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Elections

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cast Your Ballot for Animals

On February 18, 1958, then-Senator John F. Kennedy told an audience of Loyola College alumni in Baltimore that we should “not seek the Republican answer or the Democrat answer but the right answer.”

Today, 56 years later and just 26 days shy of a crucial election, we at the Humane Society Legislative Fund are also after the right answers. The right answers for animals are the lawmakers who will fight animal cruelty and abuse, and stand up for the values of kindness and compassion.

This week we released our Animal Protection Voter Guide—a list of those humane-minded candidates endorsed by HSLF who need your support in three and a half weeks. You’ll see Democrats, Republicans, and Independents on the list—we make endorsements based on candidates’ records or positions on animal issues rather than on political party or affiliation.

We hope you’ll take the Voter Guide with you to the polls. Election Day is November 4, but early voting is already open in many places throughout the country. Check the guide to see if voting is open where you live.

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Julie Busch Branaman
Vote for humane candidates on or before Nov. 3

So, so much is at stake this year. Michigan residents: you’ll notice a slate of pro-animal candidates at the federal and state levels who need your support, and we’ve highlighted the important NO vote on Proposals 1 and 2.

There are fewer than 650 wolves in Michigan, and and the federal government recently took them off the endangered species list. Politicians and state officials didn’t waste a minute to try to open a trophy hunting season, fabricating stories about wolf encounters with residents to support their reckless idea. 

The use of painful steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves may all be in store if the Natural Resources Commission is given the unilateral power to decide on these cruel methods without any checks and balances from Michigan voters. Voters can say NO to the trophy hunting of wolves and say NO to this power grab by politicians, with a NO vote on Proposals 1 and 2.

November 4 will also be critical for Maine residents: You have the chance to ban the baiting, hounding, and trapping of bears, by voting YES on Question 1. Maine is the only state in the country to still allow all three of these cruel and unsporting practices. Hunters are not allowed to bait, hound, or trap deer or moose, and they shouldn’t be allowed to do it to bears. It's particularly cruel to trap a bear in a snare, and it’s unfair to shoot a bear out of a tree or over a dump site. Head to your city or town hall to cast your YES vote for Question 1 now—you don’t even have to wait until Election Day.

Along with these ballot measure campaigns, there are important candidate races from coast to coast. The pro-animal candidates need your help and your vote. In order to have humane laws, we must elect humane lawmakers. We need people in office who will stand up to puppy mills, factory farming, animal fighting, and other abuses, and support a positive agenda of animal welfare.

Your vote, combined with that of other humane voters who care about the fate of animals, can be the difference.

The animals are counting on us to participate in this election. Please grab your list, and make sure to vote early or on November 4.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Taking Stock of Progress in Maryland

Just in time for early voting to begin in the Maryland primary election, we are pleased to release the Maryland Humane Scorecard, a joint project of the Humane Society Legislative Fund and our good friends at Maryland Votes for Animals. We publish this report to inform Marylanders how their state senators and delegates performed on a broad range of animal protection issues over the 2011-2014 legislative session. Maryland citizens who care about animal protection can use this record to find out if their elected lawmakers are representing their views in Annapolis, and to help advance animal protection work in the Free State. Md. Humane Scorecard

The scorecard gives us an opportunity to look back over the last few years and chart the progress of our public policy work on behalf of animals in Annapolis. The last Maryland Humane Scorecard covered the 2007-2010 legislative sessions, and included all of the floor votes on animal issues from those four sessions—11 in the Senate and seven in the House. This year, we scored 15 votes in the Senate and 13 in the House, and there were even more animal protection measures that came up for votes. During the 2014 session alone, five important animal welfare reforms were signed into law.

These bills also enjoyed a much higher percentage of support among lawmakers than in previous years—in fact, more than 50 percent of all members of the Maryland General Assembly received a perfect score, casting humane votes every time they had the opportunity. With their votes, we succeeded in enacting major policies like establishing a statewide program to reduce shelter euthanasia by funding spay/neuter services, banning the sale and possession of shark fins, requiring pet stores to disclose basic information about the puppies they sell, and adopting a breed-neutral dog bite law that overturned the reckless canine profiling in the state that had discriminated against pit bull-type dogs as “inherently dangerous.”

The breadth of bipartisan support for all of these humane measures confirms—yet again—that Maryland citizens and their elected officials oppose animal cruelty in all its forms and are willing to stand up for reasonable policy reforms that codify those values into law. The HSLF and The HSUS advocate for mainstream policies that legislators on both sides of the aisle can sponsor and support, with many of them becoming near-consensus positions among lawmakers.

Of course, this scorecard doesn’t tell the whole story of what happens in Annapolis. Many bills each year never receive votes at all, left to languish in committee or quietly slipped into a drawer. Some lawmakers sit on committees that regularly consider animal protection legislation, and others don’t. To get the most accurate read on your elected officials, you should also find out about their committee work, constituent service, and other issues. But the Maryland Humane Scorecard provides a snapshot of the activity in Annapolis and a basic measuring tool for holding lawmakers accountable on animal issues. If you live in Maryland, please check it out and share with others. And please, get involved in political activity for animals and continue to support this critical work in our movement no matter which state you live in.

 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Super PAC Forms to Promote Animal Abuse

Every day, every minute, animals are at risk somewhere, whether they’re languishing in abusive puppy mills, confined in metal cages on industrial factory farms where they can barely move an inch, or caught up in some other enterprise that puts profit over animal welfare. And as much as we’ve gained ground in our efforts to help those animals, it’s still the case that there are wealthy special interests and hard-hearted individuals trying to keep them in the crates and mills to guarantee their further suffering. They work every day to perpetuate the status quo, and even to deregulate animal use industries so that they have nothing to fear and no accountability. They want just the appearance of legal protections for animals, or no laws at all. 

Michael Beckel of the Center for Public Integrity has reported that millionaire businessman Forrest Lucas, founder of Lucas Oil Products, has formed a new Super PAC to oppose animal welfare. Lucas is perhaps the biggest pro-animal abuse money man in America. With his personal net worth of $300 million and his company’s annual revenue of $150 million, Lucas can fund a huge war chest and his new Super PAC can spend unlimited amounts on political ads in elections. 

He’s already demonstrated there's no limit to his hostility to animal welfare. In 2010, Lucas spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to bankroll the opposition to Proposition B in Missouri, which voters approved to set common-sense standards for the care of dogs in large-scale puppy mills. Lucas then supported an effort in the Missouri legislature to weaken and repeal parts of the voter-approved measure, before it even had a chance to take effect. In 2012, Lucas and his group Protect the Harvest spent more than a quarter-million dollars opposing Measure 5 in North Dakota, which sought to establish felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses. In 2013, Protect the Harvest even lobbied against a local ordinance in Crawford County, Indiana to require proper shelter of dogs and cats and another proposal in Harrison County to promote the spaying and neutering of pets to help reduce pet overpopulation.

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Missouri puppy mill dogs exposed to the elements

What kind of group defends puppy mills, fights meaningful anti-cruelty laws, and wants to deny companion animals a roof over their heads and protection from the elements? Protect the Harvest is even fighting against family farmers by pushing a new measure on the August ballot in Missouri, Amendment 1, which would prioritize the interests of foreign corporations and industrial factory farms over humane and sustainable agriculture, and prevent any future standards for the care of animals in agriculture, even for the "farming" of dogs in puppy mills.

Now, with the new Super PAC, we can expect more well-funded attacks from Lucas on animal protection efforts across the country.That’s why it’s more important than ever that the Humane Society Legislative Fund strengthen its own hand, so that it can stand up against such attacks, and expand its efforts to fortify the nation’s laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse. With your help, we can continue our work to pass animal protection laws, educate the public, and elect humane candidates to office.

Please join us in fighting back against the anti-animal forces, and make a donation to HSLF today. Standing strong and standing together, we can overcome the attack by one millionaire on the animal welfare movement, the proper care of animals, and decency and mercy in society.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Super Tuesday for Animals

It took less than ten minutes after the Kentucky polls closed last night for Sen. Mitch McConnell to be declared the victor in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate over challenger Matt Bevin—about the same amount of time birds with razor-sharp gaffs strapped to their legs will last in a cockfighting match. Bevin’s campaign was derailed by cockfighting, and he lost ground after speaking at a rally organized to legalize the blood sport in Kentucky, getting trounced by a statewide margin of 25 points in what was originally supposed to be a competitive race.

In fact, Bevin lost by even wider margins and underperformed against his statewide totals in some of the most notorious cockfighting counties in the state. In Clay, Edmonson, Floyd, Laurel, and Pike Counties — home to some of the state's largest cockfighting pits, with names like the Big Blue Sportsmen’s Club, which features arena-style seating, a full-service restaurant, and laminated membership cards — Bevin lost by a range of 31 to 60 points. The cockfighters don’t seem to be much of a voting bloc, and politicians have nothing to gain by catering to these organized criminals who commit unspeakable cruelty to animals.

Cockfighting Gaff
Example of the razor-sharp knives strapped to fighting birds. Photo Credit: The HSUS/Alex Gallardo

In Louisiana, the last state to ban cockfighting, it used to be conventional wisdom among some politicians that you couldn’t go against the cockfighters, and there are even some lawmakers who still defend the sport as “chicken boxing.” But just yesterday, the state legislature took another step in the right direction by giving final passage to a bill that fortifies Louisiana’s 2007 anti-cockfighting statute. If signed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, it will increase the first-offense penalties for cockfighting, tighten the definition of birds used for fighting, and ban the possession of cockfighting weapons and paraphernalia, to help law enforcement crack down on this staged animal combat. It’s a sign of the times that the last state to have legal cockfights may soon have one of the strongest anti-cockfighting laws on the books.

In other election news, Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue are headed to a runoff in the Republican primary for the open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. We were pleased to see Rep. Paul Broun place fifth among the GOP candidates, getting only 9.6 percent of the vote. Broun described himself as a volunteer lobbyist for Safari Club International before coming to Congress, and during his time in office, he has had one of the most extreme anti-animal records, opposing the most modest efforts to prevent cruelty and abuse, and going out of his way to attack animal protection. Shockingly, he was one of only three lawmakers to vote against legislation in 2010 to ban the trafficking in obscene animal “crush” videos, in which scantily clad women in high heels crush puppies, kittens, and other small animals to death for the sexual titillation of viewers. Good riddance to him, since he gave up his House seat for his failed Senate run.

Paul Broun and Matt Bevin may be the poster boys for a new premise in politics:  Being soft on animal cruelty can be fatal to your prospects.

 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Politics of Cockfighting and Horse Slaughter

Tonight, WAVE 3 News in Louisville is airing an exclusive story, for which reporter John Boel went undercover with a hidden camera at a recent pro-cockfighting rally. The investigative report asks the question, “What did Kentucky politicians really promise to cockfighters?” and focuses on GOP Senate candidate Matt Bevin’s appearance at that rally, raising questions about his statements that he didn’t know the purpose of the event was to promote the legalization of cockfighting.

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Photo by KRGV

In the weeks since the story broke, Bevin has said that cockfighting is a “states’ rights” issue, and even that it’s “part of a tradition and a heritage that go back for hundreds of years and were very integral early on in this country.” But the organizers of the event had promoted it as a rally to legalize cockfighting in Kentucky. If it’s a state issue, and the state currently bans cockfighting, does Bevin support or oppose that anti-crime and anti-cruelty law? The hidden-camera video obtained by WAVE 3 News should shed some light on the situation.

Manu Raju of Politico reported yesterday that Bevin’s Republican primary opponent, Sen. Mitch McConnell, has released a new statewide radio ad attacking Bevin on the cockfighting issue. The ad lampoons Bevin for attending the pro-cockfighting event, and for “making national headlines, but not in a good way.” The primary is May 20th, and it’s just more evidence that the political winds are blowing against the small but vocal group of people who unlawfully force animals into staged combat, and that politicians have nothing to gain by associating with these organized criminals.

An important animal welfare issue is coming up in another GOP statewide primary race, too, this one in Texas. Brittney Martin of the Dallas Morning News reported that in the race for state agriculture commissioner, Republican Tommy Merritt has sent a mailer to primary voters drawing attention to rival Sid Miller’s efforts to legalize horse slaughter. When both candidates served in the Texas legislature, Miller introduced bills seeking to repeal the state’s ban on the sale of horsemeat for human consumption.

“I voted against the bill [in 2003] and on the side of the horses and the people who love animals,” Merritt said. “It’s very clear to me that he has total disrespect for the animals.”

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An American horse waiting in a pen to be taken to slaughter

Texas, along with Illinois, was the last place in the U.S. to have active equine abattoirs, which were shuttered in 2007 when Congress banned the use of tax dollars to inspect and certify horsemeat for human consumption. A number of plants have tried unsuccessfully to open since that time, but most people don’t want their community to be known as the one that killed Trigger and Mr. Ed, just to serve up horse meat as a delicacy to foreign gourmands in Belgium and Japan.  

It’s clear that animal issues are becoming a larger part of our civic and political discourse, and mainstream voters stand on the side of decency, opposition to cruelty, and the rule of law. No party or candidate, whether Democrat or Republican, should defend animal cruelty without understanding the political consequences. When candidates court the cockfighting crowd or the horse slaughter profiteers, they’re taking a bigger political risk than they ever imagined.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Foot-in-Mouth Disease Strikes Kentucky Senate candidate

GOP Senate candidate Matt Bevin has offered a number of excuses, since news broke that he attended a rally organized to promote the legalization of cockfighting in Kentucky. He said he’s “never been to a cockfight, don’t condone cockfighting,” but stopped short of saying unequivocally that he opposes animal fighting or that he supports the enforcement of anti-cockfighting laws. Bevin also said he “doesn’t believe this is a federal issue, and the state government can handle it.” But the cockfighters at the event were advocating for the repeal of the state’s anti-cockfighting statute. The point of the rally was to overturn Kentucky’s weak law against cockfighting, so how does Bevin’s invoking states’ rights clarify his participation at the event? 

His latest claim is that animal fighting is an American tradition. “But it’s interesting when you look at cockfighting and dogfighting as well,” Bevin told Louisville’s WHAS News Radio. “This isn’t something new, it wasn’t invented in Kentucky, for example. I mean the Founding Fathers were all many of them very actively involved in this and always have been. These are things that are part of a tradition and a heritage that go back for hundreds of years and were very integral early on in this country. ”

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Photo by KRGV

Very integral?  Hardly.  While the cockfighters would have us believe there were fighting pits at Mount Vernon and Monticello, there is no historical evidence to support claims that the Founding Fathers were involved in animal fighting. There is evidence, however, that they actively sought to root out the cruelty, which they saw as frivolous and detracting from the seriousness of the Revolutionary War effort. The First Continental Congress passed legislation in 1774 to “discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing, and all kinds of games, cock fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments.”

Since that time, all 50 states have banned dogfighting and cockfighting, with dogfighting a felony in all 50 and cockfighting now a felony in 41. The members of the organized criminal network of cockfighters flock to the remaining states, like Kentucky, with anemic misdemeanor penalties, hoping that law enforcement will look the other way. They bring with them the associated activities of drugs, prostitution, and other crimes. It’s an underworld enterprise, and it’s still such a problem that the U.S. Congress has seen fit to upgrade the federal law against animal fighting four times since 2002, closing loopholes that cockfighters try to sneak through.

State legislatures around the country, too, are working to fortify their animal fighting statutes. Louisiana, the last state in the union to prohibit cockfighting, is now considering a bill to strengthen the law by upgrading the penalties and banning the possession of knives, gaffs, and other cockfighting weapons. It appears that Matt Bevin isn’t the only politician who is confused about cockfighting: Although the legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is headed to the Senate floor for a vote, Louisiana State Sen. Elbert Guillory, of Opelousas, said the bill interferes with “a legitimate sport known as chicken boxing.”

Whether some politicians invoke “chicken boxing,” “states’ rights,” or “American tradition,” these words amount to code for some form of decriminalization, so that cockfighters can still pursue their hobby without penalty.  The fact is, there’s no moral or rational justification for strapping razor-sharp knives and icepick-like gaffs to the legs of birds, throwing them into a pit and forcing them to hack each other to pieces, just for the entertainment of spectators who gamble on the fights and are titillated by the violence and bloodletting. There’s a difference between “liberty” and “license” and the cockfighters don’t seem to understand it.  Now, in Kentucky, there’s a politician who doesn’t either.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Kentucky’s Bevin Courts Cockfighting Vote

Politicians running for statewide office are known to show up at festivals, parades, county fairs, diners, a variety of commemorations, and even funerals. But it takes a very special kind of candidate to be a featured speaker at a  cockfighting rally, of all places.

That’s what U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin did, when he attended an event Saturday organized to promote the legalization of cockfighting in Kentucky. Bevin, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s Republican primary, said he didn’t know it was a cockfighting event, and his campaign told the Louisville Courier-Journal it was “a state’s rights rally.”

But it’s hard to imagine anyone accidentally stumbling into a cockfighting meet-up. Even the event’s organizers said there was “never any ambiguity” about why they were rallying, which was to advocate for making cockfighting legal. In fact, here are some of the ads promoting the event, which were circulated through pro-cockfighting Facebook pages and web sites:  Flyerforrally2

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There’s no hidden purpose here: Organized criminals want to repeal Kentucky’s already weak anti-cockfighting statute. We have plenty of evidence that they are brazenly breaking the law, strapping razor-sharp knives and icepick-like gaffs to the legs of roosters, throwing them into a pit and forcing them to hack each other to pieces—just so they can shout out bets and be titillated by the violence and bloodletting.

Bevin’s claims about not knowing ring hollow, as he is now parroting the language of anyone who defends animal cruelty but masks their true intent by speaking of “states’ rights.” His campaign spokesperson told the Lexington Herald-Leader his position on cockfighting: “Matt doesn’t believe this is a federal issue, and the state government can handle it.”

The fact is, both the federal government and the states have a big role to play in cracking down on this form of intentional, malicious cruelty to animals. A substantial share of dogfights and cockfights involve interstate transport of the animals and parties from multiple states. There are also instances where due to corruption, lack of resources or lack of interest, local agencies refuse to prosecute large-scale animal fighting rings. Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation was prosecuted by federal authorities when the local commonwealth attorney refused to take action. In the absence of a federal animal fighting law, which Matt Bevin apparently opposes, the Michael Vick case would never have moved forward. 

All 50 states now ban cockfighting, and it’s a felony in 41, though it’s still a misdemeanor in Kentucky. It’s now moved to an underworld enterprise, but it’s still such a problem that the Congress has seen fit to upgrade the federal law against animal fighting four times since 2002, closing loopholes that cockfighters try to sneak through. The latest upgrade to the federal law—to punish the spectators who finance the fights with their admission fees and gambling wagers and provide cover to animal fighters who blend into the crowds during law enforcement raids—passed the U.S. Senate three times before being folded into the final Farm Bill package.

Bevin’s primary opponent, Sen. Mitch McConnell, rightly voted for the animal fighting spectatorship amendment that made it into the final Farm Bill. That legislation was cosponsored by dozens of Republicans and Democrats, and endorsed by the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and more than 300 individual sheriffs and police departments across the country, as well as veterinary, animal welfare, and other groups. The only people on the other side? Illegal animal fighters.

There’s still a small and active group of cockfighters out there, but most politicians have left them behind, as society itself has done. Now, they are flocking to the remaining few states with weak misdemeanor penalties, like Kentucky, where they hope they can get away with a slap on the wrist, while the window is surely closing upon them. Matt Bevin showed appalling judgment in associating himself with this band of lawbreakers and perpetrators of unspeakable animal cruelty.  He’s brought discredit upon the state of Kentucky, and he should withdraw from the Senate race.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The 2013 Congressional Year in Review for Animals

Congress returns to Washington today to convene the second session of the 113th Congress, and it’s a good time to take stock of what was achieved in 2013 and the pathway for animals in the New Year. In terms of general lawmaking, the 113th Congress has been known for inaction and partisan gridlock. It passed fewer laws in its first year—65—than any single session on record. Yet despite the dysfunction in Washington, we’ve made real progress on key animal protection issues.

During the first year of the session, we already had one major bill enacted that facilitates the retirement of hundreds of chimps from barren laboratories to natural sanctuaries, and laid substantial groundwork on a number of other issues—such as protecting horses from "soring" cruelty, doping, and slaughter, and fortifying the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting—which are teed up for action in 2014. As we look back on 2013 and head into the second part of the two-year Congress, we’re poised for significant gains on several priorities.
 
ChimpChimpanzee Sanctuary:  A bill that made it over the finish line already in 2013 will help chimpanzees warehoused in barren laboratory cages. We celebrated the decision by the National Institutes of Health to retire about 90 percent of the government-owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuary—where they can live the rest of their lives in peace—and to significantly scale back funding for chimpanzee research. But there was a hitch that had to be overcome: the law Congress enacted in 2000, establishing the national chimpanzee sanctuary system with a unique public-private partnership, imposed a cumulative ceiling on the funding that NIH could devote to the system. NIH was due to reach that limit in mid-November, which not only jeopardized the retirement of the government-owned chimpanzees in labs today who are slated for transfer to sanctuary, but also funding for the continued care of chimpanzees already living at the national sanctuary, Chimp Haven in Louisiana. This would be terrible for the animals and also for taxpayers, since retirement to sanctuary is less costly than keeping chimpanzees in labs. Fortunately, there was bipartisan support in Congress to solve this problem. On November 14—just under the wire before the cap was reached—the Senate gave final approval to a legislative fix passed by the House of Representatives just days earlier. S. 252 contains provisions amending the 2000 CHIMP Act to allow NIH the flexibility to continue using its existing funds for sanctuary care. Signed into law the day before Thanksgiving, this humane, cost-effective, common sense outcome gave us all something to cheer. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Ranking Member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., led this effort.  
 
King Amendment:  As a House-Senate conference committee finalizes its negotiations on the Farm Bill, we await resolution on the destructive provision that was folded into the House bill during committee, with minimal debate, at the behest of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa—Sec. 11312 of H.R. 2642. No similar language is in the Senate Farm Bill, and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has led the charge in the Senate to keep this out of the final bill. Opponents were denied the opportunity to have a floor vote on an amendment led by Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., to strike it during House floor debate. The King amendment could negate most state and local laws on the production or manufacture of agriculture products. It aims to block state laws protecting farm animals and could also preempt laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish and standards for fire-safe cigarettes. A broad coalition of 89 organizations representing sustainable agriculture, consumer, health, fire safety, environment, labor, animal welfare, religious, and other concerns jointly signed a letter calling for the King Amendment—and any related language—to be kept out of final House-Senate legislation. An even broader list of more than 500 groups, officials, newspapers, and citizens have publicly stated their opposition, including letters by a bipartisan set of 23 Senators and 169 Representatives—led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Schrader, and Gary Peters, D-Mich.—as well as the National Conference of State Legislatures, County Executives of America, Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, Mississippi and Arkansas Attorneys General, Iowa Farmers Union, Safe Food Coalition, professors from 13 law schools, and editorials in a number of papers such as USA Today, the Des Moines Register, the Tulsa World, the Denver Post, and the Washington Post. The House-Senate conferees certainly should not include this intensely controversial provision or anything like it if they want to complete action on the Farm Bill early in 2014 as planned.
 
AnimalfightingAnimal Fighting:  Both the House and Senate Farm Bills include provisions to strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to knowingly attend or bring a child to an organized animal fight. The language of the free-standing animal fighting spectator bill, S. 666/H.R. 366, led by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La., and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., Jim McGovern, D-Mass., John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.—which enjoys the bipartisan support of 262 cosponsors combined in the Senate and House—was part of the Senate Farm Bill from the beginning, as introduced in the Agriculture Committee, thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. For the House, related language was approved as an amendment offered by Rep. McGovern during committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 28-17. We are hopeful that the animal fighting provision will be part of the final House-Senate package that may be done in January. This legislation is widely supported by nearly 300 national, state and local law enforcement agencies (covering all 50 states), including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and it would cost taxpayers nothing, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It already won approval in 2012 by the House Agriculture Committee and twice by the full Senate, but final action on the Farm Bill stalled last year. Forty-nine states already have penalties for animal fighting spectators, but we need to sync up the federal and state laws since many animal fighting raids are multistate and multijurisdictional. Closing this gap in the legal framework will help law enforcement crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting, including those who finance the activity with admission fees and gambling wagers, provide cover to animal fighters during raids, and expose children to the violence and bloodletting.
 
Horse Slaughter:  The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills include identical language barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding inspections at horse slaughter plants, language added during committee markup in both chambers at the behest of Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The horse slaughter defund provision, requested for the first time by the agency itself in the president’s budget, would reinstate a prohibition that had been in place from 2007 to 2011. It is urgently needed, as some companies are about to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility. The shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in Europe underscores the potential threat to American health if horse slaughter plants open here. Moreover, horse slaughter is cruel and cannot be made humane, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight-or-flight response, and the methods used to slaughter them rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. 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. We’re pressing to have the horse slaughter provision sustained in the omnibus bill that Congress plans to act on by January 15 to avoid another government shutdown, and ultimately seeking to pass the free-standing Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, S. 541/H.R. 1094, sponsored by Sens. Landrieu and Graham and Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., to provide a more lasting and comprehensive solution.   
 
Animal Welfare Funding:  The House Agriculture Appropriations bill would restore funds cut last year in some accounts, and the Senate bill would actually provide substantial increases requested in the president’s budget for USDA to enforce and implement key animal-related laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. Final resolution is expected by January 15 as part of the omnibus bill, and we hope the Senate’s higher figures will prevail. 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 it has a real impact for animals on the ground. Today there are 136 inspectors enforcing the Animal Welfare Act at puppy mills, research laboratories, roadside zoos, and other regulated facilities, more than doubled from just 60 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 34 Senators and 164 Representatives on joint letters calling for these funds, and the subcommittee leadership—Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Ranking Member Sam Farr, D-Calif.—responded to their colleagues’ appeals.
 
Horse soringHorse Soring:  The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) ActH.R. 1518/S. 1406, championed by Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va.—has gained major momentum with the bipartisan support of almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate, and a successful hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This legislation boasts a lengthy list of endorsements, including the American Horse Council and 48 other national and state horse groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and veterinary medical associations in all 50 states; many animal protection groups; and others. The PAST Act amends an existing federal law, the Horse Protection Act of 1970, to better rein in the cruel practice of “soring”—in which unscrupulous trainers hurt Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to make it painful for them to step down, so they will display an extreme high-stepping gait that wins prizes at horse shows. Soring methods include applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs, inserting bolts, screws or other hard objects into sensitive areas of the hooves, attaching excessively “weighted” shoes, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue in an attempt to disguise the sored areas. More than 40 years ago, Congress tried to stop this abuse, but the Horse Protection Act is too weak, and rampant soring continues, according to a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General that recommended reforms incorporated in the PAST Act. This legislation is not expected to add costs to the federal government; it will simply enable USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way. The only ones opposing this non-controversial legislation are those who are already breaking federal law, committing heinous cruelty, cheating to win unfair advantage at horse shows, and profiting from it. That subset of the show horse world doesn’t want Congress to alter the status quo. But many others in the show horse world are strongly advocating the PAST Act to deal with morally repugnant behavior that is giving their industry a major black eye, hurting attendance at shows, driving away corporate sponsors, and driving down horse sale prices.
 
Horse Racing:  The House Energy and Commerce Committee also held a compelling hearing on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013, S. 973/H.R. 2012, led by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle testified in favor of the legislation. A powerful New York Times exposé examined 150,000 horse races from 2009 to 2011, reporting that minimal oversight, inconsistent regulations, and rampant doping of horses has led to a stunning “average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week.” According to Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Racing Board, “It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.” This is tragic for the horses and also often the jockeys, who can suffer serious injuries, paralysis, or death from being thrown. The legislation would ban doping of racehorses, and give the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, the authority to oversee and enforce the new rules. Rather than having different rules with respect to medicating of horses in every state where tracks operate, there would be a consistent national policy.

 
Other Pending Animal Protection Efforts Include:

Pets

  • Puppy Mills: Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., the late Bill Young, R-Fla., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 847/S. 395 to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations by requiring that large-scale commercial dog breeders who sell 50 or more puppies per year directly to consumers via the Internet or other means be licensed and inspected, as breeders who sell to pet stores already are; and to require that breeding dogs at commercial facilities be allowed to exercise daily. The broad bipartisan support for this legislation helped spur the USDA to finalize regulations in September to extend federal oversight to thousands of puppy mills that do business online.
  • Pets on Trains: Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., introduced H.R. 2066/S. 1710 to require Amtrak to propose a pet policy that allows passengers to transport cats and dogs on certain Amtrak trains.
  • Veterans Dog Training Therapy: Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., introduced H.R. 183 to create a pilot program for training dogs, including shelter dogs, as a form of therapy to help treat combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment mental health conditions.
  • Wounded Warrior Service Dogs: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., introduced H.R. 2847 to require the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to jointly establish a K-9 Companion Corps Program that will award competitive grants to nonprofit organizations to assist them in the planning, designing, establishing, and operating of programs that provide assistance dogs to covered military members and veterans.  
  • National Animal Rescue Day/Winslow’s Day: Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., introduced H. Res. 63 to create awareness for animal rescue programs throughout the year and address the challenge of overpopulation through continued spaying and neutering.
  • Euthanasia Methods at Shelters: Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Lou Barletta, R-Pa., introduced H. Res. 208/H. Res. 433, respectively, to voice opposition to the use of inhumane and dangerous gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals and express support for state laws that require the use of more humane euthanasia methods.


Equine

  • Horse Transport:  Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., introduced S. 1459 to prohibit and establish penalties for the transport of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another (except a vehicle operated exclusively on rail or rails).
  • Horse Therapy: Reps. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced H.R. 1705 to expand the Department of  Defense managed health care program for military beneficiaries to include coverage of rehabilitative therapeutic exercises that utilize horses.


Farm Animals

  • Eggs/Hen Housing: Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1731/S. 820 to provide a uniform national standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying hens, phased in over a period of 15-16 years, that will significantly improve animal welfare and provide a stable future for egg farmers.
  • Non-Therapeutic Use of Antibiotics: Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 1150/S. 1256 to phase out the routine non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals—a common practice to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions on factory farms—in order to maintain the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating sick people and animals.
  • Antimicrobial Data Collection: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., introduced S. 895/H.R. 820 to require the Food and Drug Administration to improve both the collection and public reporting of information on how antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs are used in food animal production.


Animals in Research

  • Alternatives Development in Research and Testing:  Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, included report language for the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to prioritize federal funding for non-animal methods in the BRAIN initiative and through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
  • Alternatives to Live Animal Use in Military Training: Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced the Battlefield Excellence through Superior Training (BEST) Practices Act, H.R. 3172/S. 1550, to require the Secretary of Defense to employ alternative methods that are more effective and humane than live animal use for training members of the Armed Forces in the treatment of severe injuries.
  • Class B Dealers: Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, H.R. 2224, to prohibit the use in research of dogs and cats obtained through Class B dealers from random sources such as pet theft and free-to-good home ads.


Wildlife

  • Shark Finning: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., introduced H. Res. 285 to raise awareness of the dangers of shark finning and express the view of Congress that, in order to even the playing field for U.S. fishermen and prevent the overfishing of sharks on a global scale, the U.S. should end the importation of shark fins from foreign fisheries that practice shark finning. These lawmakers, with Reps. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., mobilized letters co-signed by more than 70 representatives and senators calling on the National Marine Fisheries Service to reverse its interpretation of the Shark Conservation Act that may preempt state laws barring the trade in shark fin products. The Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also pressed the agency to rethink its position.
  • Captive Primates: Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced H.R. 2856/S. 1463 to prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the exotic pet trade. This would extend to dangerous primates such as chimpanzees, who can be easily purchased over the Internet and from out-of-state dealers, the protections afforded by Congress to big cats in the Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003.
  • Primate Imports for Sanctuary: Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced H.R. 3556 to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a rule allowing the importation of primates for the purpose of placement of abused, injured, or abandoned primates in certified animal sanctuaries.
  • Big Cats and Public Safety: Reps. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced H.R. 1998/S. 1381 to better address the exotic pet trade by limiting the breeding of lions, tigers, and other big cats to accredited zoos, and preventing unqualified individuals and facilities from possessing these dangerous predators, who suffer from being kept in abusive and unsafe conditions and threaten public safety.
  • Corolla Wild Horses: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., introduced H.R. 126 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement to provide for management of the free-roaming wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The bill passed the House by voice vote on June 3, and is pending in the Senate.
  • Wildlife Services: Reps. John Campbell, R-Calif., Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., called on the USDA Office of Inspector General to conduct an audit of the agency’s Wildlife Services lethal predator control program, including its use of poisoning and aerial gunning. The OIG is proceeding with an audit in 2014, which could lead to important recommendations to reform this outdated and mismanaged program. Also, Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., introduced H.R. 2074 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to Congress, and make available to the public on the Internet, a report on the animals killed under the Wildlife Services program.
  • Refuge from Cruel Trapping: Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., introduced H.R. 3513 to end the use of body-gripping traps in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • Dangerous Constrictor Snakes: Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Jim Moran, D-Va., urged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move swiftly to add five species of dangerous constrictor snakes to the list of injurious species whose trade is banned under the Lacey Act. All five species were identified by the U.S. Geological Survey as posing a medium or high risk of establishing breeding populations in the United States, jeopardizing native wildlife and pets, as well as human health and safety.


Veterinary Medicine

  • Veterinary Medicine Mobility: Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Angus King, I-Maine, introduced H.R. 1528/S. 950 to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow veterinarians to transport, administer, and dispense controlled substances outside of their registered locations to help ensure that proper care can be provided to patients in rural or remote areas, including pets in disasters, farm animals, and wildlife.
  • Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment: Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., introduced H.R. 1125/S. 553 to amend the Internal Revenue Code to exclude from gross income payments under the federal veterinary medicine loan repayment program or any other state loan repayment or forgiveness program that is intended to provide for increased access to veterinary services in underserved areas.


In sum, the mid-point of a two-year Congress is usually a work in progress. As we take stock of 2013, we celebrate the enactment of the chimpanzee legislation, note the progress that has been made on top-tier issues like animal fighting and horse soring, and redouble our commitment to finish the job for the wide range of pressing priorities that are poised for action. The animals are counting on us, and despite the general dysfunction in Washington, there is tremendous potential on many fronts for action in 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

2013 the Year of Chimps and Horses in Congress

The 113th Congress has had the lowest output, in terms of general lawmaking, since 1947. Yet despite the general dysfunction and partisan gridlock in Washington, we’ve made real progress on our key issues. During the first year of the session, we already had one major bill enacted that facilitates the retirement of hundreds of chimps from barren laboratories to natural sanctuaries, and laid substantial groundwork on a number of other issues, particularly a range of reforms to protect horses from cruelty, doping, and slaughter. As we wind down 2013 and head into the second part of the two-year Congress, we’re poised for significant gains on several priorities.
 
ChimpChimpanzee Sanctuary: A bill that made it over the finish line already in 2013 will help chimpanzees warehoused in barren laboratory cages. We celebrated the decision earlier this year by the National Institutes of Health to retire about 90 percent of the government-owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuary—where they can live the rest of their lives in peace—and to significantly scale back funding for chimpanzee research. But there was a hitch that had to be overcome: the law Congress enacted in 2000, establishing the national chimpanzee sanctuary system with a unique public-private partnership, imposed a cumulative ceiling on the funding that NIH could devote to the system. NIH was due to reach that limit in mid-November, which not only jeopardized the retirement of the government-owned chimpanzees in labs today who are slated for transfer to sanctuary, but also funding for the continued care of chimpanzees already living at the national sanctuary, Chimp Haven in Louisiana. This would be terrible for the animals and also for taxpayers, since retirement to sanctuary is less costly than keeping chimpanzees in labs. Fortunately, there was bipartisan support in Congress to solve this problem. On November 14—just under the wire before the cap was reached—the Senate gave final approval to a legislative fix passed by the House of Representatives just days earlier. S. 252 contains provisions amending the 2000 CHIMP Act to allow NIH the flexibility to continue using its existing funds for sanctuary care. Signed into law the day before Thanksgiving, this humane, cost-effective, common sense outcome gave us all something to cheer.
 
King Amendment: As a House-Senate conference committee finalizes its negotiations on the Farm Bill, we await resolution on the destructive provision that was folded into the House bill during committee, with minimal debate, at the behest of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa—Sec. 11312 of H.R. 2642. No similar language is in the Senate Farm Bill, and opponents were denied the opportunity to have a floor vote to strike it during House floor debate. The King amendment could negate most state and local laws on the production or manufacture of agriculture products. It aims to block state laws protecting farm animals and could also preempt laws covering everything from child labor to dangerous pesticides to labeling of farm-raised fish and standards for fire-safe cigarettes. A broad coalition of 89 organizations representing sustainable agriculture, consumer, health, fire safety, environment, labor, animal welfare, religious, and other concerns jointly signed a letter calling for the King Amendment—and any related language—to be kept out of final House-Senate legislation. An even broader list of more than 500 groups, officials, newspapers, and citizens have publicly stated their opposition, including letters by a bipartisan set of 23 Senators and 169 Representatives, the National Conference of State Legislatures, County Executives of America, Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, Mississippi and Arkansas Attorneys General, Iowa Farmers Union, Safe Food Coalition, professors from 13 law schools, and editorials in a number of papers such as USA Today, the Des Moines Register, and the Washington Post. The House-Senate conferees certainly should not include this intensely controversial provision or anything like it if they want to complete action on the Farm Bill early in 2014 as planned.
 
AnimalfightingAnimal Fighting: Both the House and Senate Farm Bills include provisions to strengthen the federal animal fighting law by making it a crime to knowingly attend or bring a child to an organized animal fight. The language of the free-standing animal fighting spectator bill—which enjoys the bipartisan support of 262 cosponsors combined in the Senate and House—was part of the Senate Farm Bill from the beginning, as introduced in the Agriculture Committee. For the House, related language was approved as an amendment during committee with a strong bipartisan vote of 28-17. We are hopeful that the animal fighting provision will be part of the final House-Senate package that may be done in January. This legislation is widely supported by nearly 300 national, state and local law enforcement agencies (covering all 50 states), including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and it would cost taxpayers nothing, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It already won approval in 2012 by the House Agriculture Committee and twice by the full Senate, but final action on the Farm Bill stalled last year. Forty-nine states already have penalties for animal fighting spectators, but we need to sync up the federal and state laws since many of these animal fighting raids are multistate and multijurisdictional. Closing this gap in the legal framework will help law enforcement crack down on the entire cast of characters involved in animal fighting, including those who finance the activity with admission fees and gambling wagers, provide cover to animal fighters during raids, and expose children to the violence and bloodletting.
 
Horse Slaughter: The House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills include identical language barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from funding inspections at horse slaughter plants, language added during committee markup in both chambers. This provision, requested for the first time by the agency itself in the president’s budget, would reinstate a prohibition that had been in place from 2007 to 2011. It is urgently needed, as some companies are about to open horse slaughter plants in the U.S. It makes no sense for the federal government to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to oversee new horse slaughter plants at a time when Congress is so focused on fiscal responsibility. The shocking discovery of horse meat in beef products in Europe underscores the potential threat to American health if horse slaughter plants open here. Moreover, horse slaughter is cruel and cannot be made humane, and the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. Horses are shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. Horses are skittish by nature due to their heightened fight-or-flight response, and the methods used to slaughter them rarely result in quick, painless deaths; they often endure repeated blows during attempts to render them unconscious and sometimes remain alive and kicking during dismemberment. 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. We’re pressing to have the horse slaughter provision sustained in the omnibus bill that Congress plans to act on by January 15 to avoid another government shutdown.  
 
Animal Welfare Funding:  The House Agriculture Appropriations bill would restore funds cut last year in some accounts, and the Senate bill would actually provide substantial increases requested in the president’s budget for USDA to enforce and implement key animal-related laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. Final resolution is expected by January 15 as part of the omnibus bill, and we hope the Senate’s higher figures will prevail. We’ve consistently boosted funding for animal welfare enforcement, even in a competitive climate for budget dollars, and it has a real impact for animals on the ground. Today there are 136 inspectors enforcing the Animal Welfare Act at puppy mills, research laboratories, roadside zoos, and other regulated facilities, more than doubled from just 60 in the 1990s.
 
HorseHorse Soring:  The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act has gained major momentum with the bipartisan support of almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate, and a successful hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This legislation boasts a lengthy list of endorsements, including the American Horse Council and 48 other national and state horse groups; the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Equine Practitioners, and veterinary medical associations in all 50 states; many animal protection groups; and others. The PAST Act amends an existing federal law, the Horse Protection Act of 1970, to better rein in the cruel practice of “soring”—in which unscrupulous trainers hurt Tennessee Walking Horses and certain other breeds to make it painful for them to step down, so they will display an extreme high-stepping gait that wins prizes at horse shows. Soring methods include applying caustic chemicals, using plastic wrap and tight bandages to “cook” those chemicals deep into the horse’s flesh for days, attaching heavy chains to strike against the sore legs, inserting bolts, screws or other hard objects into sensitive areas of the hooves, cutting the hooves down to expose the live tissue, and using salicylic acid or other painful substances to slough off scarred tissue in an attempt to disguise the sored areas. More than 40 years ago, Congress tried to stop this abuse, but the Horse Protection Act is too weak, and rampant soring continues, according to a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General that recommended reforms incorporated in the PAST Act. This legislation is not expected to add costs to the federal government; it will simply enable USDA to redirect its enforcement efforts and resources in a more efficient and effective way. The only ones opposing this non-controversial legislation are those who are already breaking federal law, committing heinous cruelty, cheating to win unfair advantage at horse shows, and profiting from it. That subset of the show horse world doesn’t want Congress to alter the status quo. But many others in the show horse world are strongly advocating the PAST Act to deal with morally repugnant behavior that is giving their industry a major black eye, hurting attendance at shows, driving away corporate sponsors, and driving down horse sale prices.
 
Horse Racing:  The House Energy and Commerce Committee also held a compelling hearing on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2013, and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle testified in favor of the legislation. A powerful New York Times exposé examined 150,000 horse races from 2009 to 2011, reporting that minimal oversight, inconsistent regulations, and rampant doping of horses has led to a stunning “average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week.” According to Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Racing Board, “It’s hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing.” This is tragic for the horses and also often the jockeys, who can suffer serious injuries, paralysis, or death from being thrown. The legislation would ban doping of racehorses, and give the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, the authority to oversee and enforce the new rules. Rather than having different rules with respect to medicating of horses in every state where tracks operate, there would be a consistent national policy.
 
Taking stock at the mid-point of the 113th Congress, we celebrate the enactment of the chimpanzee legislation, and redouble our commitment to finish the job for these other pressing priorities that are poised for action. The animals are counting on us, and despite the general dysfunction in Washington, there is tremendous potential on many fronts. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Remembering Rep. Bill Young

This past week the animal protection movement lost a long-serving ally in Congress, with the passing of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., at age 82. He served 43 years in the House, coming to Washington in 1971 during the Richard Nixon administration, and was the most senior Republican in Congress at the time of his death.

As the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for six years, Rep. Young consistently supported efforts to boost funding for the adequate enforcement of animal protection laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and the federal animal fighting statute. During the time of his chairmanship, from 1999 to 2005, annual Animal Welfare Funding increased from $9,175,000 to $17,436,000.

YoungThis year, he joined Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., in sponsoring a bipartisan amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill, to restore the prohibition on funding USDA inspections at horse slaughter plants. The amendment passed the Appropriations Committee by voice vote, and having the former chairman as a leader on the issue was an important factor. If the provision is retained when the final appropriations bill is signed into law, it will block horse slaughter plants from reopening on U.S. soil.

Rep. Young also joined Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., as part of a bipartisan quartet sponsoring the Puppy Uniform Protection and Standards (PUPS) Act. The goal of the bill was to bring large-scale commercial dog breeders that sell puppies directly to consumers over the Internet into the federal system of oversight, and have them follow the same rules on licensing, inspections, and standards of animal care that breeders selling to pet stores already have to meet. The USDA finalized a rule this year that achieved the same policy, and the bill by Rep. Young and his colleagues helped provide congressional support for that effort.

Rep. Young cosponsored a wide range of animal protection bills over his long career, on issues such as horse soring, animal fighting, the use of chimpanzees in research, and many more. He called on the White House to ban the import of large constrictor snakes that threaten public safety as well as native wildlife in Florida and other regions, and he testified eloquently against the inhumane treatment of elephants in traveling circuses.

It’s remarkable to think about the transformational change that Rep. Young saw during his time in Washington, even as we reflect upon his crucial role. He served in the years when Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and so many statutes that still stand as some of the nation’s most important federal animal protection policies.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund expresses our thanks to Rep. Young for his career-long concern and advocacy for animal protection, and we offer our sincere condolences to his family, friends, and staff.

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