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Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 14 in ’14

As the year winds down to a close, I’m pleased to report that 136 new animal protection laws have been enacted this year at the state and local levels—the largest number of any year in the past decade. That continues the surge in animal protection policymaking by state legislatures, and in total, it makes more than 1,000 new policies in the states since 2005, across a broad range of subjects bearing upon the lives of pets, wildlife, animals in research and testing, and farm animals.

That is tremendous forward progress, closing the gaps in the legal framework for animals, and ushering in new standards in society for how animals are treated. I’d like to recap what I view as the top 14 state victories for animals in 2014.

Felony Cruelty
South Dakota became the 50th state with felony penalties for malicious animal cruelty. In the mid-1980s only four states had such laws, and it has long been a priority goal for The HSUS and HSLF to secure felony cruelty statutes in all 50 states. With South Dakota’s action, every state in the nation now treats animal abuse as more than just a slap on the wrist. The bill also made South Dakota the 41st state with felony cockfighting penalties, leaving only nine states with weak misdemeanor statutes for staged animal combat.

Ivory and Rhino Horn

Paul Hilton/for HSI

New Jersey and New York became the first two states to ban the trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns. The new policies will help to crack down on international wildlife traffickers and dry up the demand for illegal wildlife products in the northeast, which is the largest U.S. market for ivory and a main entry point for smuggled wildlife products.

The action by the states also helps build support for a proposed national policy in the U.S., the second largest retail ivory market in the world after China.

Exotic Pets
West Virginia became the 45th state to restrict the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals such as big cats, primates, bears, wolves, and large constricting and venomous snakes. The new policy is a major step forward for animal welfare and public safety, and it leaves just five states with virtually no restrictions on reckless individuals who keep dangerous predators in their bedrooms and basements and threaten the safety of the animals as well as the community at large.

Fox Penning
Virginia passed legislation restricting cruel fox pens—staged competitions in which wild-caught foxes are trapped and stocked inside fenced enclosures to be chased down by packs of dogs. Lawmakers reached a compromise to phase out existing pens and prohibit new ones from opening, laying the groundwork for an eventual end to this sick type of animal fighting between dogs and foxes.

Breed Discrimination

Meredith Lee/for The HSUS

After the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in 2012 that pit bulls were “inherently dangerous,” it ushered in a disgraceful era of canine profiling in which families with pit bull-type dogs were forced to choose between their homes and their beloved pets.

It took two years, but the Maryland legislature finally passed legislation to address the problem, agreeing that public safety is best served by holding dog owners equally liable if their dog injures someone, regardless of the dog’s breed. For their part, South Dakota and Utah prohibited any local government in those states from enacting breed-discriminatory legislation.

Veal Crates
The Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission was established to consider rules on animals in agriculture, and the panel decided to ban veal crates by 2018, making Kentucky the eighth state to end the cruel confinement of veal calves in small crates where they can’t turn around. While this is welcome progress, the commission unfortunately punted on other important issues such as gestation crates for breeding pigs and tail docking of dairy cows.

Greyhound Racing
Colorado banned greyhound racing, which hasn’t been active in the state since 2008, while Arizona passed legislation to require reporting of greyhound injuries at Tucson Greyhound Park, where a dog died in March after bumping an electrified inside rail. Iowa lawmakers passed a compromise bill to end or reduce greyhound racing at certain tracks, eliminate slot machine subsidies for dog racing, and set up a retirement fund for greyhound breeders.

Louisiana, the last state to ban cockfighting, fortified its 2007 anti-cockfighting statute. The newly revised statute increases the first-offense penalties for cockfighting, tightens the definition of birds used for fighting, and bans the possession of cockfighting weapons and paraphernalia, to help law enforcement crack down on this staged animal combat. It’s a sign of the changing times that the last state to have legal cockfights now has one of the strongest anti-cockfighting laws on the books.

Pet Protective Orders
Iowa, New Hampshire, and Virginia strengthened their states’ protections for victims of domestic violence and their beloved family pets. The bills allow pets to be included in protective orders, helping to ensure that abusers do not succeed in controlling, manipulating, or keeping the human victims of their cruelty and violence in dangerous situations by threatening their pets with harm.

Puppy Mills
Minnesota, one of the top puppy mill states, passed long-overdue legislation to regulate large-scale commercial dog and cat breeders, requiring them to be inspected and meet standards of animal care. Virginia passed “Bailey’s Law”—named for a beagle puppy suffering from respiratory and intestinal infections after she was unknowingly purchased from a puppy mill—requiring that pet stores must inform consumers about the sources of their dogs. And Connecticut prohibited pet stores from purchasing dogs or cats from breeders with certain Animal Welfare Act violations.

Shark Finning

Vanessa Mignon

Massachusetts became the ninth state (along with three U.S. territories) to ban the trade in shark fins. These state laws help to dry up consumer demand and crack down on the brutal practice of hacking off the fins of sharks, often while they’re still alive, and throwing the mutilated animals back overboard to die slowly in the ocean—just for a bowl of soup.

Cost of Animal Care
Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont strengthened their animal cruelty statutes by shifting the financial burden of caring for animals lawfully seized from situations of cruelty, abuse, and neglect from county governments and nonprofit shelters to the animals’ owner, saving animals and tax dollars. Instead of leaving local taxpayers and nonprofit organizations to foot the significant cost, the owner, who’s legally responsible for the animals’ care, is held accountable under these revised statutes.

Alabama passed legislation banning the sexual abuse of animals. It was previously one of 14 states with no laws on the books prohibiting bestiality.

Wolf Hunting
The citizens of Michigan voted by wide margins to reject two laws enacted by the legislature to open a hunting season on wolves. The ballot measures stopped the wolf hunt in 2014 pending the outcome of the election, and then voters not only repealed a pro-wolf hunting statute, but also repealed a measure that transfers authority to the Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting seasons on protected species. This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections in six states, and it sends a message to decision makers across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies about how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Horse Slaughter, Wildlife Trafficking, Other Issues at Stake in Spending Bill

Congressional appropriators unveiled a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill last night, to continue funding the federal government for fiscal year 2015 and avoid a shutdown when the current budget expires tomorrow. There was no shortage of animal issues at stake in the giant package, which resulted from tense negotiations with many policy concerns in play. If the House and Senate pass the omnibus bill this week, there will be a number of good outcomes for horses, elephants, and other creatures, but also some harmful provisions for animal welfare.

Horse Slaughter:The omnibus bill forbids spending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on inspections at U.S. horse slaughter plants. The provision—which was approved by both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees as amendments offered by Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.—maintains the ban on domestic horse slaughter for human consumption. Coupled with the news that the European Commission has suspended imports of horsemeat from Mexico (where 87 percent of the horses killed for EU exports come from the United States) due to food safety concerns, there really is no rationale for not banning the horse slaughter trade.

A horse bound for slaughter.

Americans do not want to see scarce tax dollars used to oversee a predatory, inhumane enterprise. The horse slaughter industry doesn’t “euthanize” old horses but precisely the opposite: It buys up young and healthy horses, often by misrepresenting its intentions, and kills them to sell the meat to Europe and Japan. We don’t have dog and cat slaughter plants in the United States catering to small markets overseas, and we shouldn’t have horse slaughter operations for that purpose, either.

Ivory Trade: Fortunately, the omnibus bill jettisoned a reckless provision from the House Interior spending bill seeking to block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from any new attempt to limit the illicit trade in elephant ivory. The administration is expected to announce a proposed rule that would institute a near-complete ban on the commercial sale and import of elephant ivory in the U.S. This proposed national policy would build on the actions of the states to dry up the demand for ivory here in our country, arguably the second largest retail ivory market in the world after China.

Transnational criminal syndicates and Africa-based terrorist groups are using the illegal wildlife trade to finance their nefarious operations. It’s shocking that some short-sighted politicians would jeopardize the fate of the largest land mammal in the world and undermine our own national security to interfere with the administration’s efforts to address this crisis—just so that someone gets an opportunity to sell ivory trinkets.

Wildlife Trafficking: In addition to not blocking efforts to crack down on elephant poaching, the omnibus bill also takes proactive steps to address the illegal wildlife trade. The 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. It also prevents the U.S. from assisting certain countries and military groups if they have been found to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking.

Conservation and Biodiversity: Other wildlife species also benefit under the provisions of the omnibus. The bill apportions funds for the Multinational Species Conservation Fund, migratory bird protection, endangered species preservation, wildlife refuges, domestic wetlands, and international biodiversity conservation efforts. At a time when many wild creatures are being pushed to the brink by habitat loss and other pressures, these programs are critical to maintaining a healthy and vibrant planet for future generations.

Ruthanne Johnson/for The HSUS
The omnibus bill spells good news for burros.

Wild Horses and Burros: The omnibus bill prohibits the Bureau of Land Management from spending funds on the killing of healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros, or on the agency’s sale of wild horses and burros to kill buyers. It also allows BLM to enter into multi-year contracts with private entities for the long-term care and maintenance of wild horses and burros. And finally, it allows the U.S. Forest Service to transfer funds to BLM to remove and adopt out wild horses and burros on national forest lands.

Importantly, the committees encourage the BLM to consider new, more humane methods of wild horse population management and to request funding for a pilot program in fiscal year 2016, in accordance with recommendations from the National Research Council (of the National Academy of Sciences) and others. The current wild horses and burro program is a fiscal and animal care disaster, with the BLM stuck on a treadmill spending millions of tax dollars essentially running captive horse shelters. It’s time for a better pathway, to keep the population numbers in check through fertility control on the range, as a more humane alternative to costly round-ups and long-term horse care.

Animal Welfare Funding: The omnibus bill allocates continued funding for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, federal animal fighting law, and programs to aid animals in disasters and address the shortage of veterinarians in rural and low-income areas—all at the same levels or slightly higher than fiscal year 2014. Over the past several years, Congress has recognized the need to boost funding for animal welfare enforcement, even in a competitive climate for budget dollars, and that funding has a real impact for animals on the ground. Today there are more than double the number of inspectors enforcing the Animal Welfare Act at puppy mills, research laboratories, roadside zoos, and other regulated facilities, compared with inspector levels in the 1990s.
Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Christopher 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.

Anti-Wildlife Measures: As with any major compromise package, there are harmful provisions, too. The bill blocks any agency expenditures to regulate the use of lead in ammunition or fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act or any other law, notwithstanding the devastating effects of lead on wildlife, people, and habitat from such exposures and the ready availability of non-toxic alternatives. This provision is especially troubling, and it’s something politicians have tried before in the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act,” as a hand-out to the extreme segments of the hunting lobby even though many responsible sportsmen already use non-lead ammo and it’s been required for all waterfowl hunting for more than two decades.

The package also increases funding for the USDA’s misnamed “Wildlife Services” program, which kills predators with traps, poisons, aerial gunning, and other cruel and indiscriminate methods (methods that kill many non-target animals including pets and endangered species) as a government subsidy to private livestock ranchers. The program is fraught with a lack of transparency and public accountability.

It also blocks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from taking action to list populations of the greater sage-grouse or Gunnison’s sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act—a disturbing pattern, as happened previously with de-listing of grey wolves, of Congress trumping scientific decision making on the conservation of threatened and endangered species with its political will.

But, on balance, there are more good than bad provisions for animal welfare included in the omnibus bill, and it would move the ball forward for horses, elephants, rhinos, and many other creatures.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Victory for U.S. Horses: European Commission Suspends Horsemeat Imports From Mexico

The European Commission has suspended the import of horsemeat from Mexico to the European Union due to food safety concerns, and it’s a decision that has huge implications for the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. Killer buyers export tens of thousands of horses from the United States to Mexico each year, often outbidding horse owners and rescue groups, just so the animals can be inhumanely butchered, shrink-wrapped, and air-freighted to diners in Belgium, France, Italy, and other EU nations.

In fact, according to an audit published last week by the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office, 87 percent of the horses slaughtered in Mexico for export to the EU came from the United States. The audit paints a grim picture of serious animal welfare problems both during transport and on arrival at the slaughter plants, with controls on the effectiveness of stunning the horses described as “insufficient” during slaughter.

Horses for slaughter
Horses wait in pens at the U.S. border before being transported to Mexico for slaughter. Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

The auditors reported that “horses of US origin were regularly found dead in slaughterhouse pens due to trauma or pneumonia shortly after arrival,” and that many rejected horses had livers indicating trauma and injury during transport. They recounted finding two injured horses (“one with open wounds above both eyes, the other lame”) who “had been left in pens under full sun…and had been present in the pens without veterinary treatment for at least two days.”

Even though the European Commission requires lifetime veterinary records for EU horses intended for food, EU regulators have allowed third parties, such as Canada and Mexico, to meet a lower food safety standard, wherein they submit affidavits stating that horses have not been given drugs prohibited in the EU, and cover the horses' veterinary history for only six months.  But the audit found that even this watered-down food safety requirement is virtually an impossible standard to meet.The auditors “found very many affidavits which were invalid or of questionable validity, but were nonetheless accepted,” and flatly noted “the requirement, that they be identified and traceable for a period of at least 180 days prior to dispatch for slaughter, cannot be respected.”

Because American horses are icons and companion animals, and not raised for human consumption, they are given drugs and medications throughout their lifetimes that are never intended for the food system—ranging from common painkillers such as “bute” for treating ailing or lame horses, to cocaine and cobra venom, and other forms of “doping” in the horseracing industry.These random-source horses are rounded up by bunchers, and regardless of whether they’re ultimately killed in the United States, Canada, or Mexico, there is no system to track medications and veterinary treatments given to horses to ensure that their meat is safe for human consumption. It’s a free-for-all when this doped-up meat is peddled to foreign consumers.

The horse slaughter industry is a predatory, inhumane enterprise. They 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. And these are the special interests that have been lobbying so hard to use our tax dollars to bring back horse slaughter in the United States, and to block legislation forbidding the export and long-distance transport of horses for slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

Federal law currently prohibits the inspection of horse slaughter plants on American soil, and we’re hoping that “defunding” provision will be extended when congressional appropriators release the “cromnibus” package this week. And ultimately, we must pass the free-standing Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act to provide a more lasting and comprehensive solution and to halt the export of horses to our North American neighbors. As the European Commission audit makes clear, the horse slaughter industry is reckless, unsafe, and inhumane, and those who profit by rounding up and butchering companion horses for their meat should stop defending it as some sort of altruistic act. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Defense Bill Takes Aim at Wildlife Trafficking

As poaching of animals rages on in Africa, threatening the very existence of some of our planet’s most iconic species, we in the United States must do still more to tackle the issue of wildlife trafficking both at home and abroad.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported in August that poachers killed an estimated 100,000 elephants in just three years across Africa—a shocking average of 90 elephants a day. Last month, South Africa announced that 1,020 rhinos have been killed there so far this year, already surpassing the number of animals killed in 2013.


The stakes are high, not only for these imperiled species but also for African governments and local communities whose economic livelihoods and natural heritage have been brutally robbed and where the rule of law has been compromised—because of poaching—as well as for our own national security interests.

Transnational criminal syndicates and Africa-based terrorist groups are using the illegal wildlife trade to finance their nefarious operations. At $8-10 billion per year, the illegal wildlife trade ranks as the fourth most lucrative criminal activity internationally, behind only narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.

President Obama issued an executive order last year that declared wildlife trafficking a matter of national interest and announced a national strategy to address the increasing pressure on imperiled species and the growing connection between poaching and global terrorism.

Many members of Congress also recognize the urgency of the current poaching crisis. To better address the security challenges posed by the illicit wildlife trade, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes language authorizing the Department of Defense to partner with civilian law enforcement on joint task forces to combat wildlife trafficking.

This provision will aid in the disruption of wildlife trafficking networks, through strengthened and improved coordination among the intelligence, military, judicial, customs and law enforcement agencies. The House yesterday passed the NDAA package by a vote of 300-119, and the Senate plans to take up the legislation next week.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, has introduced another bill to turn up the heat on poachers: H.R.5454, the Targeted Use of Sanctions for Killing Elephants in their Range (TUSKER) Act. The legislation would force countries that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) has identified as significant source, transit, or destination countries for illegal ivory to immediately enter into consultation with the U.S. And if any country fails, it will face trade sanctions by the U.S. under the Pelly amendment.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce a proposed rule that would institute a near-complete ban on the commercial sale and import of elephant ivory in the U.S. This proposed national policy would build on the actions of the states to dry up the demand for ivory here in our country, arguably the second largest retail ivory market in the world after China.

Collectively, these are important actions by foresighted policymakers who are representing the values of the American public and seeking to save some of the most iconic species on the planet from the brink of extinction. But as with many issues, there are myopic politicians who try to stand in the way of progress, and some members of Congress are intent on undermining domestic efforts to save elephants from the blood ivory trade.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Reps. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Jeff Miller, R-Fla., introduced the so-called “Lawful Ivory Protection Act” (S.2587/H.R.5052) which would handcuff the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and prevent the administration from carrying out any new action to restrict the ivory trade. The House Interior spending bill for fiscal year 2015 also includes language that would block funding for any new agency attempt to limit the illicit trade in ivory. (The fate of this pro-trafficking language will be determined when the House and Senate work out a final appropriations bill.)

How can these members of Congress side with those who profit in ivory trading over beleaguered elephants and fragile African government partners and communities? How can they lament the ability of someone to resell a gun or a guitar with a little bit of ivory on it, without regard for the fate of the largest land mammal in the world or our national security?

At this critical time, we must do everything in our power to curb wildlife trafficking and turn back the tide on the elephant poaching crisis. It is an urgent and pressing struggle, one that must be waged and won in the course of the next few years.

As Matthew Scully wrote in The Atlantic, “This is ground we cannot afford to surrender, the final refuge of animals who mourn their own, and deserve more than to be let go and mourned by us. We would miss the elephants, forever, with only regrets and recollections to fill the space, these grand, peaceable fellow creatures whose final, bloody departure from the earth would warrant a rebuke of Old Testament proportions: ‘What is this that thou hast done?’”

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Secret Life of Class B Dealers

In honor of the 60th anniversary of The Humane Society of the United States, LIFE Magazine has revisited the classic Stan Wayman photo-essay, “Concentration Camps for Dogs.” The eight-page article and series of shocking photos, originally published in February 1966, built on a five-year HSUS investigation of dog dealing that brought to light the mistreatment of pets stolen and sold to medical research.

Stan Wayman—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The exposé generated more letters from LIFE readers than even the war in Vietnam, an attack on Civil Rights marchers by police, or the escalation of the Cold War. It spurred Congress to hold hearings on the issue, and just months later, after lobbying by The HSUS and others, to pass the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law in August 1966.

There has been much progress for animals over the past decades, but surprisingly, this shadowy and unsavory business of so-called Class B animal dealers rounding up pets and funneling them into research laboratories has not been completely rooted out—though it appears to be on its last legs.

Just a handful of these dealers still obtain dogs and cats from various “random sources,” including auctions, flea markets and animal shelters. Some Class B dealers have also been known to obtain animals from unregulated middlemen known as “bunchers,” who have been documented acquiring lost, stray and “free to a good home” pets, and even pets from neighborhood backyards.

As of September 2014, there are three active Class B dealers of live, “random source” dogs and cats licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell these animals to research facilities. During fiscal year 2007 (the most recent year for which data is available), 2,863 Class B dogs and 276 Class B cats were sold for research.

Violations of the Animal Welfare Act continue to occur, including lack of veterinary care, food or water, inhumane handling, fraudulent paperwork associated with the requirement to prove that an animal is not a stolen pet. These dealers are now providing fewer than 3 percent of the dogs and cats used in research, yet our federal government spends significant time and money regulating them and trying to chase down the problems associated with the trade.

A 2009 National Academies report, examining the issue, stated that “in the more than forty years since the inception of the AWA (Animal Welfare Act), the USDA/APHIS (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has been unable to completely enforce the AWA in regard to activities of Class B dealers and that there are documented accounts of lost pets that have ended up in research institutions through Class B dealers.

For example, in June 2005, the University of Minnesota received a dog from a Class B dealer that through a microchip scan was identified as a missing pet named ‘Echo.’ Recent inspection reports for one Class B dealer revealed that two cats were purchased from a private individual that upon trace back investigation admitted that they were illegally acquired ‘strays.’" 

Fortunately policymakers are working to crack down on the problem. The National Institutes of Health instituted a phase out of funding for research involving acquisition of cats and dogs from random source dealers, with the cat policy taking effect in 2012 and the dog policy taking effect in 2014. Georgia Regents University announced it would stop buying dogs from Class B dealers after an HSUS undercover investigation in 2013, and the USDA revoked the license of the dealer involved in selling dogs for dental research.

Congressman Mike Doyle, D-Pa., has introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, H.R.2224, which has 74 co-sponsors and would end the use of random source dogs and cats in research.

As LIFE looks back on a story that drove public awareness and policy reform for animals on a national level, it’s time to celebrate the progress that’s been made but also look at the remaining gaps in the legal framework and make sure we finish the job on these cruelties.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pentagon is on Active Duty for Animals

The Department of Defense recently announced that it will halt the use of live animals in a variety of medical training programs, beginning January 1. As the Boston Globe reported yesterday, “The military has been instructed to instead use substitutes such as a realistic human dummy developed by a research team from Boston. Such training is designed to teach medical personnel how to administer anesthesia, resuscitate an unconscious person, and practice other life-saving procedures.”

This is a major step forward for the Pentagon, bringing its policies into stronger alignment with the civilian medical community and most of our NATO allies. The Globe called it “the most significant effort to date to reduce the number of animals that critics say have been mistreated in military laboratories and on training bases—from the poisoning of monkeys to study the effects of chemical warfare agents, to forcing tubes down live cats’ and ferrets’ throats as part of pediatric care training for military medical personnel.”

And it continues the march of progress on humane issues for the military. In 2011, for example, the U.S. Army stopped using live monkeys in chemical casualty management training, in which the primates were given a chemical to simulate nerve gas exposure. After discussions with Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., the Army replaced the animal tests with computer programs and high-tech simulators.

One of the casuality simulators that the military is using. Photo: SimGroup

The new announcement stops short of ending all animal tests in the military, such as combat trauma training that uses live pigs and goats to teach physicians, medics, and other personnel how to perform surgery or first aid on severely injured troops. In one such experiment, military researchers dressed live pigs in body armor and strapped them into Humvee simulators that were then blown up with explosives to study the link between roadside bomb blasts and brain injury.

When animals are used in experimentation and training, the protocols should be refined to minimize pain and distress to the animals, the number of animals used should be reduced to a minimum, and animal use should be replaced with non-animal methods when possible. Thankfully, there have been great strides in the development of human-based training methods, such as medical simulators, to teach management of hemorrhage, sucking chest wounds, airway compromise, and many other combat trauma injuries, as well as the management of patients exposed to biological and chemical agents.

That’s why members of Congress are pushing to accelerate the pace of the military’s adoption of such improved methods which are now widespread in the civilian sector, and its phase out the outdated and inefficient use of live animals. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have introduced the “Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act,” H.R. 3172 and S. 1550, which encourages innovation and modernization in this area. The legislation requires the Pentagon to develop, test, and validate human-based training methods for training in the treatment of combat trauma injuries by 2016, and to use only use human-based training methods by 2018.

“Using pigs and goats in live battlefield training is not the best option for our troops, and is inhumane treatment of animals,” said Representative Johnson.

We are grateful to the Department of Defense for taking these important steps, and to lawmakers for pressing the case to not only reduce and replace animal use, but also improve medical care for our service members and modernize the training programs. The fact that the Pentagon and Congress are giving such serious attention to this issue is a real marker for our cause, and a clear indicator that the welfare of animals can and should be considered even when the stakes are so high for people. Through innovation and technology, we can make sure we are doing the best we can for our soldiers and animals.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Focus on Enforcement of Dog and Cat Fur Law

Congress returns today for the lame-duck session, and one of the first items on the House agenda is final passage of H.R.4194, the Government Reports Elimination Act. In May, the Washington Post published a report titled “Unrequired reading,” on the thousands of agency reports mandated by Congress, some of which are as thick as “doorstops” and are just “gathering dust.”

Liz Bergstrom

The argument is that the reports take agency time and resources away from other duties, and no one is actually reading or using them. Even in a dysfunctional Congress, it’s easy to generate bipartisan support for the idea of cutting pointless bureaucratic paperwork.

But caught up in this larger effort to make government more efficient is the elimination of one report that has value on an issue of concern to the American public: the sale of dog and cat fur.

When Congress passed the Dog and Cat Protection Act in 2000, banning the sale and import of dog and cat fur products, it also asked Customs and Border Protection to submit an annual report on its enforcement activities.

That agency is doing important work to crack down on the illegal sale of dog and cat fur in the United States. After a tip from The Humane Society of the United States in 2012, for example, Customs and Border Protection shut down a New York company that was selling dog fur.

We are still seeing real problems in the marketplace, including a website openly peddling cat fur products. Fourteen years after the passage of the federal law, it’s still in need of focused enforcement, and the brief annual report helps to ensure that the agency is focused on the issue. These efforts are valuable and consistent with the American values of protecting pets from cruelty.

In this case, if Congress does away with the annual reports, it should redirect those savings toward strengthening inspection and enforcement. Americans are horrified by the idea of dogs and cats being killed for fur trim and trinkets. Strong enforcement of the federal law reflects these values—whether it’s put into a report or not.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

2014 Election Wrap-Up: Mixed Results and Hope on the Horizon for Animals

Last night’s mid-term election saw a rising wave of red across our country, with Republicans taking control of the U.S. Senate and winning a surprising number of gubernatorial, U.S. House, and state legislative seats. It was the second wave election in four years, and it cements Republican power throughout most of the nation.

There were important outcomes for animal protection, too, with humane lawmakers from both political parties in competitive races, and voters deciding ballot measures on animal issues. But the election again showed that continuing partisan divisions now plague the country. Such divisions are a reminder that HSLF must, more than ever, remain committed to a bipartisan approach if it is to be successful in its efforts to drive forward an animal protection agenda.

Wolves won in the election.

A Win for Wolves

The citizens of Michigan voted by wide margins last night to reject two laws enacted by the legislature to open a hunting season on wolves. Both measures were expected to be close but in the end were trounced—Proposal 1 by a vote of 55 to 45 percent, and Proposal 2 by 64 to 36 percent—with the “no” side on Proposal 2 getting more votes than any statewide candidate.

This means voters not only repealed a pro-wolf hunting statute, but also repealed a measure that transfers authority to the Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting seasons on protected species.

The proponents of wolf hunting are already saying the voters didn’t know what they were doing, and in fact, they spent much of the campaign trying to disenfranchise voters and tell them their votes don’t matter. That’s because their political cronies in the legislature passed a third law that is a duplicate of Proposal 2, and they are expecting to get their way regardless of what the people think.

But so many people I talked to when I knocked on doors in Michigan knew exactly what the election was about. They understood it’s unnecessary to hunt wolves because people don’t eat the animals and because it’s already legal to kill problem wolves if they threaten livestock or safety.

The people of Michigan don’t want trophy hunting, trapping, or hounding of wolves; they don’t want more legislative tricks; and they don’t want to cede authority to an unelected group of political appointees.

It’s now time that the lawmakers and the Natural Resources Commission heed the will of the people. The resounding rejection of Proposal 2 is an unmistakable signal to the NRC to terminate any plans it thinks it may be able to execute in 2015 for a wolf hunt.

The public does not accept its authority to make such a declaration. The people of Michigan don’t want the NRC setting a wolf hunting season and don’t want to give the NRC the authority to open new hunting seasons on other protected species, such as sandhill cranes. The NRC should honor the judgment rendered by voters come 2015. We’ll be continuing this fight in the legislature and in the courts.

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

A Loss for Bears

Bears suffered a loss on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Question 1 in Maine, which sought to ban the cruel and unsporting practices of bear hounding, baiting, and trapping, suffered a narrow defeat at the polls, by a vote of 53 to 47 percent. It was very difficult to overcome the active involvement and spending by the state of Maine itself against the measure.

It was an unprecedented infusion of state resources into a political campaign, and that involvement was grounded in fear and scare tactics. This caused so much confusion for voters despite Maine being the only state to rely on all these extreme hunting methods.

The close vote strongly suggests that the defeat of Question 1 is not a mandate to continue these inhumane, unfair and unsporting hunting methods. We sincerely hope that Maine officials will take a careful look at how controversial these methods are with the public and how every other state has, to one degree or another, set a difference course for dealing with bears.

The opponents of Question 1 will court continuing controversy and our focused campaign energy if they simply preserve the status quo.

The measure attracted national and global attention and succeeded in making the cruel practices of baiting, hounding, and trapping a subject of broad public debate—maybe for the first time ever. We are now also calling on the Maine legislature to take up the issue of state agencies funneling money and resources into political campaigns, which is needed if the state is to have clean elections in the future.

While there are divided views about baiting in Maine—as reflected by the vote on Question 1—there is, beneath the surface, an overwhelming sentiment that trapping and hounding of bears is unacceptable.

The state’s two largest papers—the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News—both opposed Question 1 but called for a ban on hounding and trapping of bears for sport. Lawmakers and the hunting lobby must address this, or they’ll be inviting another initiative in short order.

Other Ballot Measures

While Maine and Michigan were the main events, there were a number of other ballot measures around the country on animal issues. Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in a landslide vote of 75 to 25 percent; the measure, backed by HSLF and The HSUS, dedicates funds to the protection of wildlife habitat.

Voters in Pima County, Ariz., approved Prop 415 by a vote of 58 to 42 percent, providing important funding for the county’s animal care facility to shelter homeless dogs and cats and reduce euthanasia. Voters in Aurora, Colo., unfortunately rejected Proposition 2D, which would have repealed the city’s discriminatory ban on pit bull type dogs, by a lopsided margin of 66 to 34 percent. 

U.S. Senate

The big news of the night, of course, was that Republicans picked up enough seats to shift the balance of the U.S. Senate. Animal advocates should know that we helped to elect many of our leaders from both political parties, and we also lost some allies. In the top priority race for HSLF, Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., was the victor over Terri Lynn Land, by a resounding vote of 55 to 41 percent, in Michigan’s race for the open U.S. Senate seat.

Peters has long been a leading champion for animals in Congress, passing legislation to ban commerce in animal “crush” videos, and working to crack down on polar bear trophy hunting, animal fighting, and other cruelties. Here is the TV ad that HSLF ran in Michigan supporting his election to the Senate.

Overall, HSLF-endorsed Senate candidates won 12 of 15 races that have been decided so far, for a win rate of 80 percent, with three remaining contests still too close to call. A number of our leaders on animal protection legislation, backed by HSLF, will be coming back to the Senate, including Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Tom Udall, D-N.M.

There will be some new faces in the Senate, including Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who has supported animal protection bills in the House. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., both lost their bids for reelection, and Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who has a strong record on animal protection bills, lost his race for Iowa’s open Senate seat, to Joni Ernst, who as a state legislator has backed puppy mills, mourning dove hunting, and “ag-gag” legislation.

We are still awaiting results in Alaska, where Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is currently trailing by about 8,000 votes, and in Virginia, where Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has a 12,000 vote lead. Warner is a lead sponsor of legislation to strengthen the federal law against the “soring” of show horses—using caustic chemicals and other painful substances to injure the horses’ hooves and legs to induce a high-stepping gait.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has led the fight to prohibit the slaughter and export of horses for human consumption overseas, is headed to a runoff, and that race won’t be decided until December. HSLF plans to vigorously campaign for Landrieu in the runoff election.

U.S. House of Representatives

Across the country, HSLF-endorsed House candidates have been declared the victors in 181 of the 197 races that have been decided so far, for a 92 percent win rate, with six races still too close to call.

There were a number of competitive races this year for both Republicans and Democrats, and we are pleased that so many of the lawmakers whom HSLF helped with mailings, phone calls, door-to-door canvassing, and other get-out-the-vote efforts will be returning to Washington—including bipartisan leaders and strong supporters of animal protection such as Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Jeff Denham, R-Calif.; Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; and others.

There will be a number of new animal advocates in the freshman class of the House, many of whom had strong records of leadership as previous officeholders at the state or local level. We welcome Reps.-elect Don Beyer, D-Va.; Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Barbara Comstock, R-Va.; Ryan Costello, R-Pa.; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif.; Gwen Graham, D-Fla.; Ted Lieu, D-Calif.; Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.; Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; and Norma Torres, D-Calif.; and we look forward to working with them in Congress.

We also welcome back returning Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., who had an outstanding record on animal protection when he previously served in the House, and congratulate all these lawmakers on their elections.

A number of animal protection supporters will not be returning next year, including Reps. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y.; Pete Gallego, D-Tex.; Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.; Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H. We thank them for their service and for their past work on animal protection policies. We are also anxiously awaiting results in a few remaining races that are neck and neck, and we are pulling for Reps. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; John Delaney, D-Md.; Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.; as well as for challenger Martha McSally, R-Ariz. Some of these races are extremely close, with Slaughter currently leading by 582 votes, and McSally by just 36 votes.

State Races

Results were mixed for animals in state houses across the country. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., who signed both wolf hunting bills, won his reelection against former Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Mich., an animal protection supporter.

HSLF-backed Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who has signed more animal protection bills than any other governor, won his bid for reelection; HSLF-endorsed Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Ill., lost his bid for another term; and HSLF-endorsed Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn., was declared the winner by about 30,000 votes after a long night of uncertainty in a tight race. HSLF-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., won his race in Arizona, and HSLF-backed Anthony Brown, D-Md., lost in an upset in the Maryland governor’s race.

Attorneys General Pam Bondi, R-Fla., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., both strong champions for animal protection laws, won their reelections decisively with the backing of HSLF—Bondi by a margin of 55 to 42 percent, and Harris by 56 to 44 percent. State Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Md., won his race for Attorney General in Maryland, where he was a leader in working to correct the state’s misguided policy discriminating against pit bull type dogs.

We are still analyzing the many state legislative races around the country, but some pieces of good news to share: In California, where HSLF has made a major investment in state politics, our endorsed candidates won three of three statewide races, eight of nine races for state Senate and 35 of 39 for state Assembly.

In Michigan, HSLF and its supporters in the state helped some pro-animal lawmakers in close House and Senate races, and we will need their help to backstop the legislature from doing another end-run around the people on wolf hunting.

In Kentucky, state Rep. Richard Henderson, who made headlines when he attended a pro-cockfighting rally with Matt Bevin, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Republican primary opponent, lost his reelection. At the time, Henderson had said, “I must admit I've been to more than a few chicken fights. I must admit I liked them.”

All in all, while the results were mixed for animals in races across the country, and some contests have yet to be decided, we have great hope and optimism that the cause of animal protection will continue to make gains in Congress, in state legislatures, and with regulatory agencies.

Animal protection issues are being discussed in every legislature like never before, and voters in every corner of our country—red states and blue states—are becoming aware of the challenges facing animals and the steps needed to protect them and prevent large-scale cruelty and abuse. Thank you to everyone who voted, volunteered, and got the word out for humane candidates across the country—your efforts continue to make a difference.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Today's the Day: Elect for Animals

Election Day is finally here, after months of debates, campaigning, and political ads by competing parties. Participation in the electoral process is an important responsibility that we all have in a civil society, and it has special urgency for those of us who have taken up the cause of the voiceless and voteless. Until animal advocates make elections a priority, we will never reach our high water mark when it comes to the reforms we're seeking.

Vote today for animal protection!

So please get out to vote today, if you haven’t done so already. You can find your polling place here, or just text VOTE to 69520.

And be sure to check out the HSLF Voter Guide, with information and recommendations on humane-minded candidates and animal protection ballot measures, as well as links to state and local political groups working for animals.

We have the opportunity today to send compassionate, humane-minded leaders to office to fight for animal protection and stand up against cruelty, but that's not all.

Maine citizens have the chance to finally put an end to the cruel and extreme baiting, trapping, and hounding of bears in that state by voting YES on Question 1.

And in Michigan, animal lovers and those who care about good government and voting rights can put a stop to the trophy hunting of wolves and an outrageous power grab by politicians and special interests by voting NO on Proposals 1 and 2.

To have humane laws, we must elect humane lawmakers. We can all show up big for animals just by showing up in the voting booth. Please share the HSLF Voter Guide with friends and family, for polling information and a list of the pro-animal candidates and ballot measures to support where you live. And I hope to see you at the polls.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Feeding Garbage to Bears and Voters in Maine

I’ve been involved in dozens of political campaigns around the country over two decades, and the brazen lies and scare tactics used by state officials working in collusion with the bear baiting, hounding, and trapping crowd in Maine are among the worst I’ve ever seen. The Bangor Daily News, which doesn’t even support Question 1, has published editorials calling the opponents of the measure “dishonest” and judging their claims “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test,” with the wrong compounded by the fact they are spending state tax dollars telling people how to vote.


The opponents of a ban on baiting keep saying “trust the experts,” but a court-ordered release of internal documents demonstrates that the experts don’t believe their own alarmist rhetoric. The “Yes on 1” campaign today released two new videos highlighting the other side’s hypocrisy and the hollowness of their claims.

The first video shows three uniformed staff members of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife — all but working full-time, it would seem, to defeat the baiting ban — saying “it’s a serious threat to public safety.” But their own words prove their claim to be false: DIF&W’s Randy Cross said in a 2012 email to a constituent, “I think your fear of bears is exaggerated and is not rational…Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”

Moreover, in a recent op-ed, George Smith, the former director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the guy who led the campaign against a similar initiative a decade ago, concedes that “you do not need to be scared of bears. I will admit that scaring you about bears was an important part of our strategy…If you see a bear in the woods, you are most likely to see its rear end as it flees.”

What’s worse, their TV ads feature a sensational bear attack in Florida, which has no relevance to baiting, hounding, and trapping. Except that the bear in this case was “baited” into an open garage with food in a trash can, and the people involved were charged by state wildlife officers for illegally feeding bears. That’s right, the opponents invoke this bear attack, from 1,500 miles away, involving people in a Florida neighborhood who were feeding this bear.  

Precisely in order to avoid incidents like this, every reputable wildlife agency in the country says “Don’t feed the bears” — except the outliers in Maine and a small number of other states who support using Twinkies and Dunkin Donuts as a “wildlife management tool.” Good wildlife managers know that “garbaging for bears” is the worst thing you can do, because it swells the bear population and teaches them to look for human junk food.

The second video features DIF&W staff saying bears don’t struggle but “just sit there,” and that all of these tools are “necessary, safe, and kind.” With images of bears struggling to free themselves from wire snares, and being torn apart by packs of dogs, does the idea that these practices are “kind” really pass the straight-face test? It’s terror, not kindness. You have to wonder how detached and desensitized these people at the agency are, and shake your head at how far off of the rails they’ve gone in their public capacities. Of course, the head biologist for the state is a bear baiter and recreational trapper, so it should not come as a huge surprise.

Maine is in a sad class by itself as the only state in the nation to allow all three of these extreme methods of killing bears. And the apologists for shooting fed, treed, and trapped bears will apparently say and do just about anything to get their way. Please share these videos and make sure Maine voters and all concerned people know the truth about these false and dishonest claims.

Paid for with regulated funds by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. P.O. Box 15367, Portland, ME, 04112

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