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    • The HSLF invites comments—pro and con. Keep them clean. Keep them lively. Adhere to our guiding philosophy of non-violence. And please understand, this is not an open post. We publish samplers of comments to keep the conversation going. We correct misspellings and typos when we find them.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Congress Needs to Act Both at Home and Abroad to Protect Elephants from Poaching

Today the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act, sponsored by Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

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This is a meaningful step forward in the effort to crack down on global wildlife trafficking and the poaching of imperiled species, including elephants and rhinos.

We are grateful to Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for spearheading this legislation, and we hope the House will take it up and pass it this summer.

The bill takes a multi-step approach to combat the international poaching rings. It:

  • requires the Secretary of State to identify the foreign countries determined to be major sources, transit points, or consumers of wildlife trafficking products—those countries that have “failed demonstrably” to adhere to international agreements on endangered or threatened species will receive a special designation, and the Secretary of State will be authorized to withhold certain assistance from them;

  • puts wildlife trafficking on a level playing field with other serious crimes like weapons trafficking and drug trafficking, making it a triggering offense for higher penalties under money laundering and racketeering laws, and requires that any fines be used for federal conservation and anti-poaching efforts;   

  • authorizes the President to provide security assistance to African countries for counter-wildlife-trafficking efforts;

  • takes a multi-country, regionally focused approach by expanding wildlife enforcement networks (WENs) to help partner countries strengthen coordination and share information and intelligence on illegal wildlife trafficking; and

  • supports increased training of partner countries’ wildlife law enforcement rangers on the front lines of the fight against poachers, who are often armed with night-vision goggles, heavy weaponry, and even helicopters.

There is an epidemic of elephant poaching in Africa, claiming as many as 35,000 elephants each year throughout their range, and threatening the viability of the species. Much of the killing is done by terrorist groups, with the sale of the animals’ tusks financing murderous activities of al-Shabaab, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the Janjaweed. 

The destruction of elephants is not only a threat to international security and to the very survival of elephants as a species, but it also jeopardizes billions in commerce generated from ecotourism—a bulwark of the economy for so many African nations.

Unfortunately, the House may also take a step backwards on the issue when it begins consideration of the Interior appropriations bill later today. A harmful provision in the bill would block any rulemaking by the Obama administration to crack down on the ivory trade. 

It’s hard to reconcile the idea of the Congress advancing the Royce-Engel bill today, but other lawmakers seeking to stymie domestic efforts to reduce demand. If we are to be successful in the effort to end the poaching crisis and save elephants from extinction, we must take action both at home and abroad.  That’s why we at HSLF will be fighting to strike the rider that would block further federal restrictions on the ivory trade in the U.S.

The biggest ivory-selling markets in the world are in China and the U.S., and these sales are fueling the slaughter of elephants thousands of miles away. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to propose a carefully balanced rule for public comment to crack down on the domestic illegal ivory market, while protecting legal owners of antique ivory.

The Interior bill would prematurely kill that rule before it is even released, short-circuiting a policy that will benefit global security, economic development, and conservation and animal welfare, and also subverting a sound process that has included key stakeholders. The rider preventing Fish and Wildlife Service action on the ivory-trafficking issue must be struck from the bill.

Please contact your U.S. Representative, and ask him or her to support an amendment that would strike the Interior rider that enables elephant poaching.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pretty Doesn’t Have to Hurt: Humane Cosmetics Act Introduced

More than 30 countries—home to 1.7 billion consumers—prohibit the manufacture and sale of animal-tested cosmetics. The United States can help accelerate the pace of reform worldwide and drive the market toward cruelty-free products with new bipartisan legislation introduced today in Congress.

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The Humane Cosmetics Act, sponsored by Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Don Beyer, D-Va., Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., will phase out both the use of live animals in cosmetics testing and the sale of cosmetics that have been tested on animals.

Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed a global transformation on this issue.

Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned across the European Union, Norway, Israel, India and New Zealand, with similar measures introduced and under consideration in Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, and Taiwan.

With today’s bill, the United States would join that international effort.

We don’t need to force-feed animals in massive, lethal doses or subject them to having chemicals dripped in their eyes just to produce lipstick and eye shadow. Such practices are expensive, labor-intensive, and outdated.

Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, cosmetics companies are prohibited from manufacturing and marketing misbranded or adulterated products, and they are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before those products reach the market. But the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates cosmetics, neither requires pre-market approval nor animal testing to prove the safety of cosmetics.

New technologies now exist that allow for replacing animals in safety testing for cosmetics. Examples include human cell-based models for skin and eye irritation, skin allergy, skin absorption, genetic toxicity, and sunlight-induced “phototoxicity.”

These non-animal technologies are already faster and as predictive of human safety—if not more so—than animal methods. They’re also less expensive in the long run. And thousands of ingredients have already been tested for safe use in cosmetics.

The trend toward kindness in cosmetics production has become obvious in the marketplace, too. More than 600 companies in North America have become Leaping Bunny-certified, agreeing to neither conduct nor commission new animal testing on products or ingredients.

And more than 140 cosmetic companies and stakeholders have endorsed the Humane Cosmetics Act, including Coty, LUSH, Moroccanoil, Overstock.com, Paul Mitchell, Seventh Generation, The Body Shop, Aubrey Organics, Chantecaille, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

While many Americans may be conflicted about using animals for medical research, there is an emerging consensus that it’s unnecessary and morally wrong for the validation of the safety of cosmetics. 

Pope Francis addressed the issue last week in his new encyclical on the environment, noting “the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives… human power has limits and that it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”

Corporate leaders know that they need to be responsive to consumer demands for cruelty-free products. A recent Nielsen survey reported that the most important cosmetic packaging claim is that the product is “not tested on animals.” And 43 percent of those surveyed said they’d pay more for cosmetics that weren’t tested on animals. Americans and citizens around the world want and deserve access to safe and humane cosmetics.

If the United States wants to remain a leader in the global cosmetics market, it’s time to provide that kind of assurance to its citizens and to those of other nations. Technology and innovation have been a force for good, making animal testing unnecessary and avoidable.

The passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act would not only spell relief for countless animals. It would send a message to the rest of the world that we don’t need to use cruel and outdated methods to ensure the safety of beauty and personal care products.

We are grateful to Reps. McSally, Beyer, Heck, and Cárdenas for leading this important effort. Please contact your U.S. Representative today, and urge him or her to cosponsor the Humane Cosmetics Act.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Who's Afraid of Big, Bad Policy? War on Wolves Wages On

Some anti-wolf politicians in Congress are once again pushing to force the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species Act and to block wildlife biologists, the courts, and so many members of the public from having anything to say about it.  It’s the worst kind of back-room deal-making, and we need your help now to stop it.

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Alamy

Both the House and Senate versions of the Interior appropriations bill include noxious provisions to completely strip wolves of their Endangered Species Act protections in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

They would hand over wolf management to hostile states in which more than 1,700 wolves have been killed in the last few years with the aid of leghold traps, snares, packs of hounds, bait site, clubs, and firearms.

These politicians talk a good game about scientific wildlife management, except when they don’t like a certain species and want politics to trump science.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has the tools to delist or downlist wolves, and the public and the courts have an opportunity to examine and weigh in on those proposals.

If members of Congress can dictate wolf management by legislative fiat, it punches a hole in the Endangered Species Act and opens the door for any politician or special interest group to do the same for a species they don’t like.

Fortunately, many lawmakers are speaking out and injecting some common-sense into the wolf debate.

“This rider is a tremendous overreach that would interfere in the federal listing of endangered species,” said Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., the ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. “Our committee’s role is to appropriate the necessary funds to allow the expert staff of scientists and professionals to do their jobs working to protect endangered species. This bill should not be mandating which species do or do not require protection.”

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the ranking member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, also panned the “new language that overrides court rulings requiring that specific populations of gray wolves must maintain protections under the Endangered Species Act.  This provision circumvents the scientific and legal process established to protect imperiled species.”

Eighty members of Congress have written to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging them to adopt a compromise position: a petition filed by The HSUS and dozens of other conservation and wolf protection groups to list the wolves as threatened in the lower 48 states.

That policy would likely prevent any sport hunting or commercial trapping of wolves, while allowing state agencies to selectively remove wolves in the rare circumstance that they pose a threat to farm animals or human safety. This is the current policy in Minnesota, and it gives farmers and government officials more tools than they have now in Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and other wolf range states.

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.

In a broader sense, it’s clear that wolves provide an enormous economic and ecological benefit. People will trek to wolf-inhabited forests precisely because they are there, boosting tourism-related commerce. 

Wolves also limit deer and moose populations, depressing crop depredation and shrinking the number of collisions between these animals and cars. Through their killing of the weak, sick, and older deer and moose, beavers, and other animals, they have a broad, balancing, and beneficial impact on ecosystems.

Please contact your members of Congress, and tell them to keep their paws of the Endangered Species Act. Ask them to oppose wolf delisting and other dangerous anti-wildlife riders.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wildlife Disservices

Longtime wildlife advocate Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., led a briefing today to expose the annual, irresponsible killing of millions of wild animals on behalf of a few special interests.

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John Harrison

The USDA’s century-old “Wildlife Services” program is a little known, taxpayer-funded effort to deal with wildlife conflicts, but the agency principally focuses on the outdated and inefficient model of lethal control.

And that killing routinely utilizes shockingly inhumane and indiscriminate methods, such as toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps, and aerial gunning.

In Fiscal Year 2014 alone, Wildlife Services spent more than $127 million—more than half of it from federal, state, and local taxes—to kill more than 2.7 million animals, including some endangered species and family pets.

These animals  were poisoned, gassed, shot from the ground and from aircraft, and killed in painful traps and snares to benefit clients like industrial timber operators, commercial fish farmers, and private ranchers grazing their livestock on public lands.

Today’s briefing was co-hosted by The HSUS and a coalition of wildlife and conservation groups and included a screening of "Exposed", an award-winning documentary by Predator Defense. Attendees heard from a number of panelists, including Denise Kavanagh, whose dog, Maggie, was killed by a Wildlife Services trap just steps from her backyard.

The HSUS also today released new research that identifies how Wildlife Services is misusing public funds. The HSUS report recommends seven critical reforms to the program that would help foster more humane and effective coexistence between people and wildlife. These include removing the financial incentive to kill, ending the use of inhumane management techniques, and ensuring nonlethal control is the preferred practice. 

But in order to become more humane and more effective, it’s critical that Wildlife Services as an agency also become more transparent. To date, the program has refused to provide significant information about spending even when directly requested by members of Congress.

People in communities where Wildlife Services is working now are often uninformed about the program’s activities, even when they and their beloved pets are at risk. Revelations about employee misconduct and negative media reports include a series of exposés that uncovered brutal and indiscriminate activities, fiscal irresponsibility, and environmental harm.

It’s time to hold Wildlife Services accountable for its actions and use of federal dollars. We are grateful to Rep. DeFazio and other members of Congress who have called for more transparent, humane, and balanced management, requested an audit of the culture within Wildlife Services and protested the use of poisons as a lethal control method.

There is a legitimate case to be made for a federal agency that helps to solve wildlife conflicts and provides training and research on best practices with an emphasis on innovation and non-lethal solutions.

But Wildlife Services in its current form is a relic of the past. It exterminates wildlife as a government subsidy for private ranchers and other special interests, using inhumane and ineffective methods, while the U.S. taxpayers foot a large share of the bill.  We have a right to expect better from our government, especially when humane alternatives are on the rise.

Now it’s your turn to speak up. Please contact USDA Secretary Vilsack, and ask for meaningful reform now. Taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to bankroll a wildlife management program that makes reckless killing its default option. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Where Science and Compassion Overlap: Making Progress on Animal Research Issues

If you want evidence that animal research in the country has gone off track, you don’t need to look very far.

After using chimpanzees in medical experiments for three decades, the New York Blood Center simply abandoned 66 chimps in Liberia and cut off funding for their care. Volunteers were handing cups of water to the animals every couple days, to prevent their deaths, until The HSUS stepped in and provided support to keep them alive.

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Agnes Souchal for The HSUS
Liberian chimps receive relief.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center was exposed for conducting ghoulish experiments on farm animals, with animals dying in steam chambers, of deformities, or left to starve or freeze to death.

In what all have come to see as a shocking example of government hypocrisy, medical research at a private laboratory must adhere to standards of the Animal Welfare Act, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture exempts itself from these same rules when it’s acting as the R&D arm of the factory farming industry.

Thankfully, there has been much progress on the issue of animal use in research, testing, and education as well.

Worldwide, the number of animals used has been coming down over the last several decades, and we’ve seen incredible progress in the development of non-animal methods in toxicity testing and related areas.

The National Institutes of Health has largely stopped using chimps in research and is working with animal welfare groups to retire them to sanctuaries. NIH no longer funds research involving dogs and cats rounded up from random sources such as shelters, flea markets, and free-to-a-good-home ads, and only two such “Class B” dealers are still licensed by the USDA—down from 200 some time ago.

Part of the reason for this success is a growing understanding that advancing science and medicine doesn’t mean we have to throw other values, such as humane treatment of animals, out the window.

Dr. David Wiebers, the chair of the board of directors of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and emeritus professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic, has been arguing for decades that these ideas are not mutually exclusive, and he’s been working to build bridges between the medical profession and the animal welfare movement.

In a recently published Q&A with HSLF, Dr. Wiebers said:

When I first became involved with The HSUS 27 years ago, the medical and animal protection communities were at terrible odds with one another, largely over the issue of animal research. The rather strident discord between these communities seemed particularly ironic since the primary goal of the medical profession is to decrease the amount of unnecessary death and suffering in human beings—and the animal protection community simply wishes to extend this same goal to beings other than humans.

Over the years, however, I can tell you that I’ve spent a lot of time in both fields and that some of the most beautiful, caring and compassionate individuals you’ll ever meet come out of both of them. There is a great deal of similarity in the spirit of giving and caring, and the enormous fulfillment from helping others.

For these reasons, I have always viewed my work in animal protection as an extension of the work I do in medicine. The key to bridging the two fields is to focus on the common elements and the uniting force of compassion that runs through both of them. Happily, the discord between these two fields has lessened considerably over the years.

You can read the full interview with Dr. Wiebers in "Humane Activist," the HSLF membership magazine.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Make a PACT to Stop Animal Cruelty

In the mid-1980s, only four states—Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island—had felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to animals. But today, all 50 states have such a policy, and there’s a national consensus that vicious acts of animal abuse and torment should be treated as a serious crime.

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At the federal level, too, it’s a felony to organize or train animals for dogfighting or cockfighting and a misdemeanor to attend an animal fight.

There is also a federal ban on the trade in obscene video depictions of live animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or subjected to other forms of heinous cruelty in perverse “snuff” films. This ban was recently upheld on appeal.

But while the images and video depictions of cruelty are illegal under federal law, the underlying conduct of the cruelty itself is not.

Today, Congressmen Lamar Smith, R-Tex., Ted Deutch, D-Fla., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., introduced the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 2293, to close this loophole.

This important new legislation will strengthen the animal crush video law and prohibit those same extreme acts of animal cruelty when they occur in interstate or foreign commerce. It would complement the federal animal fighting statute and the felony cruelty laws in all 50 states.

The PACT Act would also provide prosecutors with a valuable additional tool when animal cruelty is occurring in a federal facility or in interstate commerce. For example, federal prosecutors would be empowered to take legal action on malicious cruelty to animals on federal property or in a federal building, or if they found it in the course of investigating another interstate crime (say, in pursuing a drug smuggling or human trafficking ring). 

As we’ve seen with animal fighting, the state and federal laws are complementary and provide the widest set of tools to crack down on that brutal bloodsport and its associated criminal activities. Some animal fighting raids are multi-state and multi-jurisdictional, and sometimes the perpetrators are charged under state law, or federal law, or both.

With animal cruelty, too, most cases can be handled under the existing state statutes. The federal law wouldn’t interfere with those of the states but would provide an additional overlay when necessary.

For example, the cruel treatment of animals in airports (including the recent drowning of a two-week-old puppy in an airport toilet), on trains, highways, and other forms of interstate commerce could result in federal charges under the PACT Act. The law could also give prosecutors a powerful new tool to break up the trade or transport of animals for bestiality, which is especially needed because bestiality is still legal in some states.

A number of studies have drawn links between the abuse of animals and violence against people. A 2001-2004 study by the Chicago Police Department “revealed a startling propensity for offenders charged with crimes against animals to commit other violent offenses toward human victims.” Of those arrested for animal crimes, 65 percent had been arrested for battery against another person.

Of 36 convicted multiple murderers questioned in one study, 46 percent admitted committing acts of animal torture as adolescents. And of seven school shootings that took place across the country between 1997 and 2001, all involved boys who had previously committed acts of animal cruelty. 

A 2002 study found that 96 percent of juveniles who had sexual conduct with animals also admitted to sex offenses against humans. The FBI says serial sexual homicide perpetrators commonly sexually assault animals.

The PACT Act will make our communities safer for human and animal residents. We are grateful to Reps. Smith, Deutch, Marino, and Blumenauer for introducing this important anti-cruelty bill. Please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the PACT Act today.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Anti-Horse Slaughter Bill Hits the Senate

Many animal protection issues and challenges are not resolved quickly—they involve long-term fights that take years. The slaughter of horses for human consumption is one such example.

We and our allies have been working to block horse slaughter plants from opening in the U.S.; to stop the long-distance transport of these companion animals in cramped cattle trucks, bound for a brutal slaughter in Canada and Mexico; and to close down export markets for horse meat in the E.U.

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Our legislative adversaries, fearing to tread on this ground, don’t attempt to provide an outright defense of these extreme abuses of animals.

Instead, they try to cast this business—the business of slaughtering horses to profit from the animals’ exported meat—as some kind of altruistic act that helps the horses.

Today, a quartet of Democrat and Republican senators have introduced a bipartisan bill to end that cruel and archaic practice and put an end to the charade of its defense. In a recent blog, I wrote about the reintroduction of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 1942, in the House of Representatives.

This legislation would save horses from the cruelty of slaughter—a fate that is nothing short of a complete betrayal of an animal who has stood by us throughout history and is revered as a symbol of the American West.

Now U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced a companion bill in the Senate, S. 1214, to completely end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. 

The effort to end horse slaughter has consistently garnered tremendous support with both the public and lawmakers. Polling shows that 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter, and when horse slaughter plants attempted to reopen on U.S. soil in 2013, the public fought back. We don’t slaughter dogs and cats to ship their meat to other countries, and we’ll never accept the idea of slaughtering our horses so they can end up on a foreign dinner plate.

The horse slaughter industry and their financial backers should see the writing on the wall and recognize that they are swimming against the tide of public opinion.

Congress has spoken on this issue as well. For the past two fiscal years, it has rightfully prevented the use of tax dollars for horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from opening here. And when the House version of the SAFE Act was introduced last month, it gained 71 cosponsors within the first week and a half after the bill was introduced.

Now we have a bipartisan group of leaders in the Senate coming together to put the final nail in the coffin and end horse slaughter for human consumption, once and for all.

In 2012, New Jersey became the most recent state to ban horse slaughter for human consumption. Senator Menendez, the senior senator from the Garden State, has been a strong proponent of animal protection and has championed reforms to protect horses from horrific abuses such as slaughter, inhumane transport, and soring.

Senators Graham, Mikulski, and Collins have also been strong voices for humane values, and—as Senate Appropriations Committee senior members—are well placed to help horses. They will be at the forefront of efforts to make sure that the language preventing the funding of horse slaughter inspections is retained yet again so that no horse slaughter plants can open here while the SAFE Act is pending.

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t “euthanize” old horses but precisely the opposite: scurrilous players buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan.

It’s time for Congress to pass the SAFE Act and end horse slaughter for human consumption for good. Please take action today, and ask your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to cosponsor the SAFE Act.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

States Make Progress on Animal Fighting, Puppy Mills, and More

There’s been a lot of action on animal protection policies in state legislatures so far this year, just a few months into 2015. Some major priority bills have been enacted to help crack down on cockfighting, puppy mills, and other large-scale cruelties. Other major issues are on the move, and have cleared key legislative hurdles. We’ve also garnered some key vetoes of bills inimical to animal protection. Here are a few brief dispatches on the progress for animals—and some roadblocks—in the states so far in 2015.

Animal Fighting: Utah became the 42nd state to establish felony-level penalties for cockfighting, and Tennessee capped a seven-year campaign to fortify the state’s anti-cockfighting statute and make it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. Anti-cockfighting bills are still pending in Ohio and South Carolina. Shamefully, Montana lawmakers voted down a bill to ban attendance at dogfights—retaining their status as the only state in the nation to have such a loophole.

Ivory: The Oregon Senate voted to ban the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn in the state, and a similar bill advanced in California through the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife. A coalition led by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, and supported by The HSUS and HSLF, launched a ballot initiative in Washington to ban the trafficking in rare species. If these measures are enacted, the west coast will join New York and New Jersey in cutting off the demand for elephant and rhino poaching.

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Virginia became the third state to restrict sources of pet-store puppies. Photo by Chris Keane/AP Images for The HSUS

Puppy Mills: Virginia strengthened its anti-puppy mill law, by prohibiting pet stores from acquiring dogs from commercial breeders with the worst violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and cracking down on unregulated sales of dogs and cats at flea markets, parking lots, and rest stops. It’s the third state to restrict sources of pet-store puppies, and the fifth to address unregulated outdoor sales, helping to drive the market toward responsible breeders and shelters and rescue groups.

Sharks: The Texas House passed a bill to ban the trade in shark fins and to help combat the brutal finning of sharks left to die slowly in the oceans. If enacted, Texas would join nine other states and three U.S. territories with similar policies to crack down on the killing of 26 to 73 million sharks each year, just for a bowl of soup.

Greyhounds: Unfortunately, the Florida legislature adjourned without finalizing a major gambling bill, which would have repealed the state’s mandate that tracks hold live dog racing. Florida is one of the last states in the nation to legally force business owners to hold dog races, resulting in hundreds of injuries to dogs each year.

Gas Chambers: The Kansas House passed a bill to ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers to euthanize dogs and cats at shelters, but the language was modified in a conference committee to require that the Department of Agriculture update euthanasia standards by the end of the year. The HSUS will follow this process closely to ensure that it results in a ban on gas chambers, and will continue working with shelters in the remaining gas chamber states to transition them away from this outdated killing practice. In South Carolina, a bill banning gas chambers has passed the House and is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

Ag-Gag: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a misguided and dangerous bill that would have hindered whistleblowing investigations into animal abuse on factory farms and bifurcated the state’s anti-cruelty statute—creating one set of rules for companion animals and another, weaker, one for farm animals and horses—after hearing from thousands of constituents who opposed this power grab by Big Ag. We are working to fight pending “ag-gag” legislation which seeks to stop whistleblowers and journalists from exposing abuses on factory farms in a number of states.

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The North Carolina House passed a bill that would ban the most dangerous wild animals from being kept as pets.Photo by Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Captive Wildlife: West Virginia passed a follow-up bill to last year’s law on dangerous wild animals as pets, ensuring that the private ownership of lions, tigers, bears, apes, monkeys, and other species will be prohibited in the state. And the North Carolina House passed a bill that would also ban the most dangerous wild animals from being kept as pets. These are two of the handful of remaining states with little to no restrictions on the keeping of dangerous wildlife. Also, a bill advanced in California through the Senate Committee on Public Safety to ban the use of bullhooks on elephants.

Unsporting Hunting Methods: The Indiana Senate voted down a bill that would have legalized captive hunting of deer, elk, and other cervids trapped behind fences—an unsporting and inhumane practice that also spreads deadly diseases to native wildlife and livestock. The Colorado, Oregon, and Washington legislatures all rejected attempts by trophy-hunting groups to repeal portions of citizen-passed ballot measures that prohibit the baiting and hounding of bears or cougars. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a bill yesterday that would have dramatically liberalized the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps in the state.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Big Bang to Stop Horse Slaughter

A bipartisan team of lawmakers today introduced federal legislation to stop the butchering of America’s companion horses and the peddling of their doped up meat to foreign consumers.

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The HSUS

For the past two fiscal years, Congress has rightly stopped the use of tax dollars for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct horse slaughter inspections, preventing the plants from opening here.

But the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (H.R. 1942)—which was introduced by Reps. Frank Guinta, R-N.H.; Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.; Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; and a bipartisan group of original cosponsors—would completely ban horse slaughter operations in the U.S.

It would also stop the export of American horses for the purpose of slaughter in other countries such as Canada and Mexico.

Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, star of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” is helping The HSUS spread the word about the cruelty of horse slaughter and urging Congress to pass the SAFE Act. You can watch her PSA here.


Kaley said, “As a horse owner, I know firsthand the unique bond we share with horses, and I am passionate about protecting them from cruelty. To force any horse to endure the horror of slaughter is a betrayal of their trust and loyalty. I hope my PSA will focus attention on this important issue and bring an end to the slaughter of American horses.”

Horses suffer in long-distance transport and in the slaughter process. Rounded up from random sources, these are former racehorses, show ponies, working animals, and backyard pets who meet a terrible fate.

The animals were also never intended for human consumption, so they’ve been given drugs and medications throughout their lifetimes that are prohibited from being introduced into the human food supply. The European Commission, in fact, has suspended horsemeat imports from Mexico where most of those slaughtered horses originated in the U.S.

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. It doesn’t “euthanize” old horses, but precisely the opposite: scurrilous players buy up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting their intentions, and kill them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan.

It’s time for Congress to close gaps in the law and stop treating these American icons as nothing more than meat on the hoof. Please ask your representative to cosponsor the SAFE Act today.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

See No Evil: Dogfighting Spectator Law Already Making a Difference

I’m pleased to report that the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which we worked with Congress to enact last year, is now having a tangible impact in the field and helping to crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting. This week, eight people were convicted under federal law for attending a dogfight in Akron, Ohio.

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The HSUS

Last November, police raided what the Cleveland Plain Dealer called a nationwide dogfighting ring. Forty-seven people were arrested. Ten were charged in federal court, and the rest are being prosecuted in state court.

The spectators who had crossed state lines to attend the match were charged federally, along with the two chief organizers of the fights that were held that night.

Eight dogs were seized in the raid, including two who were already bloodied and were fighting in a 16-by-16-foot pit when law enforcement descended on the property.

Animal fighting routinely goes hand in hand with other crimes, and this was no exception. Narcotics and $52,000 in gambling cash were confiscated. One convicted felon was charged with being in possession of a firearm.This was a highly organized operation, and fight organizers even sold concessions and dogfighting paraphernalia to attendees.

These latest convictions show that while much of our work involves passing laws to protect animals, it’s equally important that those laws be properly enforced. Thanks to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, it’s now a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight.

This was the fourth upgrade of the federal animal fighting statute since 2002, as we’ve worked to close gaps in the legal framework and strengthen the penalties for dogfights and cockfights.

With the FBI now tracking animal cruelty crimes in the Uniform Crime Reporting database, and agencies like the National Sheriffs’ Association speaking out forcefully against animal cruelty, we should see more enforcement of all animal cruelty laws. Animal fighting crimes are particularly well suited for federal prosecution because animal fighting almost always involves interstate activity.

In another high-profile example, federal investigators closed down a major cockfighting pit in Pikeville, Kentucky, last year and found that participants in that operation came from dozens of states.

Those out of state attendees even included members of organized criminal gangs like the Mexican Mafia. The evidence is clear. Animal fighting is a lose-lose endeavor for the animals as well as for the communities where the crimes are staged.

It also demonstrates why strong federal and state laws are both needed and complementary in the effort to crack down on animal fighting. Sometimes the fights are multi-state and multi-jurisdictional, and participants might be charged under federal law, or state law, or both. We are grateful to the lawmakers who helped shepherd through this new spectator animal fighting provision in the last Congress, thus providing one more important tool for law enforcement.

Of course, much more needs to be done across the country. The Tennessee House of Representatives may vote this week on a bill that would strengthen the state’s animal fighting law. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has written to every member of the Tennessee House, urging them to support efforts to stiffen the penalties for animal fighting.

It’s far too early to declare victory over dogfighting and cockfighting. Some states maintain absurdly low penalties for cockfighting. And dogfighting is still pervasive in some quarters—just two weeks ago Montana lawmakers rejected an effort to criminalize being a spectator at a dogfight.

But we can take heart in the fact that animal fighting laws are getting tougher, law enforcement is paying attention, and a growing chorus of voices is saying that this cruelty must end.

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