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Friday, January 24, 2020

Canadian Safari Club chapter shuts down Botswana elephant trophy hunt auction following protests

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The Safari Club International chapter in Calgary has just shut down its planned auction of the first elephant hunt in Botswana in seven years, following widespread protests by animal protection organizations in Canada. While this does not represent a break for Botswana’s elephants—the outfitter organizing the hunt will still be free to auction the hunt directly to a bidder anywhere in the world—the outcome shows the rising tide of public opinion against those who pillage and plunder the world’s most endangered and threatened animals for fun.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.com

“SCI Calgary has agreed with the outfitter for them to sell [the hunt] directly at this time instead of at the auction, and so it has been withdrawn,” the chapter of the world's largest trophy hunting group announced on its website today. The auction had a starting bid of Canadian $82,000, with the hunt expected to take place between May and November this year.

"Canadians were rightfully outraged by this auction,” said Michael Bernard, deputy director of Humane Society International/Canada, which has, along with other groups in the Ivory Free Canada Coalition, petitioned the Canadian government to ban the import, domestic sale and export of all elephant ivory, including hunting trophies. “It is so encouraging to see that most Canadians will not simply stand by while a privileged few kill an elephant for an expensive thrill," he added.

The hunt follows a decision last year by Botswana’s president Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi to overturn his nation’s much-lauded ban on trophy hunting elephants, in place since 2014. He did this despite the fact that elephants in his country are already in a fight for their lives, with poachers increasingly targeting them for their ivory and habitat loss limiting their ranges.

In a newspaper interview, David Little, the president of the SCI Calgary chapter, compared the hunt to “a trip for two to Tahiti. It’s the same genre of (adventure travel),” he told the Calgary Herald.

But elephant trophy hunting is not a lighthearted pursuit. A recently released census found that elephant populations in African Savannah nations, including Botswana, declined by 30 percent (equal to 144,000 elephants) between 2007 and 2014, or by about 8 percent per year, primarily due to poaching. Research shows that legal trophy hunting drives up the demand for elephant ivory and therefore poaching, and has serious consequences on elephant reproduction. That’s why we have made ending trophy hunting a priority at HSLF, HSUS, and our affiliates.

Here in the United States, elephant conservation took a giant step backward under the Trump administration in 2017, when the government reversed an Obama administration ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and authorized lion trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe for the first time since the species was listed under the Endangered Species Act. The Zimbabwe and Tanzania elephant bans had led to a 60 percent drop in the number of elephant trophies imported into the United States—a number that will no doubt rise once again following the reversal. We’re now fighting these decisions in court.

Together, the Humane Society of the United State, Humane Society International and Humane Society Legislative Fund are also pushing in Congress for the passage of the Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act, which would ban the import of any trophy of a species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act into the United States. The HSUS, HSI and our partner organizations have also petitioned the U.S. government to uplist the elephant from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and there has been some progress on that front, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicating that such action may be warranted

Botswana’s government has tried to pass off its decision to reopen trophy hunting as an attempt to resolve human-wildlife conflict, but conservation scientists warn that poorly regulated trophy hunting can actually worsen such conflict by disrupting animal groups and creating social chaos among their ranks. There are many peaceful and non-lethal ways to address human-wildlife conflict, and they don’t and shouldn’t involve trophy hunters.

We’ve already shown the way forward on this in countries committed to constructively addressing human-elephant conflicts where growth of very specific local populations requires management, like South Africa. There, we have been using innovative and non-lethal immunocontraception—a non-hormonal, non-steroidal, reversible population fertility control method—to humanely control the growth of populations, thereby reducing local elephant population densities.

Botswana’s decision to allow elephant trophy hunting has put the nation, once called the last safe haven for elephants, on the wrong side of history. But as the outcry in Canada shows, most people are fed up with trophy hunters and want more, not fewer, protections for these beloved gentle giants. President Masisi should take notice of the writing on the wall and act quickly to reverse course for his nation and its elephants before it's too late.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

BREAKING NEWS: Dept of Transportation moves to end breed discrimination on airlines

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

The Department of Transportation today announced its plan to issue new regulations that would prohibit airlines from banning certain breeds of service dogs. This represents a much-needed move toward ending discriminatory policies by individual airlines that cause unnecessary and cruel hardships for customers with disabilities and their animals.

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Image courtesy of iStock.com

The proposal follows a summertime announcement by Delta Airlines that it would no longer allow pit-bull-type dogs on its airplanes, even if they are certified service dogs. That decision failed to acknowledge what scientists and animal experts have agreed upon for years—that there is no evidence supporting the assertion that a dog poses a direct threat because of his or her breed.

With its decision, Delta placed an extreme and unnecessary hardship on its own customers, asking them to choose between air travel and essential service animals. It also ignored guidance from the DOT in August 2019 that instructed airlines not to prohibit service dogs on flights based on their breed or physical appearance alone.

The DOT confirmed that guidance in its announcement today and stated that it is not aware of nor has been presented with evidence supporting the assertion that an animal poses a direct threat simply because of its breed.

There is, in fact, absolutely no evidence that pit-bull-type dogs have more aggressive tendencies than other breeds. On the other hand, such dogs are increasingly serving as seeing eye and hearing dogs, as physical support dogs for balance and mobility, as medical alert dogs responding to various health issues such as low blood sugar, oncoming seizures, or low oxygen levels, and as support animals for individuals with psychological conditions such as PTSD.

What adds to the confusion is that there isn’t a specific breed called a “pit bull.” Instead the term is used loosely to refer to any medium sized and short haired dog with a large head. As a result, a large number of breeds are clubbed together under this moniker, including the Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier and endless variations of mixed breeds.

Experts like the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Bar Association, American Kennel Club, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, National Animal Control Association and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association oppose any and all policies that discriminate against dogs whose physical characteristics are lumped into a breed. As awareness grows, dozens of municipalities have also done away with breed specific legislation in the last couple years. Just this month, Washington became the 21st state to prohibit its localities from passing such legislation.

There are some serious practical problems with such policies, too. Even professionals who work in the animal industry, including veterinarians, animal control officers and shelter employees, are unable to accurately identify breed based solely on the physical traits of the dog. An airline employee would find it impossible to decide which dog should be banned on the basis of his or her breed, leading to highly discretionary and inconsistent decisions. Airline personnel already have the discretion to prohibit an individual animal from flying if they are displaying unsafe behavior, and instead of creating breed discriminatory policies, airlines should train staff to look for signs of behavioral stress in dogs.

We applaud this proposed amendment that would bring airlines in line with the latest science while ensuring that individuals with disabilities and their service animals are adequately protected from frivolous discriminatory policies. The DOT also announced today its intent to prohibit exotic species, including capuchin monkeys and other primates, as service animals—concerns we have flagged in the past because of the health, safety and welfare risks involved. Please submit your comments supporting this rulemaking, and help us make air travel a safe, comfortable and stress-free experience for all individuals, including those with disabilities, and the animals who play such an important role in their lives.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

As racehorse death toll continues to climb, Congress moves to salvage the 'sport of kings'

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Horses dying at the racetracks with alarming frequency is a sadly familiar scenario of late, but even by that measure the body count over the past week is nothing short of astonishing. Since Friday alone, three horses have been euthanized at Santa Anita Park in California. First, it was a four-year-old gelding, Harliss, who had to be put down after breaking his ankle in a turf race; on Saturday, it was five-year-old Uncontainable, who also broke his ankle during a turf race; and on Sunday, four-year-old Tikkun Olam was injured and later euthanized after colliding with another horse during training.

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Photo courtesy of marlenka/istock.com

There have now been five deaths at Santa Anita since January 1, bringing the number of deaths there to 42 since the beginning of last year. But that’s not the only track where horses are dying. Four horses have died over the last 10 days at the New Orleans Fair Grounds racetrack, and two horses fell and died on opening day at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, taking the number of deaths on Louisiana tracks to six so far this year.

This is a grave situation, and a shameful one, and you’d think the industry would be racing to clean up its act and implement safeguards to protect its horses. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. While some reform-minded racetracks and state racing commissions have developed and implemented new safety measures, this patchwork effort only helps horses racing at specific racetracks. Above all, there has not been nearly enough momentum among the biggest stakeholders to recognize and correct problems, like the drug crisis that has contributed to thousands of racehorse deaths over the years.

Instead, what we have seen from some members of the industry is a pattern of drugging animals to enhance performance and mask pain, ignoring problems when they arise, and then resorting to obfuscation and cover-ups to explain horse deaths.

Last year, we wrote about how the California Horse Racing Board, comprised of some in the highest echelons of power in the industry, bent and twisted the rules to allow Justify to run in and win the Triple Crown after he failed a drug test only weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Last week, a report released on the death of Mongolian Groom, a horse who died in November at the Breeders' Cup Classic in Santa Anita, said veterinarians missed opportunities to remove the gelding from the $6 million race because of time constraints or deficiencies in the process used to evaluate horses.

The problem began at least as far back as 1980, when Congress decided to leave it up to states to come up with their own rules on what drugs to allow in horseracing. This led to a confusing patchwork of state laws with no uniform national standard regarding which drugs are permitted, or penalties for doping. That in turn has allowed the widespread use of both legal and illegal drugs to flourish, leading to a multitude of problems, for horses and riders alike. Some drugs allow a horse to push through pain, intensifying an underlying injury, or make it possible to force worn-out horses to compete, resulting in career-ending mishaps and even death.

The bottom line is that we need significant medication reform at every racetrack in every state that sponsors horseracing. This means stopping the use of legal and illegal drugs that are used to enhance the performance of equine athletes or mask their pain, and ending the current scenario within the horseracing industry, where those who promote the sport are allowed to police themselves.

There is now a bill in Congress that would do all of this, the Horseracing Integrity Act H.R.1754/S.1820. The Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association have been working with the Jockey Club, along with dozens of other groups, to press for its passage. The bill, sponsored in the House by Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., and in the Senate by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Martha McSally, R-Ariz., would ban race day medication and substantially increase out-of-competition testing. It would also grant independent control over rule-making, testing and enforcement oversight regarding drugs and medication to a new authority created by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent entity that oversees testing of athletes at the Olympics and many other sporting events in the United States, and it would create a uniform national standard for drug testing overseen by the new authority.

The HSLF prioritized the bill in its Humane Scorecard push, resulting in huge increases in its bipartisan cosponsor counts. From late September, when we first notified congressional offices that the Horseracing Integrity Act would be scored, the House cosponsor count jumped from 150 to 227 and the Senate count jumped from two to 25. The bill is now moving in Congress with over half the House of Representatives and a quarter of the Senate cosponsoring it. Next week we will be on the Hill, speaking out in its favor at a hearing of the Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. You too can help by contacting your lawmakers in Congress and asking them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity Act if they haven’t yet and press for its swift enactment. Horseracing is in a crisis, beset with a reputation problem and dwindling spectatorship, and with fatalities mounting, there is no time to lose.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Momentous 1st session of the 116th Congress sets the stage for our 2020 agenda

In the wake of one of our most effective years ever, we’re gearing up for the second session of the 116th Congress. During a time in which legislators are grappling with some of our nation’s most divisive issues, the American people have shown that animal protection remains one of our greatest bipartisan values.

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Photo courtesy of iStock Photo

But many battles loom, and we’ll be fighting for animal welfare on numerous fronts, pursuing the prevention of systemic animal cruelty, the elimination of animal testing for cosmetics, a prohibition on the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and ending America’s contributions to the barbaric practices of shark finning and trophy hunting. Here are some key measures we’ll be working on:

PREVENTING ANIMAL CRUELTY

Humane Cosmetics Act:
Cosmetics tests on animals are poor predictors of human reaction, are painful to animals, and are unnecessary—there are other methods we can use to ensure that products are safe for humans. More than 1.7 billion consumers live in almost 40 countries and U.S. states that have banned the manufacture and sale of cosmetics tested on animals, including the European Union nations, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, California, Nevada, and Illinois. The Humane Cosmetics Act, which would prohibit the manufacture or sale of cosmetics tested on animals, will create a key incentive for the use of cutting-edge technologies that are more humane, more efficient, and less costly.

Puppy Protection Act and Welfare of our Friends (WOOF) Act:
So many Americans consider pets family members, and yet under the current federal standards, thousands of breeding dogs in puppy mills can spend their entire lives in small, cramped wire cages and the USDA renews licenses to breeders despite their facilities having inhumane conditions. The WOOF Act, prohibits the issuance or renewal of a license to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended and to their immediate family members who often serve as a cover for the same abhorrent facility. The Puppy Protection Act would bolster the Animal Welfare Act to improve weak and outdated standards of care.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act:
Despite enactment of the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to rein in the cruel practice of horse soring, the deliberate infliction of pain on horses’ legs and hoofs to gain competitive advantage in the show ring continues today. The PAST Act, which the House overwhelmingly approved last year, would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and strengthen penalties to protect horses from this torment.

Horseracing Integrity Act:
Modern horseracing is still conducted under outdated, haphazard state-by-state drug and medication rules despite its national and international scope. In large part due to race-day enhancement and pain-masking drugs, the U.S. is experiencing some of the highest rates of fatal racing injuries the sport has ever seen. The Horseracing Integrity Act, supported by animal welfare and horseracing industry groups alike, will ban race-day medication, substantially increase out-of-competition testing for racehorses, and create a uniform medication policy under the oversight of a new non-profit headed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the official anti-doping agency for the Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sports in the U.S.

ANIMAL AND PUBLIC SAFETY

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act:
Horses—an integral part of American life as loyal companions and comrades in battle—are being exported by the thousands to slaughter for human consumption. They’re shipped abroad for long distances without food, water, or rest in crowded trucks, and the slaughter methods used at foreign plants rarely result in quick, painless deaths. The meat that’s put on the market contains unregulated, toxic chemicals unfit for human consumption. Passage of the SAFE Act would be a clear signal of Congress’s determination to maintain its prohibition on the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and finally end the export of our horses for slaughter.

Big Cat Public Safety Act:
All across the country, tigers, lions, and other big cats languish in substandard conditions caged in people’s backyards and basements and at roadside zoos, suffering inhumane conditions and posing serious public safety risks. Many of these animals are the byproduct of the “cub-petting” industry, which charges people for the chance to feed, play with, and take photos with big cat infants. Once the cats become too large for these activities, they often end up in unqualified hands while new cubs are bred to take their place in cub-petting businesses. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would ban public contact activities with big cats and prohibit possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license. 

Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act:
Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, preparing for disaster must include plans to safely care for and evacuate animals from affected areas. The PREPARED Act would require that entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (such as commercial animal dealers, exhibitors, research facilities, and animal carriers) do so. Disaster plans are already required under the accreditation process for research facilities, zoos, and aquariums; the PREPARED Act would ensure that puppy mills, roadside zoos and other outliers also have plans in place.

ENDING SLAUGHTER OF WILDLIFE

Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act:
We’re working closely with the Senate to put this vital legislation over the finish line, following passage of the bill in the House and the Senate Commerce Committee last year. To meet the global demand for shark fin soup, fins cruelly obtained from as many as 73 million sharks are traded on the global market annually. Some shark populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in recent decades. This bill prohibits the commercial trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins, removing the U.S. from this destructive global trade, strengthening the existing U.S. ban on shark finning, and helping preserve our oceans’ fragile ecosystems.

Prohibiting Threatened and Endangered Creature Trophies (ProTECT) Act:
The ProTECT Act would prevent American trophy hunters from importing trophies of species listed under the Endangered Species Act or from killing threatened or endangered species in the U.S. Species listed under the ESA have a demonstrated scientific need for additional protections against population pressures such as poaching, trophy hunting, and other human-caused mortalities. As the world’s largest importer of animal trophies, the U.S. must do more to end the corruption of conservation programs worldwide and push strong development alternatives to trophy hunting.

We’re proud of the difference that we can make because of your support. When you make calls to and email your members of Congress to support animal protection issues and when you take steps to engage others, you make a real difference for animals. In the New Year, we’re counting on your continued engagement, and we look forward to working with you!

Monday, January 06, 2020

HSLF mourns the loss of Mike Fitzpatrick – a true animal champion

Our hearts ache from news of the passing of our dear friend, former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, who represented the Bucks County suburbs of Pennsylvania from 2005-2007 and 2011-2017. He walked the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives with a quiet confidence rooted in living his ideals through the legislation he sponsored and the causes he championed. As the Republican co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (CAPC) in the 114th Congress, he set the tone for the House to consider the merits of federal animal protection issues regardless of party affiliation. And this ethic has been continued by his brother Brian Fitzpatrick, who successfully ran for his seat in 2017 when Mike opted not to seek reelection, citing his belief in term limits. This ethic is also reflected by the 162 current members of the CAPC.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Mike Fitzpatrick was an inspirational and compassionate congressional leader who has left a profound impact. Through the CAPC, a bipartisan organization dedicated to supporting animal welfare issues, he hosted numerous briefings on key issues and championed countless bills, letters, and amendments. From 2012-2016, he was the lead sponsor of the Captive Primate Safety Act, a bill to prohibit interstate trade in primates for the exotic pet trade; these animals are often taken from their mothers shortly after birth and kept chained in a backyard or confined in a basement cage, and can become aggressive and dangerous and pose public health risks by transmitting diseases.

He also helped lead efforts to require humane treatment of farm animals used in federal research and to end vicious “soring” of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds. He was never afraid to speak out. For example, we recall his eloquent defense of regulations to bar cruel hunting methods—such as killing hibernating mothers and cubs in their dens and using steel-jawed leghold trap—on National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge lands in Alaska. He worked to increase penalties for participants of dog fighting and cockfighting and to prohibit knowing attendance and bringing a child to these gruesome spectacles. He prioritized the safety of victims of domestic violence and their pets through his early support of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, signed into law in 2018, and fought to criminalize acts of extreme abuse in interstate commerce and on federal property through the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, enacted this past November. He was a consistent opponent of horse slaughter and was always vigilant in pushing for animal protection provisions in federal spending bills.

We are so grateful to Mike Fitzpatrick for all that he did to advance the cause of making this a more humane world and we share our deepest condolences with his family. In the course of our efforts to help those who have no voice, it is good to know that we have had such a hero in our ranks. We’ll miss him deeply.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Let’s make this the year we end cosmetics testing in all of the United States

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Residents of three U.S. states can now buy cosmetics in stores without having to worry whether they may have been tested on animals. On New Year’s Day yesterday, a ban on the sales of cosmetics newly tested on animals went into effect in California, Illinois and Nevada. This signals the dawn of a new era when it comes to this practice that results in great suffering for tens of thousands of animals worldwide.

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Paul Morigi/AP Images for HSLF


The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund supported efforts to pass the laws—in California in 2018 and in Illinois and Nevada in 2019—and we are happy that these three states have stepped up. But even as we celebrate, it is important to remember that we still lack a nationwide ban on cosmetics animal testing and the sale of cosmetic products tested on animals.

Fortunately, there is now a bill in Congress, the Humane Cosmetics Act, to do just that, and we need to do our best to make 2020 the year it becomes law.

The HCA would, with certain exceptions, end all animal testing for cosmetic products and ingredients in the United States and prohibit the import of cosmetics that have been tested on animals anywhere else in the world. The bill prohibits companies from labeling their products as cruelty-free if they are selling their products in China where animal testing is still required.

This bill would put our country on par with nearly 40 nations, including the member states of the European Union, Australia, Guatemala, India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey, all of which have passed laws prohibiting or limiting cosmetic animal testing.

With Humane Society International, we’ve driven this global momentum to end cosmetics testing in which substances are forced down the throats of animals, dripped into their eyes, or smeared onto their skin. The animals are left to suffer for days or weeks without pain relief. Most people do not want their beauty products to come at such great cost to innocent animals, and this has led to more and more consumers scanning labels on products to ensure they are cruelty-free.

With thousands of ingredients having a history of safe use and an increasing number of non-animal test methods available to provide data more relevant to humans, often in less time and at a lower cost, companies can still create new and innovative cosmetics without any additional animal testing. Many cosmetics producers, in fact, have been happy to comply with consumer demand for cruelty-free products, and already more than 1,000 brands in North America have committed to producing cosmetics that are free of new animal testing. Even global beauty giants Unilever, Procter & GambleAvon and the Estée Lauder Companies have joined with HSI and our #BeCrueltyFree campaign to ban animal testing for cosmetics in all major global beauty markets by 2023.

The Humane Cosmetics Act has the endorsement of close to 300 stakeholders, including the Personal Care Products Council, the trade group representing the cosmetics industry in the United States.

There is no need for Congress to drag its feet on ending cosmetics testing nationwide. California, Illinois and Nevada have already set an example by showing us that so many Americans prefer the humane path forward on this issue. The Humane Cosmetics Act also has bipartisan support—it was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and in the House by Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Ken Calvert, R-Calif.—showing that this is an issue that cuts across party lines and political beliefs.

We now need your help to get more lawmakers to sign on to this important bill. Please call your Representative and Senators in Congress and urge them to cosponsor the Humane Cosmetics Act if they haven’t already, and do all they can to get it enacted quickly. With the cosmetics industry, consumers and states increasingly turning away from cosmetics testing, there has never been a better time to set our nation on a decisive path away from the cruelty.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Update: Trump signs omnibus funding package with wins for horses and burros, companion animals, animals in research and more

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

President Trump has signed into law the omnibus appropriations package with major victories for animals, including horses and burros, companion animals, marine mammals and animals in zoos and research facilities.

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Michelle Riley/The HSUS

The package, comprised of two bills (H.R. 1865 and H.R. 1158) funding all federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2020, was passed by the House on Tuesday with bipartisan votes of 297-120 and 280-138, respectively, followed by Senate votes of 71-23 and 81-11 yesterday.

The wins for animals in the package include:

  • Wild horses and burros: The funding package provides an additional $21 million to the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program—funds that can only be accessed after the agency submits a comprehensive plan on how it will implement an aggressive, non-lethal program. The program must be based on scientifically sound, safe and humane fertility control tools that exclude surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation of wild horses and burros to larger, more humane pastures instead of perpetually warehousing these animals in holding pens. Additionally, the bill prohibits the BLM and, for the first time ever, also the U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending healthy horses or burros to slaughter.
  • Wildlife trafficking whistleblowers: The package includes the Rescuing Animals With Rewards Act, which authorizes the State Department to award monetary incentives to persons who disclose original information concerning transnational wildlife crimes that result in a successful enforcement action.
  • USDA inspection and enforcement records: Language in the omnibus directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act in their entirety without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos and other businesses cited for violations. This is the first time Congress has included bill language (rather than report language) to fix this problem, and the USDA will have no choice but to follow this directive.
  • Companion animals in domestic violence situations: The package provides $2 million for a new grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act. The grant program will help provide emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. House committee report language directs the USDA, and the Departments of Health and Human Services as well as Housing and Urban Development to coordinate implementation during FY20 (House and Senate committee report language not explicitly reversed is deemed agreed to by both chambers in the omnibus).
  • Horse slaughter: Prohibits USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
  • Animal Welfare Act enforcement: The House committee report calls on the USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices that the agency has promoted during the past few years. The omnibus includes $31,310,000 for Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement.
  • Horse soring: Provides $1 million (a $295,000 increase) for USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), to crack down on the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.
  • Alternatives to animal research/testing: Provides a $40 million increase to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which is charged with making direct applications of non-animal alternatives for research and regulatory needs by federal agencies. The additional funds will help speed the transition to non-animal methods.
  • Trafficking of companion animals for research and testing: Renews the prohibition against USDA using funds to license Class B random source dealers who are notorious for trafficking in dogs and cats obtained through theft for research and testing.
  • Use of primates in research: Omnibus report language directs the National Institutes of Health to report to Congress on alternatives to reduce and replace primates in biomedical research.
  • USDA enforcement: House committee report presses the USDA Inspector General to strengthen its animal fighting enforcement and to audit USDA’s enforcement of the AWA, HPA, and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Humane slaughter of farm animals: Renews bill and report language directing USDA to ensure that inspectors focus attention on compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive at slaughter plants and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas, and that all inspectors receive robust training.
  • Pet food safety: Provides $500,000 for the Food and Drug Administration to address pentobarbital contamination in pet food, which has caused illness and death in pets.
  • Disaster planning: Continues funding for the USDA to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to support state and local governments’ efforts to plan for protection of people with animals and incorporate lessons learned from previous disasters. Directs the USDA to work with producers that want to voluntarily develop disaster plans to prevent livestock deaths and injuries.
  • Vet care: Provides $8,000,000 for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment program that encourages veterinarians to locate in underserved rural or urban areas.
  • Wildlife protection funding: Maintains level funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs that protect species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Provides an increase of almost 30% from FY19 for the internationally focused Multinational Species Conservation Fund. The omnibus also rejects a proposed cut to the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Program, maintaining funding for its grants supporting proactive, non-lethal measures by livestock producers to reduce the risk of livestock loss by wolves, and to compensate producers for livestock losses caused by wolves.
  • Marine mammals: Provides $3 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for North Atlantic right whale conservation, with $1 million specifically reserved for a pilot project for research and development of safer fishing gear to lessen entanglements with these critically endangered whales. Also maintains funding of the Marine Mammal Commission—a key independent federal agency tasked with addressing human impacts on marine mammals and their ecosystems—overcoming its proposed elimination in the President’s budget.
  • Trophy imports: Directs the USFWS to reevaluate its current policy allowing imports of hunting trophies on a case-by-case basis and analyze how targeted investments and technical assistance to the exporting countries' conservation programs would impact the survival of elephants and lions, improve local communities, and sustain species’ populations. The omnibus expresses concern that the current trophy import policy is detrimental and may not adequately determine whether a country has proper safeguards in place to protect species vulnerable to poaching.
  • Wildlife trafficking: Dedicates funds under the State Department and the Department of the Interior to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. Prohibits use of State Department funds by any military units or personnel credibly alleged to have participated in wildlife poaching or trafficking.

We are grateful to the many congressional champions of these provisions with whom we worked over the past year, to House and Senate leadership for keeping the process on track, and to all the legislators who voted for these measures. We also thank President Trump for signing both appropriations bills, helping us create a brighter future for animals in 2020 and beyond.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Cockfighting ban in U.S. territories takes effect tomorrow, despite resistance in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Tomorrow, a hard-won federal law goes into effect to close a loophole that allowed cockfighters to continue operating in U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We’ve strongly supported this law because it seeks to end a cruel practice that results in severe suffering and death for countless birds each year.

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Photo by Heather Severt/the HSUS

Regrettably, however, cockfighters and their associated lobbies in the territories have been putting up resistance and seeking to undermine it. Puerto Rico, for instance, has passed a law that aims to keep cockfighting alive there. But the federal law has already been challenged by cockfighters, and they have lost. In late October a federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico found that Congress was well within its power to clarify that the existing federal ban on cockfighting in the U.S. states applies equally to the U.S. territories.

Our hope is that lawmakers in the affected territories will respond in the way that governors of U.S. states and other jurisdictions have done in the past when such cruelties have come within the scope of law enforcement in an increasingly humane society. They ought to be thinking ahead to ways to lay the groundwork for the implementation and respect of such statutes.

All too often, those who are involved in this blood sport, anywhere in the world, claim cockfighting as a tradition and a culture. But tradition and culture are not a defense for animal cruelty. Cockfighting pits one animal against another for gambling and entertainment. The birds suffer terribly: they are often drugged to heighten their aggression and razor-sharp weapons are attached to their legs for the fight. Common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes. Dead and dying birds are thrown away like trash. And that’s simply not right.

That’s why the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act was introduced in Congress in 2017—and that’s why we’ve supported it in every way.

Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Humane Society of the United States fought hard for this legislation because there shouldn’t be one set of rules against animal fighting in 50 states and another set for the U.S. territories. We worked with the bill’s many champions in Congress to get it enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support.

What makes such a law even more necessary is the fact that animal fighting is often associated with other criminal activity, including gangs, gambling, drug trafficking, illegal weapons dealing, public corruption, and violent crimes against people. It also endangers public health; cockfighting has been directly implicated in the spread of bird flu and other diseases that have caused human deaths and cost taxpayers and the poultry industry millions of dollars.

We look forward to PACE taking effect tomorrow. The HSUS, with other animal organizations, is active in the U.S. territories and elsewhere in the world, helping to strengthen the human-animal bond and to build out a culture of petkeeping and kindness to animals. We are very committed to the spread of humane values throughout the United States and its territories, and, indeed, throughout the world. That’s our mission and that’s our standard that we’ll assert and defend in the years to come.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

U.S. should deny Trump Jr. permit to import endangered sheep trophy from Mongolia

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Last week, the news that Donald Trump Jr. had trophy hunted an argali sheep protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act during a trip to Mongolia outraged Americans. Just as outrageous was the revelation that this hunt, which took place last summer, was partially funded by U.S. taxpayers.

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Photo by Conrad Savy/Creative Commons License

No American—regardless of his or her wealth and political connections—should be above the law. That’s why, in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and Humane Society International, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, are calling on the agency to refuse to allow Trump Jr. to import the body parts of the animal he killed.

The letter states that argali sheep are an imperiled species who should not be hunted for their horns or hides to serve as wall hangings. "The reporting on Mr. Trump Jr.’s argali hunt—that was conducted at night with a laser guided rifle, and without a hunting permit issued before the hunt—raises serious questions regarding the legality of the killing and subsequent import of the animal."

As ProPublica reported, Trump’s hunt was partially funded by U.S. and Mongolian taxpayers because each country sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the multiday trip. After the hunt, Trump Jr. is reported to have met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga, before returning to the United States.

It was also reported that Trump Jr. did not have a Mongolian permit to kill the argali—a beautiful animal with long, curving horns—when the hunt took place. A permit was issued to him by the Mongolian government only after he had already departed the country, in what was clearly a hasty attempt to cover up a violation of Mongolian law. Such a violation should by itself disqualify Trump Jr. from bringing his trophy home.

Argali from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and Tajikistan are listed as threatened in the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and import of a hunting trophy of an ESA-listed species can be authorized only if it furthers conservation. There is no evidence that this was the case here. In fact, Mongolia has a history of using these beautiful and endangered animals as lures for those with money, connections, and politics, and has not updated its argali hunting management plan in a decade.

A 2017 FWS finding shows that only a small percentage of hunting license fees in Mongolia actually go to argali conservation and community livelihoods.

Most Americans are opposed to trophy hunting, and do not believe in the canard spread by trophy hunting interests that killing one animal can help save an entire species. In fact, an increasing number of conservation scientists have challenged the notion that trophy hunting benefits conservation.

There is no doubt that Trump Jr. behaved unethically when he pointed a laser guided rifle at a beautiful animal whose species is in a struggle for survival. But this is not just about his poor ethics. As the son of the sitting president, his actions have also put our nation’s reputation as a global leader in the fight to conserve endangered wildlife at great risk. That’s why we urge the USFWS to follow the law and not show any special favors to this trophy hunter who has disgraced our nation and disappointed so many of us with his actions. Our laws should apply equally to every American, regardless of wealth, influence, political connections, or name.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: CDC ties Petland to outbreaks of superbug illnesses in 13 states

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Petland is once again in the news for all the wrong reasons, this time in connection with a multistate outbreak of a superbug that has sickened 30 people in 13 states.

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Photo by the HSUS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported today that four people have been hospitalized after being infected with a strain of the campylobacter bacterium that’s resistant to multiple drugs. "Many of the cases had contact with puppies or were employees at pet stores, including Petland," the CDC concluded, after its investigations linked 12 of those sickened with the national pet store chain that still sells dogs sourced from puppy mills. Five of the affected individuals were Petland employees.

The Humane Society of the United States has turned a red-hot spotlight on Petland’s substandard procedures and deficient animal welfare practices with undercover investigations at eight of its stores over the past two years, and as saddening as the news today from the CDC is, we are not surprised. Petland has been endangering the health of its employees and its consumers for years now. In previous years, the CDC has linked more than 118 cases of human campylobacter bacterial infections to contact with Petland puppies, which resulted in a number of people being hospitalized. Our investigations have repeatedly shown that despite these reported outbreaks, Petland has refused to take adequate proactive steps to prevent such outbreaks. 

  • During our last investigation, at the Petland in Florence, Kentucky, a store manager admitted on hidden camera that the store doesn’t test puppies with diarrhea for the disease because "they all have it."
  • Jasper, a puppy we bought at the store as part of our investigation had been sick for weeks with bloody diarrhea and had a poor appetite, but it appears the store never even took him to a veterinarian for his illness. After we acquired Jasper and took him to a veterinarian, he tested positive for campylobacter. Fortunately, Jasper did not seem to have the drug-resistant strain, and recovered after finally receiving much-needed care. A Petland manager who talked to our secret shopper during Jasper’s sale emphatically stated Jasper did not have campylobacter after our shopper saw him with diarrhea. The manager claimed his stool had been tested, but when we called both Petland and the store’s veterinarian, they did not provide any proof that Jasper was ever tested.
  • Records we obtained from the Kentucky Department for Public Health showed that at least six people became ill with campylobacter this year alone after touching or buying puppies at the Florence store; at least two of the victims were hospitalized.
  • Our investigations of both the Frisco, Texas, and Florence, Kentucky Petland stores this year ended promptly when our undercover investigators at both stores were diagnosed with campylobacter after going to urgent care clinics for persistent flu-like symptoms. Fortunately, neither investigator seemed to have the drug-resistant strain of campylobacter, and they both responded to medical treatment.
  • Our investigation at a Novi, Michigan, Petland store found that customers regularly called with complaints about sick puppies they had purchased. A staff member at the store revealed that she had contracted campylobacter and had been hospitalized for four days. The store was sued this year for the third time in recent years after a customer in the Novi store became ill with the drug-resistant strain of campylobacter; he too was hospitalized. 
  • CDC recommends diligently testing any animals with symptoms for campylobacter, but as our investigators uncovered, Petland was not doing that. At best, stores routinely had low-level employees dose sick dogs with antibiotics instead of having them (or even a stool sample) taken to a vet.

One of the reasons we also see so many campylobacter outbreaks at Petland is because the chain continues to source animals from puppy mills, which do not provide adequate professional medical care or sanitation to their animals. Dogs shipped to pet stores from dozens of different breeders are intermingled during transport in such a way that the CDC has had great difficulty tracing the original source of the outbreak, making future cases of illness almost a certainty. On the other hand, Petland spends a vast amount of its resources each year fighting commonsense laws to protect animals in puppy mills.  

No business should be allowed to put its bottomline above the health of its customers and employees, and the animals in its possession. With more and more localities banning the sales of dogs from puppy mills in pet stores, and with these continued outbreaks of diseases, the writing is on the wall for pet stores like Petland which, in their own way, perpetuate the miseries caused by puppy mills.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

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