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September 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Facts on Steve King’s Disappointing Animal Welfare Record

The Humane Society Legislative Fund today launched a new TV ad in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District opposing Steve King’s reelection to Congress. The ad responds to King’s recent claims that he loves animals and opposes dogfighting, and gives viewers the facts about his disappointing voting record on animal welfare—voting against including pets in disaster plans, against strengthening the penalties for interstate dogfighting, and even against a federal ban on bringing children to dogfights and cockfights.

Our previous TV ad exposing Steve King’s voting record on dogfighting laws in Congress was rejected by Iowa TV stations after King complained and pressured the stations not to show it. The Des Moines Register said in an editorial today that the ad is “accurate” and “true” and the TV stations’ rejection of it is “puzzling.” Here’s what the Register had to say about the controversy:

Several Iowa television stations are refusing to air an ad from an animal welfare political group. The Washington-based Humane Society Legislative Fund criticizes King, R-Kiron, for opposing legislation that bans interstate dog fighting and that would ban people from taking children to animal fights.

Paul Fredericksen, general manager of KCCI-TV, said his station refused the ad due to its “sensational tone” and “the graphic treatment of animal photos and a Web site address.”

However, the ad is no more disturbing than ads that regularly run on television, including a commercial featuring singer Sarah McLachlan raising money to help abused animals.

Ray Cole, president of Citadel Communications, which owns WOI-TV in West Des Moines and KCAU-TV in Sioux City, said his company’s objections to the Humane Society ad weren’t due to the images. Citadel stations aren’t running the ad because “we believe the message is patently false,” Cole said.

The ad says that King is the only Iowa member of Congress to oppose a ban on taking children to dog fights. The animal welfare group points to King’s legislative voting record as evidence the claim is true. Rather than disputing the record, King takes issue with the political group itself and says he loves dogs, including his own.

...

So a new standard to reject “patently false” advertising is refreshing, and the public should expect those setting such a standard will apply it to all advertisements—not just to one about an incumbent lawmaker’s record on animal abuse legislation that happens to be, well, true.

While King says he is an animal lover, his record tells an entirely different story: He’s the self-appointed leader of the fight to block any animal welfare legislation, and he’s amassed the record to match that goal. He scored 10 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 108th Congress, zero out of 100 percent for the 109th Congress, 8 percent for the 110th Congress, 13 percent for the 111th Congress, and zero for the 112th Congress—the only Iowa member of Congress who failed to support any animal welfare provisions during this session. Now, he has a provision in the Farm Bill to invalidate a whole host of local and state animal protection laws. He says he’s for states’ rights when it’s convenient, and he says he’s for federal authority at other times. The only thing he’s consistent on when it comes to animal welfare policies: he’s against them all.

It’s easy for a professional politician to say he’s against animal cruelty. But the acid test is their voting record. Time and again, Steve King votes against the most modest animal welfare reforms. He is out of step with Iowa values, and has a callous and uncaring record toward the care of all of God’s creatures.

Thankfully, the controversy over our TV ad being rejected has led to more than 10,000 people watching it online, which is available at StopKingofCruelty.com. I hope you’ll watch it and share with your friends, and consider supporting HSLF and our work to hold politicians like Steve King accountable and pass laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.

Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. HSLF, 2100 L Street NW, Suite 310, Washington, D.C., 20037

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jon Tester and the Talking Dead

California Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday signed Senate Bill 1221 into law, which bans the hound hunting of bears and bobcats—the inhumane and unsporting practice of using packs of radio-collared dogs to chase large mammals into a tree, so a trophy hunter can follow the radio signal on a handheld telemetry device and shoot the frightened animal off a tree branch at point-blank range. It was a hard-fought battle, and the policy was supported by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the California state legislature. Over the last two decades, voters in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington have banned hound hunting through citizen ballot initiatives, but it was representative government at work in California with lawmakers rightly heeding the will of the people.

Polar bearsThat type of representation of public sentiment and values was not on display in Congress last weekend, when the Senate rushed through a procedural vote on S. 3525, the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act,” introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., before heading home for the election. The legislation, among other things, allows the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada, even though polar bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It encourages trophy hunters to accelerate the pace of killing imperiled species around the world, and just store the trophies in a warehouse for a couple years until their congressional allies answer their pleadings.

It was an electoral gift to the NRA and Safari Club, and to Tester, who is running against Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., in one of the country’s most competitive Senate races. Both Democrats and Republicans lined up to show their utter fealty to the hunting lobby, and the motion to proceed on Tester’s bill passed by a vote of 84 to 7. We’ve heard of policies to help the 1 percent, but this one is designed to benefit the .001 percent—the tiny fraction of Americans who want to spend $35,000 to trek up to the Arctic and kill a polar bear just for the bragging rights of having a head or hide of this rare creature in their living room. Tester’s bill makes the 1 percent look like a populist movement.

Speaking of heads and hides, Tester is using the bill to promote his hunting bona fides back home in Montana. In what the Oregonian said may be the “year’s oddest campaign ad,” Tester has released a new TV spot featuring talking dead animals. A mounted deer, skinned wolf, and other creatures are on display in a living room, rising like the undead to brag about Tester’s support for hunting, saying he “even took on the Obama Administration over gray wolves.”

It’s one thing to support hunting, but some of the policies Tester is advocating for in Congress don’t benefit rank-and-file sportsmen—only the extreme segment of the trophy hunting lobby that defends any practice, no matter how unsporting, inhumane, or biologically reckless. Montana was more than 90 years ahead of California in banning the hound hunting of bears in 1921, and Montana wildlife officials describe the policy as part of the state’s “fair chase” tradition. We’re guessing Montana hunters don’t want to kill polar bears either. Tester, the man who’s led the charge in promoting the killing of wolves in the Northern Rockies and polar bears in Canada, does not deserve re-election.

Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. HSLF, 2100 L Street NW, Suite 310, Washington, D.C., 20037

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Does Sequestration Mean for Animals?

Congress recessed last week for the election, leaving much business unfinished and not reaching any agreement on deficit-reduction legislation. This failure to act is likely to trigger sequestration cuts of $1.2 trillion in government spending over the next nine years, beginning in January 2013.

Animal advocates are wondering what sequestration may mean for government programs that affect animal welfare. While it is unclear exactly which programs would be cut, the cuts will apply across the board to both mandatory and discretionary programs. Here are some of the ways sequestration could impact animals:

Horses

  • Fewer funds for immunocontraception, and as a result, more horses could be rounded up each year.
  • Less money for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to prevent illegal horse soring.

Dogs

  • Cuts to inspections and enforcement actions against puppy mill dealers.
  • Less money for tests used to detect dangerous toxins found in dog food and treats.

Chimpanzees

  • Fewer funds for innovative grants, which focus on animal alternatives and human models.
  • Less money for ensuring the humane treatment of animals used in research and for setting up permanent sanctuaries for chimpanzees retired from invasive biomedical research.

Farm Animals

  • Cuts to enforcement of humane handling laws at slaughterhouses.
  • Less funding for the first humane handling ombudsman, to whom employees and stakeholders can report concerns regarding inhumane treatment.

Wildlife

  • Cuts to the enforcement of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
  • Less money for listing species under the Lacey Act or Endangered Species Act.
  • Fewer funds to rescue marine mammals that are stranded or entrapped in fishing gear.
  • Decreased funds for inspectors to ensure the humane treatment of exhibited animals.

Of course, while there are valuable government programs that need adequate funding to enforce our nation’s laws on animal welfare, there are also wasteful programs that harm animals with profligate spending. We have a number of suggestions on areas where Congress could cut—some of these programs are not huge, by Washington standards, but when you need to find $1.2 trillion, every savings counts:

  • The rounding up of burros and wild horses who are then kept at costly government holding facilities. The Bureau of Land Management would save more than $16 million in the next year by using immunocontraception to manage wild horse and burro populations.
  • Invasive biomedical research on chimpanzees, which has been found to be scientifically unnecessary and a massive drain on taxpayer funding. Ending the use of chimpanzees in federally-funded invasive research would save as much as $25 million annually.
  • Exorbitant agriculture subsidies that go to a small number of large-scale wealthy producers in an effort to encourage massive factory farm development. In addition, the Administration frequently bails out agribusiness by purchasing surplus meat. This includes the USDA’s purchase of excess pork for FY12, at a cost of $170 million to taxpayers. The amount of excess meat purchased by USDA on a yearly basis varies; for example, in FY09, USDA purchased $150 million worth of excess pork. The Administration’s deficit reduction commission recommended cutting $10 billion in mandatory agriculture programs, including farm subsidies from 2012 to 2020, which works out to approximately $1.25 billion in savings a year. 
  • The lethal predator control program, which uses inhumane methods to kill predator species, but often kills non-targeted animals, including beloved pets and threatened and endangered species. In FY12, Wildlife Services spent $69 million on operations to address conflicts with wildlife. USDA would save money if they stopped killing wildlife as a subsidy for ranchers and other special interests. Unfortunately, USDA fails to keep track of how much it spends on lethal methods. The agency should start to keep track of this information, cut $11 million from its lethal predator control budget, and shift to a more balanced approach between lethal and non-lethal management.
  • Testing on animals to assess the safety of chemicals and drugs, where economic alternative methods are available for use that does not require the use of hundreds of animals. Evaluating the cancer-causing potential of a single chemical in a conventional rodent test takes up to five years, 800 animals and $4 million.

Let your members of Congress know there are savings to be had by cutting wasteful programs that harm animals, and targeted deficit-reduction that takes aim at these terrible programs is more effective than across-the-board cuts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Steve King’s Voting Record is a Reflection of His Position on Dogfighting

Steve King is on the defense and is pressuring TV stations in Iowa not to run the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s new TV ad critical of his voting record on animal fighting policy issues in Congress. He says he’s an animal lover and he opposes dogfighting—but he just doesn’t think we should have any federal laws on the subject.

SteveKingIf you’re really against dogfighting, you should support efforts to give law enforcement all the tools they need to crack down on this criminal enterprise. That’s why the federal bill in 2007, to make interstate animal fighting activities a felony offense, passed the Senate unanimously, was approved by the House with a commanding vote of 368 to 39, and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. This wasn’t a Democrat versus Republican issue, a state versus federal issue; this is a decency and common-sense issue.  That’s why the current effort in Congress, to make it a crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to an animal fight, has a bipartisan group of 226 co-sponsors in the House, passed the Senate by a wide margin of 88-11, and has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and more than 280 law enforcement agencies across the country.

Steve King was on the wrong side, both times. And he can’t skirt the issue by saying we should only have state laws, but not federal laws, on animal cruelty. Everybody who fights progress on animal welfare says they’re against cruelty—this is nothing new, and no one should be duped by his double-speak.

If state prohibitions against animal fighting were alone sufficient, there’d be no need for a federal animal fighting statute. But the nature of the industry has changed, and now a substantial share of fights involves interstate transport of the animals and participants from multiple states. The feds are better suited to handle these cases because of the patchwork of state laws.

And local authorities do not have the jurisdiction to go into other states to carry on an investigation. When an animal fighting ring involves players from several states, a sheriff’s department simply does not have the authority to root out the entire operation. Such animal fighting cases are a federal matter requiring federal law that will close all loopholes. There are also times when the county sheriffs or prosecutors are not taking action (due to corruption or lack of interest) and it’s necessary for the federal agencies to get involved.

If a federal prosecution is made, we want to have a comprehensive application of the law and see that everyone involved is brought to justice, including the adults who expose children to this violence and blood-letting. That will have a greater effect in terms of ending animal fighting and also mean a bigger bang for the buck in terms of the federal investment, while federal agents are already on the scene.

Federal and state laws on animal fighting involve a complementary system. Sometimes there are federal busts, sometimes state, and sometimes they’re collaborative. Federal law enforcement must have the needed tools—as state law enforcement already has in 49 states—to take action against those who are fueling the industry with their blood money of admission fees and high-stakes gambling, and to make sure that they and the perpetrators who blend into the crowd when the feds arrive don’t get off scot-free. 

The federal law against animal fighting was used to prosecute Michael Vick and other people who put dogs through hell for their amusement. King has opposed strengthening this law at every turn. His colleagues know that if our nation is to root out this inhumane practice, we have to have strong laws to combat it.

It’s easy for a professional politician to claim he’s against animal cruelty. But the acid test is their voting record. Time and again, King votes against the most modest animal welfare reforms. Now, he has a provision in the Farm Bill to invalidate a whole host of local and state animal protection laws. He says he’s for state laws on animal welfare, but he’s trying to wipe those out too.

The federal bills in Congress seek to strengthen our nation’s laws against animal fighting, and they are a reflection of a politician’s position on the issue. And it has to be seen in the context of Steve King’s larger voting record. He has opposed nearly all animal welfare reforms during his five terms in Congress—being on the wrong side of animal welfare is nothing new for him. 

Steve King doesn’t want voters to see the truth about his voting record on dogfighting. So we need you to watch this TV ad, share it with your friends and family, and send a message that we need elected officials who share our basic values.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stop the King of Cruelty: See the Ad Some Stations Banned from Iowa TV

Today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund launched a new TV ad campaign in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, opposing Steve King’s reelection to Congress. King has one of the most extreme records on animal cruelty in Congress, and has worked harder than any other lawmaker to block legislation cracking down on illegal dogfighting. Our new TV ad highlights his opposition to a ban on taking children to dogfights.

 

During consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill, King led an unsuccessful effort to defeat an amendment to strengthen the federal animal fighting law and make it a crime for an adult to attend or to bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight. Despite King’s efforts, the amendment was approved. The underlying anti-fighting bill, H.R. 2492, has a bipartisan group of 225 House cosponsors, and a Senate amendment on the topic passed with 88 votes

Shockingly, as reported today by the Des Moines Register, some of the TV stations in Iowa are refusing to run the ad. One station manager called it graphic and sensational, despite the fact that the ad uses still images rather than any graphic video footage, and is meticulously sourced with information documenting King’s voting record and statements. Animal cruelty is graphic and sensational, and that’s why we need lawmakers who will put an end to it.

Voters need information about political candidates in order to make decisions about who best represents their interests and values. Since the viewers of some of these stations won’t be allowed to see the truth about Steve King’s extreme record on animal cruelty, that means we need your help to spread the word far and wide.

Steve King is way out of the mainstream on animal welfare issues. Watch the TV ad that Steve King doesn’t want you to see, and share it with your friends and family by visiting our new website, StopKingofCruelty.com. Help us spread the word to voters in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District that Steve King is wrong for Iowa families.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How Have Your Lawmakers Scored So Far?

As we enter the final stretch of the 112th Congress, HSLF is posting a preview of our 2012 Humane Scorecard. In this preliminary report, we evaluate lawmakers’ performance on animal protection issues by scoring a number of key votes, but also their support for adequate funding for the enforcement of animal welfare laws, and their cosponsorship of priority bills. Building the number of cosponsors on a bill is an important way to show that there is a critical mass of bipartisan support for the policy, and help push the legislation over the finish line. Already in the last few weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic jump in the cosponsor counts for each of these bills, and we need to keep the momentum going with your help.

The egg industry reform bill has 150 cosponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate; the legislation on chimpanzees in invasive research has 173 cosponsors in the House and 16 in the Senate; the animal fighting spectator bill has 218 in the House, and it secured 88 Senate votes when the measure came up as an amendment to the Farm Bill; and the puppy mill legislation has 209 cosponsors in the House and 33 in the Senate. These are very impressive numbers, and they show the strength of our cause and our grassroots support.

Congress will only be in town a few more days before they break until after the election. So please today call your U.S. senators and U.S. representative and urge them to cosponsor the three animal protection bills in the Senate and four in the House that are being counted on the 2012 Humane Scorecard. If they decide to join on and they let us know this week before they break for the election, they’ll receive credit on the final Humane Scorecard for the 112th Congress.

You can look up your federal legislators here, and then call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected to each of your legislators. Ask them to join as cosponsors of the following animal protection bills. If they’re already cosponsoring all these bills, please call and thank them for their strong support.

HenEggs and Hen Housing—Cosponsorship of S. 3239 and H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012—introduced by Sen. Feinstein and Reps. Schrader, Gallegly, Farr, and Denham—to provide for a uniform national standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying hens, phased in over a period of 15-18 years, that will significantly improve animal welfare and provide a stable and secure future for U.S. egg farmers. The legislation is supported by the egg industry and animal welfare groups, and does not affect any other livestock sector or food product, other than eggs. Under this legislation, each laying hen will ultimately be provided nearly double the amount of current space, along with enrichments such as nest boxes and perches that permit hens to better express natural behaviors. Egg farmers will be able to invest in these enriched colony cage systems with the assurance that they will face regulatory certainty and not a patchwork of conflicting state laws—helping industry at no cost to the federal government (the preliminary cost projection by the Congressional Budget Office is zero). Studies have shown higher productivity for hens in enriched colony cage systems (more eggs, lower hen mortality). Also, an economic study by the independent research group Agralytica concluded that under the bill, egg prices would likely increase by less than 2 cents per dozen, and that would be mostly in the out years. If the federal bill doesn’t pass, egg prices may well be higher in the future as the industry deals with conflicting state law requirements that cause disruption to the industry nationwide. Consumers support this legislation by a margin of 4-to-1, and it has been endorsed by leading consumer organizations, as well as by the American Veterinary Medical Association and many others (see the full list here). Cage-free and free-range systems, as well as operations with fewer than 3,000 laying hens, will be unaffected by S. 3239/H.R. 3798, except that they may see increased sales as consumers are able to more clearly distinguish what’s available on store shelves, thanks to the bill’s labeling provisions. See responses to frequently asked questions.

Chimpanzees Warehoused in Laboratories—Cosponsorship of S. 810 and H.R. 1513, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act—introduced by Sens. Cantwell, Collins, and Sanders, and Reps. Bartlett, Israel, Reichert, Langevin, and Towns—to phase out use of chimpanzees in invasive research, retire the approximately 500 federally-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary, and make the current NIH moratorium on government-funded breeding of chimpanzees statutory. Chimpanzees have proven to be poor research models for human diseases, so at any given time, about 80-90% of chimps in U.S. labs are not used in research, but simply warehoused in barren and costly laboratory cages at taxpayer expense. It’s much less expensive to care for chimpanzees at sanctuaries (where they live with other chimps in a natural setting) than to warehouse them individually in labs; this legislation is estimated to save American taxpayers $250 million over ten years. This legislation is also consistent with the December 2011 report by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, which could not identify a single area of research in which chimpanzees are necessary.

Pit_bull_dogfight_fla_270x224Animal Fighting Spectators(Scorecard is only counting cosponsors of this in the House; in the Senate, we’re instead counting the 88-11 floor vote that approved parallel language offered by Sen. Vitter as an amendment to the Farm Bill.) Cosponsorship of H.R. 2492, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act—introduced by Reps. Marino and Sutton—to establish misdemeanor penalties for knowingly attending an organized animal fight and felony penalties for bringing a minor to such a fight. Members also receive credit if they voted in favor of a related amendment, offered by Rep. McGovern, to the Farm Bill, which passed in the House Agriculture Committee (the Farm Bill has not yet been considered by the full House). While Congress has strengthened the federal animal fighting law in recent years, this legislation will close a remaining gap: prohibiting attendance, as 49 states have done, and helping take the profit out of animal fighting. Spectators are more than mere observers at animal fights. They are participants and accomplices who enable the crime, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in admission fees and gambling wagers, and helping conceal organizers and handlers who try to blend into the crowd when a raid occurs. This legislation is widely supported by more than 280 national, state and local law enforcement agencies (covering all 50 states), including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. The preliminary CBO estimate on this legislation is also zero. 

Puppy Mills—Cosponsorship of S. 707 and H.R. 835, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act—introduced by Sens. Durbin and Vitter, and Reps. Gerlach, Farr, Bill Young, and Capps—to crack down on abusive "puppy mills" in the United States, where breeding dogs are often stacked in wire cages for years to produce litter after litter. The legislation will close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act by requiring that commercial breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year online and directly to the public be licensed and inspected, just as breeders who supply to pet stores already must be. It will also require that dogs used for breeding at commercial facilities be provided the opportunity to exercise daily.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lawmakers Seek to Strengthen the Horse Protection Act

Congress passed the Horse Protection Act of 1970 aiming to eliminate the cruel practice of “soring” show horses—applying caustic chemicals to their hooves and legs, inserting sharp objects, and using other painful techniques to force an artificially high-stepping gait, a form of cheating that gives those who engage in this abuse a competitive edge over owners and trainers who do not. Unfortunately, more than four decades later, soring and cheating continue to be rampant throughout the Tennessee walking horse industry, as exposed by a recent HSUS undercover investigation at the training barn of Jackie McConnell, one of the breed’s most celebrated trainers caught on camera beating a horse and painting chemicals on the legs to burn his flesh. Why? As awful as it sounds, to accustom the animal to pain.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal prosecutors have stepped up their enforcement of the law, and are working hard to prevent soring and bring criminal horse abusers to justice. But the law itself has some gaps, and is not strong enough to provide a meaningful deterrent for those who abuse horses in terrible ways just to win a blue ribbon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Neff submitted a sentencing memo in McConnell’s case, saying "the sad reality is that the law passed by Congress does not possess significant teeth."

soring
USDA photo of a scar rule violation. Any horse born after
October 1, 1975 is subject to the "scar rule": their legs should
show no evidence of scarring that is indicative of soring,
such as missing hair, scars, or cuts.

Fortunately, members of Congress are taking action to give the law more teeth, and to give inspectors and prosecutors the tools they need to crack down on soring and prevent this abuse once and for all. Today, U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., with original co-sponsors Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Jim Moran, D-Va., introduced H.R. 6388, a new bill to toughen up the Horse Protection Act. 

The legislation would eliminate the failed industry-run inspection system in which horse industry organizations currently license and choose who conducts inspections at horse shows, and instead would have USDA develop a roster of licensed inspectors, train them, assign them to shows, and oversee enforcement. It would explicitly ban certain devices used in the soring process on certain breeds, including chains designed to cause friction or strike a horse’s sore leg, and weighted shoes and pads attached in such a way as to painfully alter the horse’s gait. The bill would make the actual soring of a horse for the purpose of showing or selling the horse illegal, as well as the act of directing another to sore a horse for these purposes. And it would increase the criminal penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony subject to up to three years’ jail time, and increase fines to up to $5,000 per violation. For a third violation, it allows permanent disqualification from participating in any horse show, exhibition, sale or auction.

It’s clear that the current practice of essentially allowing the industry to police itself has failed miserably, and a new approach is needed. USDA swab tests on 52 random horses at the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration resulted in 52 positive findings for prohibited foreign substances. A 2010 USDA Office of Inspector General audit exposed how those in the walking horse industry work to evade detection, rather than comply with federal law and train horses humanely, and how the serious conflicts of interest by industry-selected inspectors have made enforcement hollow.

We are grateful to Reps. Whitfield and Cohen for introducing H.R. 6388 to turn this situation around and save these horses from a lifetime of abuse. Please contact your Members of Congress today. Urge them to cosponsor this much-needed reform and finally give horses the protections they should have had more than 40 years ago.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Obama Administration Mid-Year Animal Protection Review for 2012

Tonight at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama will accept his party’s nomination for election to a second term, and the pundits will be analyzing his speech and looking back at his record. It’s an opportune time to take a look at what the Obama administration has done so far in 2012, and throughout his presidency, on animal welfare issues.

2012 Overview

In reviewing the past nine months, the Obama administration has taken some positive steps, particularly on enforcement-related issues, and several different federal agencies have made progress on a wide range of subjects to improve the treatment of animals. However, there have also been specific actions that have directly harmed animals, and inaction on key issues. A brief overview of some of the major animal protection policies is illustrated below.

Obama Administration Mid-Year Animal Protection Review for 2012

Several agencies have jurisdiction over animal welfare, and have listened to many of the concerns of animal advocates and made these issues top-priority regulatory actions. This would not have been possible without our dedicated supporters who have submitted comments to the agencies in response to our calls to action and made their views known, elevating the importance of these issues to the agencies. But the administration needs to go further and do more to help animals. Here are a few examples of how each agency is working to tackle significant animal protection problems and what each agency still needs to address.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

After more than 32,000 people petitioned the White House to crack down on puppy mills, the USDA issued a proposed rule this year to regulate unlicensed puppy mills that sell large numbers of dogs to consumers over the Internet without any public oversight. This rule is critical to protect the welfare of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding facilities, and more than 350,000 people submitted comments to the agency in favor of it. We hope USDA quickly finalizes this rule, and also takes action on a congressional directive from the 2008 Farm Bill to ban the imports of puppies from foreign mills, which has been languishing for four years.

In addition, after the release of The HSUS’ undercover video showing the shocking abuse of Tennessee walking horses to produce an artificially high-stepping gait for show competitions, the agency released a long-awaited final rule requiring uniform, mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. This rule is a much-needed step to strengthen enforcement of the law that prohibits “soring” of horses. USDA inspectors also maintained a strong enforcement presence at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, despite pressure from an industry that is in denial and wants to maintain the status quo on horse abuse.

On farm animal welfare and humane handling of livestock, USDA has created a new ombudsman position to whom employees and stakeholders can report concerns regarding inhumane treatment. However, the agency has failed to act in granting protections for downer veal calves. The HSUS submitted a petition to USDA in November 2009 to close a loophole in the existing downed animal regulations and require that all non-ambulatory disabled calves be immediately and humanely euthanized, just as is currently required for adult cattle. The petition was tentatively granted in February 2011, yet there has been an unacceptable delay and the agency has still not granted this petition despite the humane handling and public health concerns.

The agency has also failed to make any changes to programs that have long been concerns for animal welfare advocates. For example, USDA has refused to make any changes to its Wildlife Services program’s use of two highly controversial predator poisons—Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide—despite the many non-target animals and family pets killed, the fiscal waste, and the suffering of animals poisoned by these toxins. 

Finally, the agency continued the huge taxpayer giveaways to the pork industry for buy-ups of surplus product, but the administration is asking nothing of this industry in terms of compensatory reforms, as it did for the financial sector and the automobile industry, in return for this taxpayer largesse. The pork industry can keep on immobilizing animals in small crates, polluting waterways, and dosing animals with antibiotics, threatening the public health of our nation.
   
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

HHS has taken steps to promote the use of non-animal alternatives by awarding grants to individuals at universities and hospitals, who are developing technologies that focus on replacing animal use in drug development, including the development of new “human-on-a-chip” technologies that improve medical research outcomes and reduce reliance on animal studies.

As for eliminating the use of chimpanzees in research, the National Institutes of Health has put together a working group to make recommendations on how to implement an Institute of Medicine report, which states that the current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary, with very few exceptions. Although NIH supports the recommendations in the IOM Report, it has signaled to Congress that it does not support an end to invasive research on chimpanzees, and this appears to be complicating efforts to secure passage of the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research and retire all federally-owned chimps to sanctuaries).
   
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA approved the first fertility control vaccine in wild horses. This is a critical non-lethal management tool, and it should lead to a significant reduction in inhumane wild horse round-ups.

In addition, EPA has joined The L’Oreal Group in a collaboration to create alternatives to animal-based toxicity tests for substances used in cosmetics. EPA also announced plans to reduce animal testing requirements for pesticides, and has released a comprehensive management plan to implement more non-animal tools for its Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. While each of these plans is a step in the right direction, the agency should do more to bring U.S. pesticide regulations into line with global state-of-the-art technologies and best practices concerning replacement, reduction, and refinement of animal testing.

U.S. Department of the Interior

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stepped up its efforts to crack down on the Illegal wildlife trade. In conjunction with The HSUS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FWS conducted “Operation Cyberwild” to put a stop to illegal wildlife trade over the Internet. As a result of the operation, twelve individuals were charged with the sale of endangered and protected species. FWS also announced an effort to crack down on the black market rhino trade within the U.S. and arrested seven people on illegal trafficking charges.

Unfortunately, the FWS de-listed wolves in Wyoming this year, which followed prior de-listing actions in Idaho, Montana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Wolves already are being hunted and trapped in the Northern Rockies, and the killing is set to begin this fall in the Great Lakes, and now we can add another looming destruction of wolves in Wyoming, where the state has a retrograde plan for managing wolves that kicks in after federal protections are eliminated.

The Bureau of Land Management’s dealings with wild horses this year are a mixed bag. The BLM requested $2 million dollars in additional funds to conduct research on increasing fertility control of wild horses and participated in the Wild Horse Symposium, which discussed, in part, the role of contraceptives in wild horse management. BLM also announced that it will conduct an environmental analysis of an eco-sanctuary for American mustangs in northeastern Nevada. Problems remain, however, at wild horse gathers. For instance, round-up numbers are still high this year, as BLM has thus far removed 7,496 horses and 503 burros. BLM is making many of the right moves, but must do more in the field to protect the welfare of horses, and further increase the use of fertility control as a management tool.

U.S. Department of Commerce

DOC has done good things for shark conservation this year, including a proposed rule by the National Marine Fisheries Service which aims to implement the Shark Conservation Act. The aim of these proposed rules is to promote sustainable management on an international level, and these regulations would further strengthen U.S. leadership in increasing shark conservation and addressing shark finning on a global scale.

Unfortunately, the NMFS has still failed to promulgate revisions to the critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales. The agency made promises to revise the critical habitat for this deeply imperiled species by the beginning of 2011. A year later, however, the conservation community is still waiting for this vital change.

There are a number of other federal agencies that took actions on animal welfare in 2012, including the U.S. Department of Transportation issuing a proposed rule to expand the animal reporting requirements by air carriers, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection forcing a New York-based company to stop selling products made of domestic dog fur. These are a few highlights from the year. For a comprehensive review by agency, see the Obama Administration Mid-Year Animal Protection Review for 2012.

More Action Needed

In reviewing the Obama administration’s work to protect animals over the past four years, common themes have emerged. On the positive side, agency officials have stepped up the enforcement of animal welfare laws and demonstrated a willingness to examine key policy issues. The agencies are also working to be more transparent and are posting enforcement actions online, which is a service to the public and to all stakeholders. There are several proposed rules in the pipeline, such as the rule to crack down on unlicensed puppy mills, which hopefully will become final soon.  Progress has been made on key issues ranging from wild horses to chimpanzees in research, although more needs to be done on these subjects.

On the negative side, there have been significant delays in agency action on some issues, such as the rules to protect downer veal calves and designate critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales. There have also been no reform of programs that have long been a concern for animal advocates, such as the taxpayer giveaways to the pork industry and the continued use of poisons to kill wildlife as a subsidy for private livestock ranchers. And there have been hostile actions, such as the de-listing of wolves, which will lead to more unnecessary destruction of these keystone predators.

On balance, the Obama administration has prioritized some animal protection issues and has an opportunity to continue these efforts over the next few months and achieve even more for animals. We continue to encourage President Obama to publicly show his support for animal protection administrative actions. We will issue a final grade for 2012 at the end of the year, and hope the administration will take action before then on several outstanding high-priority actions for animals. These include:

  • Finalize and issue the puppy mill retail rule and puppy mill import rule
  • Close the loophole on downer veal calves
  • Increase fertility control and decrease round-ups for wild horses
  • Grant petition to declare horsemeat as condemned or unqualified for human consumption
  • Phase out the use of predator poisons Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide
  • Issue the critical habitat rule revisions for North Atlantic right whales
  • List captive chimpanzees as an endangered species and phase out invasive experiments on chimps

Our supporters are fundamental to our success, and we hope you join us and echo this call to action by contacting the administration and urging them to get these critical animal protection efforts over the finish line.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

North Dakota: Vote YES! on Measure 5 to Stop Animal Cruelty

Just two decades ago, only seven states had felony-level penalties for animal cruelty (California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin). Fortunately, there has been a steady drumbeat of lawmaking on this issue over the last 20 years, mostly led by The HSUS, HSLF, and state and local animal welfare groups, and now 48 states punish some forms of animal abuse as a felony offense, with Mississippi and Idaho being the most recent states to upgrade their anti-cruelty statutes.

But there are still two hold-out states—North Dakota and South Dakota—that punish even the worst forms of animal cruelty with just a slap on the wrist. That could change this November, as voters in North Dakota will have the opportunity to do what the legislature has failed to do, and toughen up the state’s anemic and outdated animal cruelty law.

Hsus_nd_logoToday, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger officially certified Measure 5 for the November 6th statewide general election ballot, after volunteers gathered more than 25,000 signatures of North Dakota voters. Thanks to the outpouring of support from North Dakotans, the North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty campaign exceeded the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot by 88 percent.

Measure 5 would make it a class C felony for any individual to maliciously and intentionally burn, poison, crush, suffocate, impale, drown, blind, skin, beat to death, drag to death, exsanguinate, disembowel, or dismember any living dog, cat, or horse. At the discretion of the court, violators could be ordered to undergo mandatory psychological or psychiatric evaluation and counseling, including counseling in responsible pet ownership or animal cruelty prevention, and ordered not to own or possess a dog, cat, or horse for up to five years after the date of the sentencing. The law would provide appropriate penalties for the worst types of cruelty, but would not alter the existing misdemeanor law for less serious offenses such as unintentional neglect.

It reflects a sense of misplaced priorities when it’s currently a felony to spray paint a building if you cause $2,000 in damages, but only a misdemeanor to set a puppy on fire. The current animal cruelty law is extremely weak and completely out of sync with North Dakota values, and it’s long overdue for a course correction. Help support the YES! on Measure 5 campaign in North Dakota, and bring us one step closer to making extreme animal cruelty a felony in every state.

Paid for by Humane Society Legislative Fund

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