveling with their pets while bringing in much-needed revenue for Amtrak.”

Now that it’s passed the House, we hope the Senate will get all aboard and pass this common-sense legislation, which won’t cost the federal government or Amtrak any additional funds, but will help millions of American pet owners and strengthen the human-animal bond.

 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Guest Post: Some Veterinarians Barking Up the Wrong Tree

There are 23 million dogs and cats living in poverty in the United States, and their families often don’t have access to basic wellness services like vaccinations and spaying and neutering.  Low-cost clinics and nonprofit organizations are providing a critical public service for these pets and their families, who most likely would otherwise never get to see a veterinarian.

As Nonprofit Quarterly reports, some veterinarians and other trade groups like dentists are trying to crack down on nonprofits within their respective fields. This fight is playing out in Alabama and other state legislatures around the country, and today I’d like to turn the blog over to my colleague Dr. Michael Blackwell, whose guest column on AL.com makes the point that a rising tide lifts all boats in the veterinary profession.  

He is the former dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, and chief veterinarian of the U.S. Public Health Service. Here’s Dr. Blackwell's take on the issue: 

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The HSUS

Imagine trying to shut down a homeless shelter because it gives people a free bed for the night, undercutting business at the Best Western; or claiming that a person who donates free blankets is unfairly stealing away the linen market from Dillard's. Is a soup kitchen driving down sales at Applebee's? What about a doctor who volunteers at a free clinic for the poor—how dare he deprive the HMOs and insurance companies of those customers?

As absurd as it sounds, that's the argument some veterinarians are making in their zeal to shut down nonprofit and low-cost veterinary clinics for struggling pet owners. Unhappy with economic realities, some veterinarians are casting blame on the good-hearted souls within their own profession who work with animal welfare groups to make sure poor and financially strapped families have access to care for their pets.

By blaming nonprofits, veterinarians are barking up the wrong tree. They are seeking even more government regulation of one of the most highly regulated industries. In fact, what the veterinary profession needs is not more government interference, but more tolerance for free-market principles.

Rather than competing with established veterinarians, nonprofit organizations and low-cost services are reaching a new audience of pet owners and introducing them to veterinary services for the first time, expanding the overall universe of veterinary customers and responsible pet owners.

One program providing free spay and neuter and veterinary wellness services for families in poverty-stricken communities nationwide found that 83 percent of patients had never before seen a veterinarian. When these families see a veterinarian for the first time and have a positive experience, they may become lifetime veterinary customers.

A 2011 study by Bayer found six primary reasons for the decline in visits to private veterinary practices:

1. Pet owners are still feeling the impact of the recent recession, even while most veterinarians increased their fees during that period.

2. The number of veterinarians practicing companion animal medicine increased dramatically from 1996 through 2006, far outpacing the growth in cat and dog ownership.

3. Many consumers rely on Internet advice rather than a visit to the veterinarian.

4. The majority of cat owners do not take their cats to the veterinarian because they think it's unnecessary or too difficult.

5. Many pet owners still believe that regular medical check-ups are not needed and many consumers cite "sticker shock," thinking veterinary costs too high.

What wasn't on the list? The existence of nonprofit and low-cost veterinary service providers. These entities are providing a public service, helping to reduce the surplus of unwanted and homeless animals through spay and neuter programs, reducing the number of pets surrendered to shelters and euthanized, and reducing public health threats through rabies vaccinations, parasite control, and other wellness services.

Their work is reducing the burden on municipal agencies and taxpayers. Veterinarians working in non-profit clinics are still veterinarians and are subject to the same licensing, credentialing and oversight standards as any other practicing professional in the field. It's also worth noting that doctors who work with the poor or provide vaccines in developing nations are celebrated, not scorned.

Veterinarians who use their skill, talent and expertise to perform a public service that benefits society should be valued in the same way.

Lawmakers should reject the scare tactics by veterinarians who want to over regulate their own industry and push out veterinarians that are providing good services in the public's interest. It's time to pass legislation formally recognizing that veterinarians should be able to work for nonprofit organizations that help animals, just like they can already work for laboratories, farms, and other enterprises.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Politicians Crying Wolf

With fragmented populations numbering just 5,000 or so wolves in the lower 48 states—and so many of the survivors having lost family members as a consequence of traps and guns—these iconic canids face more threats to their survival than ever.

Last week in Washington, some members of Congress—led by Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., Reid Ribble, R-Wis., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.—predictably introduced bills to strip wolves of federal protections. The legislators trotted out the same old false claim about wolves being “overpopulated”—a species on the endangered list that occupies less than 5 percent of its historic range.

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Alamy
Wolves face more threats to their survival than ever.

Meanwhile in Lansing, State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, pushed through a non-binding resolution in the Michigan legislature urging Congress to act, falsely claiming that wolves “increasingly endanger people and domestic animals” in Michigan. This from the same legislator who previously had to apologize on the Senate floor for telling a tall tale about wolves stalking children outside a daycare center, which never happened.

It seems these anti-wolf politicians will say and do just about anything to get their way, facts be damned. Of all of the large predators in the world, wolves appear to be among the least dangerous, with no known attacks by a healthy wolf on a person in the lower 48 states. Yet, a small subset of people in the United States still fear and loath these animals, more because of myth than fact or science. A number of lawmakers have rushed to be their mouthpieces.

The federal government delisted wolves in the Great Lakes in 2012, and in just three years of state management more than 1,500 wolves have been killed under irresponsible trophy hunting and commercial trapping programs through cruel and unsporting methods such as steel-jawed leghold traps, baiting, and hounding.

In Wisconsin, 20 percent of the population has been wiped out in just three hunting seasons, including the loss of 17 entire family units. The carnage would have been substantial in Michigan, but for our efforts in the state to suppress the kill in 2013 and to block it entirely last year.

What the states had been doing—in authorizing the killing of large numbers of wolves, mostly at random—was actually worsening the problem, not solving it. A peer-reviewed study from researchers at Washington State University demonstrated that random trophy killing and even killing of depredating wolves may not have the intended population control effect. In fact, it may even spur more wolf breeding.

Why would some politicians lament a failed management tool that never even worked in the first place, and try to legislate a return to this wildlife pogrom that is, at best, a psychological salve for the anti-wolf zealots?

Wolves provide enormous ecological benefits, like keeping deer and elk in balance. They remove sick and weak animals, preventing slow starvation, and limiting deer-auto collisions and deer depredation on crops. By controlling prey herds, wolves act as a sort of barrier to Chronic Wasting Disease and other infections that could cost the states millions of dollars to eradicate and in lost hunting license sales.

Wolves provide other economic benefits, too. Many small businesses now rely on wolf-watching tourism to support their rural communities and local economies. A 2006 study of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming found that the wolf presence in the Yellowstone ecosystem created a $35.5 million annual revenue stream. In the Great Lakes region, the International Wolf Center, an educational facility in Ely, Minnesota, brings in as much as $3 million annually and creates up to 66 jobs.

These are the types of benefits lawmakers should want for their states and the ones they should encourage and applaud. And while wolves kill some sheep and cattle, these problems can be dealt with selectively in a targeted way, rather than a wholesale slaughter that targets wolves not bothering anyone in the forest.

The HSUS and 21 other conservation and animal protection groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to downlist wolves from endangered to threatened status in the lower 48 states—a proposal that balances federal oversight and protections for wolves with more flexibility to manage wolf conflicts, including the depredation of livestock.

A threatened listing would allow more management without ceding control entirely to state agencies that have consistently demonstrated an overreaching and cruel hand in dealing with wolves. This proposal is a rational, middle-ground approach that balances wolf protection with the practical realities of dealing with the occasional problem wolf, and it provides a reasonable pathway forward on what has been a controversial issue.

Congress and the Obama administration should embrace this compromise solution and reject the extreme efforts of some anti-wolf politicians to eliminate all federal protections for wolves by legislative fiat.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

All Aboard: Pets on Trains is Just the Ticket

Cassie was moving from New York City to Spring Lake, North Carolina, and she was devastated by the idea of giving up her five-year-old cat, Boots, who had been her beloved companion since he was a kitten. She was traveling to her new home by Amtrak, which still doesn’t allow pets, and Cassie couldn’t afford to fly Boots separately on an airplane.

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Matt Wildman/for The HSUS
Cassie and Boots

Fortunately, The Humane Society of the United States arranged a flight for Boots to Raleigh-Durham, and a volunteer rented a car to drive the cat 75 miles to Cassie’s new home. But many families, especially in regions of the country where train travel is the most affordable or most convenient option, are not as lucky.

You can take your dog or cat on an airplane, and stay with your pet in many hotels. But why can’t a companion animal travel with your family on a passenger train?

There’s a move in Congress to change that, and U.S. Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., are working to get pets on board.

Yesterday they reintroduced the Pets on Trains Act, H.R. 674, which would require Amtrak, the national rail operator, to implement a pet policy to allow passengers to travel with domesticated cats and dogs on certain trains.

They pushed the issue in the last session of Congress, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., sponsoring a companion bill. Under the legislation, Amtrak would be required to develop a policy for people to travel with their pets, and to designate, where feasible, at least one car of each passenger train in which a ticketed passenger may transport a dog or cat.

There would be reasonable requirements for pet owners who want to take advantage of this policy, such as keeping the pet in a kennel or carrier, traveling less than 750 miles, and paying a fee that covers the cost of administering the policy.

The bill gives Amtrak the flexibility to develop the details of the policy to best fit the service and their customers. And it could be a profit generator for the train operator, as Americans are spending more every year on their pets and may want to take their best friend along on vacation or business travel.

Last year, in response to the awareness created by the bill, Amtrak launched a pilot program in Illinois to test the idea of allowing pets on passenger trains. As Rep. Denham said, “This legislation builds on the success of that pilot program and would help families nationwide save money and time in traveling with their pets while bringing in much-needed revenue for Amtrak.”

Rep. Denham is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, and Rep. Cohen is a member of that subcommittee, which oversees Amtrak’s operations. Congress should take up and pass this common-sense legislation, which won’t cost the federal government or Amtrak any additional funds, but will help millions of American pet owners and strengthen the human-animal bond.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Did Your Members of Congress Make the Grade?

There’s a new Congress in town, but it includes many veteran members who are back at work on the Hill, too. We want you to know how those members performed on important animal protection issues in the last session, so you can either encourage them to keep up the good work, or let them know you want them to do better for animals this time around. 

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Kathy Milani/for The HSUS

Animals need every voice they can get this year. And yours matters so much. That’s why today we’re publishing the final version of the 2014 Humane Scorecard, which covers the full two years of the 113th Congress.

Think of the Humane Scorecard as a handy tool to see where your federal legislators stand on our movement’s key policy issues.

It demonstrates the level of support animal protection ideas hold in various regions of the country and with the two major political parties. It also helps us evaluate where we’ve been effective, and where we need to focus our energies in the months and years ahead.

Most directly, this scorecard rates legislators based on their cosponsorships of bipartisan bills on soring of show horses, primates as pets, horse slaughter, the treatment of egg-laying hens, and animal fighting spectators; their votes on legislation such as the Farm Bill and the Sportsmen’s Act with provisions that affect animal welfare; their support for funding the enforcement of animal welfare laws; and their leadership on animal protection issues.

We recognize the limitations of trying to judge legislators based on a few votes, cosponsorships and joint letters, and no instrument of this type is ever going to be perfect. Legislators sometimes must miss votes for unavoidable reasons such as illness or a death in the family.

Advocates should also consider such unrecorded matters as performance on committees, positions of congressional leadership, and constituent service. But our movement must strive for some objective yardstick to evaluate performance on our issues.

This past year we gave special weight to several votes on the Farm Bill because it’s a major policy vehicle that only comes up every five or six years. We advocated against the bill when it included the dangerous and overreaching King amendment, which threatened to nullify hundreds of state and local laws on food safety, animal welfare and agriculture.

We advocated for final passage of the bill after the King amendment had been nixed, and because it retained the ban on attendance at animal fights. We note that lawmakers had many reasons for voting as they did on this large package, but we felt it was important to score these votes with reference to our priority issues.

We hope the Humane Scorecard will be useful to you all year. If you’re a member of HSLF (I hope you are!), please enjoy the complimentary printed copy you’ll receive in the mail as one of your membership benefits. And please help to spread the word about the important things we are doing.

Here are some of the highlights from the 113th Congress:

  • A bipartisan group of 37 Senators and 108 Representatives covering 40 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia led as prime sponsors of pro-animal legislation and/or scored a perfect 100 percent—more than one-third of the Senate and nearly one-quarter of the House.
  • The average Senate score was a 45, with Senate Democrats averaging 64, Senate Republicans averaging 22, and Senate Independents averaging 69.
  • The average House score was a 47, with House Democrats averaging 79, and House Republicans averaging 21. 
  • Twelve Senators scored 100 or 100+. 
  • Four Senators scored zero.
  • Forty-eight Representatives scored 100 or 100+.
  • Seven Representatives scored zero.
  • The New England region led the pack with an average House score of 92 and an average Senate score of 80, followed by the Mid-Atlantic region with a House score of 68 and a Senate score of 61, and the West with a House score of 60 and a Senate score of 59.
  • The Rocky Mountains and the Southeast were at the bottom, each with an average House score of 31, and Senate scores of 26 and 30, respectively.
  • California, New Jersey, and Vermont had an average Senate score of 100.
  • In no state did both Senators score 0, though in Arizona, North Dakota, Texas, and Utah both senators received scores of 12 or below. 
  • New Hampshire and Rhode Island had a House average of 100, and Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont had House averages above 80.
  • No state had an average House score of zero, although North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming had average House scores in the single digits.

Special thanks goes to the following Senators and Representatives who took the pro-animal position on every scored item and earned extra credit for leading on one or more animal issues:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.)
  • Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.)

For all the details, please check out (and hold onto) the Humane Scorecard. Use it to talk to your lawmakers about their grades for last year. If they scored high, thank them for their support of animal protection. If they didn’t, let them know you’re watching and you hope they’ll try to do better in 2015.

And if your legislator wasn’t reelected, let the new folks in office know that you and other constituents care about treating animals humanely, that you want to see common-sense policies enacted to protect animals, and that you’ll be keeping them informed throughout the year so they can do well on the next Humane Scorecard right out of the gate. 

We need your help, and theirs, to advance a mainstream agenda for animal protection in the 114th Congress, taking on horse soring, poaching and wildlife trafficking, animal testing for cosmetics, the trade in dangerous exotic pets, and other cruelties.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The 113th Congress in Review for Animals

Editor's note: This post was originally published at 7:34 p.m. on Tuesday, January 6, 2015

As the gavel comes down on the 113th Congress (which spanned January 2013 to December 2014), and the new 114th Congress begins its work today, it’s a good time to take stock of what was achieved and what lies ahead for animals in the New Year. The 113th may be remembered for its relative lack of productivity and growing polarization. In terms of general lawmaking, it appears this Congress enacted fewer laws, by a wide margin, than any other since at least 1947, the date to which the House clerk’s records go back.

Cat-for-blog
The HSUS

Despite two years of gridlock, some major setbacks and disappointments, Congress produced a number of important results for animals.

The successes in the areas of animal fighting, chimpanzee sanctuaries, horse slaughter, wildlife trafficking, fending off the King amendment, and more demonstrate that even when little else is getting done, animal protection can bridge partisan divides in Congress.

In part, this is because the public demand for a more humane future for animals is strong enough to generate real results in Washington.

Together, we can and must keep the momentum going—and gear up for the new session of Congress, where we will once again advance a mainstream and common-sense agenda to close the gaps in the legal framework and protect animals from cruelty, suffering, and abuse.

POSITIVE STEPS

Animal Fighting:
The final Farm Bill signed into law in February 2014 (P.L. 113-79) includes a provision to strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to knowingly attend or bring a child to an organized animal fight.

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iStock

The language of the freestanding animal fighting spectator bill (S. 666/H.R. 366, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.) was part of the Senate Farm Bill from the beginning, as introduced in the Agriculture Committee, thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

For the House, related language was approved as an amendment offered by Rep. McGovern during committee markup with a strong bipartisan vote of 28-17. It had already won approval in 2012 by the House Agriculture Committee and twice by the full Senate, but final action on the Farm Bill stalled that year. This legislation was supported by nearly 300 national, state and local law enforcement agencies (covering all 50 states), including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and is the fourth upgrade to the federal animal fighting statute since 2002.

Forty-nine states already had penalties for animal fighting spectators, but the provision was needed to sync up the federal and state laws since many of these animal fighting raids are multistate and multijurisdictional. Closing this gap in the legal framework will help law enforcement crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting, including those who finance the activity with admission fees and gambling wagers, provide cover to animal fighters during raids, and expose children to the violence and bloodletting.

Chimpanzee Sanctuary:
In late 2013, Congress passed a bill (P.L. 113-55) to help hundreds of chimpanzees warehoused in barren laboratory cages and facilitate their retirement to natural sanctuaries. Earlier that year, the National Institutes of Health announced its plans to retire about 90 percent of government-owned chimps from laboratories to sanctuary—where they can live the rest of their lives in peace—and to significantly scale back funding for chimpanzee research.

But there was a hitch that had to be overcome: the law Congress enacted in 2000, establishing the national chimpanzee sanctuary system, imposed a cumulative ceiling on the funding that NIH could devote to it. NIH was due to reach that limit in mid-November 2013, which not only jeopardized the retirement of chimps in labs slated for transfer to sanctuary, but also funding for the continued care of chimps already living at Chimp Haven in Louisiana.

This would be terrible for the animals and also for taxpayers, since retirement to sanctuary is less costly than warehousing chimps in labs. Fortunately, there was bipartisan support in Congress to solve this problem. On November 14—just under the wire before the cap was reached—the Senate gave final approval to a legislative fix passed by the House a few days earlier, and it was signed into law the day before Thanksgiving. P.L. 113-55 amends the 2000 CHIMP Act to allow NIH the flexibility to continue using its existing funds for sanctuary care.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., led this effort. Horse Slaughter: For fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Congress reinstated a vital “defund” provision that had been in place from 2007 to 2011 barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding inspections at horse slaughter plants, effectively making it illegal to slaughter horses for human consumption in this country.

The agency itself requested this provision for the first time in the president’s recommended budget for FY14 and then renewed the request for FY15. The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills followed suit, with successful amendments offered by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., during committee markup in both chambers.

The omnibus spending package signed into law in mid-December 2014 (P.L. 113-235) will sustain this protection for horses until the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2015. It is urgently needed, as some companies have been poised to open horse slaughter plants in the United States. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility.

Horses suffer in long-distance transport and in the slaughter process. Rounded up from random sources, they have also been given drugs and medications throughout their lifetimes that are not intended for and are actually prohibited from being introduced into the human food supply. The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise.

Its agents don’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: they buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. Combined with the recent announcement from the European Commission that it will ban the import of horsemeat from Mexico, maintaining the defund provision is a major one-two punch against the North American horse slaughter industry.

We will seek to renew the defund provision and press the new Congress to enact a permanent and comprehensive ban via legislation like the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094, sponsored by Sens. Landrieu and Graham and Reps. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.).

Ivory and Wildlife Trafficking:
The National Defense Authorization Act for FY15, also enacted in mid-December 2014 (P.L. 113-360), contains a Senate provision offered as an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., adding authority for the Department of Defense to partner with civilian law enforcement on joint task forces to combat wildlife trafficking.

The FY15 omnibus spending bill dedicates $55 million to combat wildlife trafficking, with at least $10 million of that directed to programs to protect rhinos from being poached for their horns, and it prevents the United States from assisting certain countries and military groups if they are found to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking.

Harmful language that had been part of the House Interior Appropriations bill—to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from cracking down on the illicit trade in elephant ivory—was kept out of the final omnibus package, thanks to the efforts of many legislators including Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

And the Senate committee reports accompanying the appropriations bills for the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security included language sought by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., highlighting the seriousness of this problem and directing those agencies to report back on their actions to address it. We hope these provisions will provide some relief for many imperiled species by curbing the illegal trade in wildlife parts that has become a source of cash to finance terrorist networks and transnational organized crime.

More than 30,000 African elephants are killed each year by poachers who typically hack the animals’ faces off, since that’s the easiest way to run off with the ivory. This vicious cruelty is destroying elephant populations.

Wild Horses:
The FY15 omnibus includes language championed by Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Jim Moran, D-Va., in the House and Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., in the Senate to encourage the Bureau of Land Management to consider new, more humane methods of wild horse population management, including $1 million for a related study, so that the agency can move beyond its current inhumane and costly system of round-ups and long-term penning.It also contains language prohibiting the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros for human consumption.

Animal Welfare Enforcement:
For both fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Congress again came through with needed funding for the USDA’s enforcement and implementation of key animal welfare laws—the Animal Welfare Act (which requires minimum standards of care for animals at breeding facilities, research laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses, and other regulated facilities), Horse Protection Act (regarding “soring” of Tennessee walking horses), Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal animal fighting law, as well as for programs to address the needs of animals in disasters and to incentivize veterinarians to practice in rural and inner-city areas and to apply for USDA inspection positions.

The omnibus package just signed into law preserves funding for each of these programs without any cuts, despite intense competition for budget dollars. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., marshaled the bipartisan support of 38 Senators and 166 Representatives on joint letters calling for these funds, and the subcommittee leadership—Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Ranking Member Sam Farr, D-Calif.—responded to their colleagues’ appeals.

Alternatives to Animal Testing:
The committee reports accompanying the FY14 and FY15 House Interior Appropriations bills contain language provided by Chairman Calvert that encourages continued development of non-animal alternatives for chemical testing.

Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act:
Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 113-143, signed into law in August 2014) introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Angus King, I-Maine, to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport, administer, and dispense medications outside of their registered locations.

This will ensure that veterinarians can provide proper care to animal patients in rural or remote areas, including pets in disasters, cruelty cases, mobile spay and neuter clinics, animal sanctuaries, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and more.

Endangered Species Conservation:
Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 113-165, signed into law in September 2014) led by Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Tom Udall, D-N.M., that will provide funding for endangered species without using taxpayer dollars through the “Tiger Stamp.”

Since its inception, the Tiger Stamp has raised $2,567,000.00 for the Multinational Conservation Species Fund, which benefits the African Elephant Conservation Fund, the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, the Great Ape Conservation Fund, the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, and other international wildlife conservation funds authorized by Congress.

DEFENDING AGAINST HARMFUL MEASURES

King Amendment:

The final Farm Bill nixed the destructive provision that had been folded into the House bill during committee, with minimal debate, at the behest of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa—Sec. 11312 of H.R. 2642.The King amendment aimed to gut state laws protecting farm animals.

By negating most state and local laws on the production or manufacture of agriculture products, it could have preempted laws addressing intensive confinement on farms and a host of other animal protection concerns such as puppy mills, sale of horse meat, and shark finning, as well as laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish and standards for fire-safe cigarettes.

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Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., led the charge in the Senate to keep this out of the final bill. Opponents were denied the opportunity to have a floor vote on an amendment led by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., to strike it during House floor debate.

Hundreds of public officials and organizations representing sustainable agriculture, consumer, health, fire safety, environment, labor, animal welfare, and religious concerns opposed the measure.

This included nearly 200 Senators and Representatives who cosigned letters led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Schrader, and Gary Peters, D-Mich., the National Conference of State Legislatures, the County Executives of America, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Mississippi and Arkansas attorneys general, the Iowa Farmers Union, the Safe Food Coalition, professors from 13 law schools, and editorials in a number of papers such as USA Today, the Des Moines Register, and the Washington Post.

This strong and unified opposition successfully fended off this controversial attack on states’ rights, food safety, and animal welfare.

Sportsmen’s Act:
This sweetheart deal for millionaire trophy hunters and special interests was defeated in the Senate on a procedural vote.

The Sportsmen’s Act would have carved out the latest in a series of loopholes in the law for wealthy hunters to import sport-hunted trophies of threatened polar bears (encouraging the killing of rare species around the world), opened sensitive federal lands to sport hunting and trapping, and stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to protect wildlife, habitat, and people from lead poisoning through exposure to toxic ammunition despite the ready availability of non-toxic alternatives (unfortunately Congress subsequently enacted a harmful provision on lead ammunition in the omnibus).

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, played a key role in opposing this legislation, as did Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who sought an amendment to strike the polar bear provision but was denied the opportunity to offer it on the House floor. Otters: Language sought by commercial fisheries and the Department of Defense, to provide an exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act that would allow them to harm sea otters off the southern California coast, was kept out of the final National Defense Authorization Act.

Ivory/Wildlife Trafficking:
As noted above, Congress rejected a harmful rider—based on the so-called “Lawful Ivory Protection Act,” S. 2587/H.R. 5052 by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Reps. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Jeff Miller, R-Fla.—that would have prevented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from restricting the devastating trade in elephant ivory.

This crisis cannot be resolved without our country adopting strong policy reforms, since the United States is considered the second largest retail ivory market in the world after China.

SETBACKS

Of course, along with the successes, there were some major setbacks, with Congress caving in to extreme segments of the trophy hunting and factory farming lobbies, and working to block common-sense reforms.

The omnibus package recently enacted includes terrible provisions seeking to block the EPA from regulating toxic lead content in ammunition, to interfere with Endangered Species Act listing of the sage grouse, and to discourage the USDA from trying to reform the corrupt beef check-off program that finances agribusiness lobbying against animal welfare improvements.

That same massive spending bill also blocked the EPA from requiring reporting or the issuance of Clean Air Act operating permits for greenhouse gas emissions from animal agricultural sources—an act that the Los Angeles Times panned in an editorial. We must redouble our efforts to correct these problems in the new Congress.

And some crucial measures were left unfinished. A prime example is the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, introduced by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., to end the cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses and related breeds. With the overwhelming bipartisan support of 308 House cosponsors and 60 Senate cosponsors and endorsements by an extraordinarily broad coalition of veterinary, horse industry, animal welfare, and other groups, the PAST Act was more than ripe for final action.

It was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee but blocked from Senate and House floor consideration by a few legislators doing the bidding of the horse sorers, who don’t want Congress upsetting the status quo that has been so profitable for them. There’s no excuse for not passing the PAST Act. It must be addressed as a priority in the new year.

Congressional leaders also failed to allow votes on other critical reforms, such as the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments (H.R. 1731/S. 820, introduced by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.), which would codify an agreement between animal welfare groups and the egg industry to improve the treatment of laying hens and provide a stable and secure future for egg farmers nationwide.

Despite having the support of all major stakeholders, including veterinarians, consumers, and the industry actually impacted by the reform, lawmakers allowed petty caterwauling by the pork and beef lobbies to prevent egg producers from controlling their own destiny.

OTHER ANIMAL PROTECTION MEASURES IN THE 113th CONGRESS

Many more issues were tackled during the previous two years.

Some of these efforts raised awareness about important animal issues and spurred agency actions to address them, and some are unfinished business that we expect to be reintroduced in the 114th Congress. They include:

Pets:

  • Puppy Mills: Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 847/S. 395 to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations by requiring that large-scale commercial dog breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year directly to consumers via the Internet or other means be licensed and inspected, as breeders who sell to pet stores already are; and to require that breeding dogs at commercial facilities be allowed to exercise daily.

    The broad bipartisan support for this legislation helped spur the USDA to finalize regulations in September 2013 to extend federal oversight to thousands of puppy mills that do business online. Sens. Durbin and Vitter and Reps. Gerlach and Farr also urged the agency to finalize its long-awaited regulations to implement the 2008 ban on puppy imports, and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., led a letter to USDA cosigned by 37 representatives urging action; the agency followed through on August 14, 2014.

  • Pets on Trains: Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., introduced H.R. 2066/S. 1710 to require Amtrak to propose a pet policy that allows passengers to travel with cats and dogs on certain Amtrak trains.

    Their legislation prompted Amtrak to undertake a pilot project allowing travelers to bring their pets on certain routes from Chicago. In its press release, Amtrak’s president said, “Amtrak is supportive of accommodating pets on trains, and through direct collaboration with the Illinois Department of Transportation and a working group led by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California, we are optimistic a plan can be reached to address the needs and concerns of all our passengers."

  • Safe Airline Transport: Sen. Robert Menendez, D.-N.J., helped encourage the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand the definition of “animal” in the agency’s regulations requiring airlines to report incidents involving animal loss, injury, or death, so consumers can compare the safety records of different carriers. On July 2, 2014, DOT decided to broaden the reach of the reporting requirement to cover more airlines and to cover cats and dogs regardless of whether they are already identified as someone’s pet—so the requirement now applies to commercial shipments of animals by breeders, research facilities, and other commercial entities.

  • Domestic Violence: Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., introduced H.R. 5267, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to expand federal domestic violence protections to include safeguards for the pets of abuse victims on a national level and to provide grant money for domestic violence shelters to better accommodate families with pets. Many abusers will harm or threaten the beloved dog or cat of a spouse or partner as a way of exerting control over that person, and as many as one-third of domestic violence victims delay their departure from an abusive relationship for up to two years out of fear that their pets will be harmed if they leave.
  • Veterans Dog Training Therapy: Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 183 to create a pilot program for training dogs, including shelter dogs, as a form of therapy to help treat combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment mental health conditions. 

  • Wounded Warrior Service Dogs: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., introduced H.R. 2847 to require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly establish a K-9 Companion Corps Program that will award competitive grants to nonprofit organizations to assist them in the planning, designing, establishing, and operating of programs that provide assistance dogs to covered military members and veterans. 

  • Disaster Preparedness: Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., introduced H.R. 4524 to ensure that entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (including commercial breeding facilities, research laboratories, zoos, and circuses) have contingency plans in place, and all their employees are trained on emergency procedures, to safely evacuate and care for animals in an emergency or disaster situation. In December 2012, USDA had published a final rule requiring regulated entities to take additional steps to prepare for potential disaster situations, both natural and manmade, but in July 2013, just before the rule was to go into effect, the agency put its implementation on hold indefinitely. 

  • Euthanasia Methods at Shelters: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Lou Barletta, R-Pa., introduced H. Res. 208/H. Res. 433, respectively, to voice opposition to the use of inhumane and dangerous gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals and express support for state laws that require the use of more humane euthanasia methods.

Equine:

  • Horse Racing: Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., introduced S. 973/H.R. 2012 to ensure the integrity and safety of horse races that are the subject of interstate off-track wagers. Their legislation would ban doping of racehorses and give the U.S. 

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    The HSUS

    Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, the authority to oversee and enforce the new rules.Rather than having different rules with respect to medicating of horses in every state where tracks operate, there would be a consistent national policy.

    A powerful New York Times exposé examined 150,000 horse races from 2009 to 2011, reporting that minimal oversight, inconsistent regulations, and rampant doping of horses has led to a stunning “average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week.”

    This is tragic for the horses and also often the jockeys, who can suffer serious injuries, paralysis, or death from being thrown. 
  • Transport: Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., introduced S. 1459 to prohibit and establish penalties for the transport of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another (except a vehicle operated exclusively on rail or rails). 

  • Horse Therapy: Reps. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced H.R. 1705 to expand the Department of Defense managed health care program for military beneficiaries to include coverage of rehabilitative therapeutic exercises that utilize horses.

  • Corolla Wild Horses: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., introduced H.R. 126 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement to provide for management of the free-roaming wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The bill passed the House by voice vote in June 2013, but did not get a vote in the Senate.

Farm Animals: 

  • Non-Therapeutic Use of Antibiotics: Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1150/S. 1256 to phase out the routine non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals—a common practice to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions on factory farms—in order to maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating sick people and animals. 

    Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Feinstein, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Slaughter introduced S. 895/H.R. 820 to require the Food and Drug Administration to improve both the collection and public reporting of information on how antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs are used in food animal production. Rep. Slaughter and Sen. Feinstein also secured helpful committee report language accompanying the Agriculture Appropriations bills for FY14 and FY15 encouraging steps by FDA to address this problem.

    And additional legislators—Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.—joined Rep. Slaughter and Sens. Feinstein and Gillibrand on various letters to FDA urging specific actions on this topic.

  • Poultry Slaughter: Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Jim Moran, D-Va., Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., led a group letter cosigned by 68 Representatives to USDA calling on the agency to withdraw a proposed rule that it claimed would “modernize” poultry slaughter practices but would actually jeopardize food safety, animal welfare, and worker safety.

    Fortunately, the final rule issued in July 2014 ditched one particularly troubling element of the original proposal—allowing increased line speeds at poultry slaughter plants that already process birds at an exceedingly fast pace not conducive to humane treatment or worker safety—but other problems remained, including the removal of hundreds of federal inspectors in an unwarranted shift to industry self-regulation.

  • Downer Calves: Reps. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., led a joint letter cosigned by 72 Representatives and Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., led a letter cosigned by a dozen Senators calling on USDA to prioritize and expedite a long-awaited rulemaking to close a loophole in federal regulations that allows downer calves—those too sick, injured, or weak to stand on their own—to be slaughtered for food (whereas adult downer cattle must be euthanized humanely).

    The loophole encourages abuse as workers drag, kick and prod the calves in an attempt to get them to stand for inspection. In March 2013, the USDA granted a 2009 HSUS legal petition to close this loophole, and in May 2014 following the congressional letters, it signaled a further step forward, though the agency has yet to issue the proposed rule.

Animals in Research:

  • Alternatives Development in Research and Testing: Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, included report language for the FY14 Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to prioritize federal funding for non-animal methods in the BRAIN initiative and through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

    And as noted above, Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., included report language for the FY14 and FY15 House Interior Appropriations bills encouraging continued development of non-animal alternatives to chemical testing. The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., also included provisions in S. 1009 calling for a reduction in animal testing.

  • Alternatives to Live Animal Use in Military Training: Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act, H.R. 3172/S. 1550 to require the Secretary of Defense to employ alternative methods that are more effective and humane than live animal use for training members of the Armed Forces in the treatment of severe injuries.

    Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., also reached out to the Air Force regarding the use of live goats for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school training. Though some unnecessary and inhumane practices continue, the Department of Defense recently announced its plans to halt the use of animals in a variety of medical training programs.

  • Class B Dealers: Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, H.R. 2224, to prohibit the use in research of dogs and cats obtained through Class B dealers from random sources such as pet theft and free-to-good home ads. In an important breakthrough on this long-standing issue, the National Institutes of Health announced it would no longer fund research involving dogs from random source Class B dealers as of October 1, 2014, following a similar announcement for cats in 2012. 

  • Humane Cosmetics: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 4148 to phase out cosmetics testing on live animals in the U.S. as well as the sale of any cosmetics in interstate commerce if the final product or any component was developed or manufactured using animal testing. India and the European Union—home to a combined 1.7 billion residents—already have such policies, and the U.S. can help the global cosmetics industry continue moving toward non-animal alternatives that are safer and more effective.

  • Primates: Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., pressed the Department of Defense to facilitate the retirement of the chimpanzees housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility on Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., sent a letter to NIH expressing concern about taxpayer-funded projects involving maternal deprivation and other highly stressful psychological experiments on baby monkeys at an NIH laboratory.

  • Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, led a joint letter cosigned by 10 Senators, and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Langevin, Jim Moran, D-Va., Aaron Schock, R-Ill., and Dina Titus, D-Nev., sent individual letters to NIH requesting implementation of the recommendations of an advisory group convened by the agency to report on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research.

    Sens.Cantwell and Collins also sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services supporting the agency’s proposal to list all chimpanzees, both wild and captive, as endangered. Doing away with the “split listing” that distinguishes chimpanzees in the pet and entertainment trade and in biomedical research from those in the wild will significantly enhance conservation efforts for this imperiled species.

Wildlife:

  • Shark Finning: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., introduced H. Res. 285 to raise awareness of the dangers of shark finning and express the view of Congress that, in order to even the playing field for U.S. fishermen and prevent the overfishing of sharks on a global scale, the U.S. should end the importation of shark fins from foreign fisheries that practice shark finning.

    These lawmakers, with Reps. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., mobilized letters cosigned by more than 70 representatives and senators calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to reverse its interpretation of the Shark Conservation Act that may preempt state laws barring the trade in shark fin products.

    The Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also pressed the agency to rethink its position. NMFS has responded by replacing its blanket preemption with a state-by-state analysis of the laws in question and, to date, it has not found any of the state shark fin bans to be preempted.

    Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, introduced H.R. 5308 to prohibit foreign assistance to countries that do not prohibit shark finning in the territorial waters of the country or the importation, sale, possession, or consumption of shark fins obtained as a result of shark finning. 
  • Captive Marine Mammals: Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Jared Huffman, D-Calif., successfully offered a floor amendment to the FY15 Agriculture Appropriations bill directing the USDA to study the effects of captivity on marine mammals and finalize a much-needed upgrade of its Animal Welfare Act regulations for captive orcas and cetaceans—a reform that has been languishing for nearly 20 years—so these rules will better address the animals’ physical and behavioral needs. Unfortunately, since the House did not complete action on this bill, the amendment was not incorporated in the final omnibus spending package, but we hope the agency will heed its message. 
  • Captive Primates: Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 2856/S. 1463 to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the exotic pet trade. This would extend to dangerous primates such as chimpanzees, who can be easily purchased over the Internet and from out-of-state dealers, the protections afforded by Congress to big cats in the Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003. 
  • Primate Imports for Sanctuary: Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 3556 to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a rule allowing the importation of primates for the purpose of placement of abused, injured, or abandoned primates in certified animal sanctuaries.

  • Big Cats and Public Safety: Reps. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced H.R. 1998/S. 1381 to better address the exotic pet trade by limiting the breeding of lions, tigers, and other big cats to accredited zoos, and preventing unqualified individuals and facilities from possessing these dangerous predators, who suffer from being kept in abusive and unsafe conditions and threaten public safety. 

  • Wildlife Services: Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., called on the USDA Office of Inspector General to conduct an audit of the agency’s Wildlife Services lethal predator control program, including its use of poisoning and aerial gunning. The results of this OIG audit, which could lead to important recommendations to reform the outdated and mismanaged Wildlife Services program, are expected in 2015.

    Also, Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 2074 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress, and make available to the public on the Internet, a report on the animals killed under the Wildlife Services program. 

  • Dangerous Constrictor Snakes: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jim Moran, D-Va., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., and Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., sent letters urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move swiftly to add five species of dangerous constrictor snakes to the list of injurious species whose trade is banned under the Lacey Act. 

    All five species were identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing a medium or high risk of establishing breeding populations in the United States, jeopardizing native wildlife and pets, as well as human health and safety. Together, these five species including boa constrictors make up 70 percent of the large constrictor snakes in the U.S. pet trade. Thankfully, the agency has proposed finishing the job of adding them to the list. 
  • African Lions: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., led a letter cosigned by 44 Representatives to the Department of Interior in support of a petition by a coalition of wildlife protection and conservation organizations calling for the African lion to be listed as an endangered subspecies.

    Lion-for-blog
    The HSUS



    In October 2014, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing African lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and is currently accepting public comments on the proposal. 

  • Wolves: Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., sent a letter to the Department of Interior voicing support for the agency’s withholding publication of a proposed rule to remove ESA protection from gray wolves in the lower 48 states (except in the Southwest), and urging the Department to cancel the scientifically flawed delisting proposal.

    When the proposed rule was published, Reps. Grijalva and Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., led a letter with 86 cosigners opposing the delisting. After the agency performed an independent peer review of the science used to make the rule, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., led on a letter to DOI with 74 cosigners calling attention to the review’s findings that the proposed rule is not based on the best available science and undermines decades of conservation work to protect the gray wolf.

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also sent DOI a letter expressing concern with this potential delisting and requesting that a decision not be made without additional independent scientific peer review. • Manatees: Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., sent a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service calling for continued protections for Florida manatees under the ESA.

  • Circus Animals: Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., introduced H.R. 4525, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, to amend the Animal Welfare Act to restrict the use of exotic and non-domesticated animals in traveling circuses and exhibitions.

  • Elephant Ivory: Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 5454, the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range (TUSKER) Act, to provide for trade sanctions against countries involved in illegal ivory trade.

  • Refuge from Cruel Trapping: Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., introduced H.R. 3513 to end the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

  • Bird-Safe Buildings: Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., introduced H.R. 2078 to require federal agencies to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features into existing public buildings, and to address the impacts of interior and exterior lighting on native bird species. 

  • Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers: Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, introduced H. Res. 651 to recognize the importance of experienced and accredited wildlife rehabilitation centers and their contributions to the humane treatment of animals.

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