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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Steve King, down for the count?

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution of disapproval concerning Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for recent remarks in which he questioned the offensiveness of white supremacy and white nationalism. Yesterday, the House Republican Steering Committee unanimously voted to exclude Steve King from any positions on House committees in the new 116th Congress, kicking him off the Agriculture, Judiciary, and Small Business Committees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also issued a statement condemning King’s words.

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Larry French/AP Images for The HSUS

King’s comments to the New York Times are only the latest signals of his affinity for white nationalism. In 2017, King tweeted that America can’t restore “our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Last year, King defended his meeting with  a far-right Austrian political party with ties to Nazism, while on a trip funded by a Holocaust memorial group, and retweeted a post from British author and self-professed Nazi sympathizer Mark Collett.

Stripped of his committee assignments, King’s effectiveness as a lawmaker will further shrink. Nowhere will this be more apparent than on the House Agriculture Committee where—attempting to shape policy for an industry central to his home state’s economy—King has launched many of his attacks against animal protection over the years.

These multiple condemnations directly threaten King’s political future. Last week, Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra announced his intention to challenge King in the 2020 Republican primary, and Iowa’s Republican Governor, Kim Reynolds, stated that she will not support King in the race. King might not even make it to that election: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) are among the Republicans who have already called for his resignation.  

The hatefulness implicit in King’s commentary concerning white nationalism spills over into his visceral opposition to animal protection. He has consistently made himself an outlier by fighting animal protection proposals of all kinds in Congress.

A prime example is King’s opposition to restricting animal fighting. Last May, King voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill, which sought to clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply in all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. This amendment passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51 and was enacted in December. In 2007, he voted against the Animal Fighting Enforcement Prohibition Act, which strengthened penalties for illegal animal fighting and made it a felony to transport animals across state lines for the purpose of fighting. In 2013, King tried unsuccessfully to block legislation that made it a crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight.

King is also responsible for one of the worst threats to animal protection and most egregious power grabs in U.S. history. Thankfully, Congress rejected twice—in the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills—the King amendment that threatened to nullify countless state and local laws regarding animals and a range of other concerns including food safety and the environment.  

As if this weren’t enough, King also has a history of voting against wildlife and equines. He has repeatedly voted to promote the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in foreign countries even though 80 percent of the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. He’s voted for legislation that undermines the Endangered Species Act, removing critical protections for some of America’s most iconic and imperiled species, including grizzly bears and wolves. He also voted to restore extremely cruel and scientifically unjustified methods of trophy hunting on National Park and National Refuge lands in Alaska.

King’s great hostility toward our cause may stem from the same core lack of empathy and ethics that prompt him to embrace a racist ideology that has so bedeviled this nation throughout its history. For that and other reasons, we wholeheartedly applaud the Congress for its resounding rebuke of King’s bigotry and malice.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

116th Congress brings new hope, opportunities for animal protection

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

We are on Capitol Hill today for the swearing in of the 116th Congress, along with Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund colleagues. We’re meeting with members of Congress, old and new, and gearing up for a new session of pushing for the passage of federal legislation to protect animals.

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iStock Photo

Toward the end of the 115th Congress in 2018, we achieved a great deal, including the passage of the Farm Bill without the harmful King amendment and with three pro-animal measures. Our priorities this year cover a wide range of issues, including banning the private possession of big cats, the prevention of basic animal cruelty, an end to the shark fin trade in the United States, a full ban on the cruel practice of horse soring, a prohibition on the slaughter of horses for human consumption and the elimination of animal testing for cosmetics.

While some fear a gridlock this year because of a divided Congress, we do not. People on both sides of the political aisle care about helping animals,  and we are extremely hopeful about getting a great deal accomplished for animals this year, just as we did in past years.

 Here are some key measures we’ll be working on:

THE PREVENTING ANIMAL CRUELTY AND TORTURE (PACT) ACT:

All 50 states have felony penalties for malicious cruelty to animals, and federal law bans the creation, sale and distribution of obscene videos that show live animals being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled or subjected to other forms of heinous cruelty. PACT would strengthen that law by prohibiting extreme animal cruelty when it occurs in interstate or foreign commerce, regardless of whether a video is produced. It would complement state cruelty laws and provide an additional enforcement tool against extreme cruelty on federal property or in commerce. In the 115th Congress, PACT passed the Senate by unanimous consent and the House bill had 284 cosponsors.

THE BIG CAT PUBLIC SAFETY ACT:

Tigers, lions and other big cats are kept in private possession all across the country in people’s backyards, basements and at unaccredited roadside zoos. There is no uniform regulation regarding the keeping of big cats and the issue has been largely left to state governments to regulate. Just this past weekend, a young woman was attacked and killed by a lion at a privately run wild animal menagerie in North Carolina. This bill would create a national framework for the keeping of dangerous wild animals in private possession, and prohibit public contact with certain species. It would also end future ownership of big cats by unqualified individuals and contain exemptions for individuals meeting specific requirements.

THE SHARK FIN SALES ELIMINATION ACT / SHARK FIN TRADE ELIMINATION ACT:

The global demand for shark fins is causing a worldwide decline in sharks; some populations have dropped by as much as 90 percent. Congress can help stem this crisis by prohibiting the import, export, possession, trade and distribution of shark fins and products containing shark fins. Such action would strengthen the existing U.S. ban on shark finning—the cruel and wasteful practice of cutting the fins off a live shark, then discarding the mutilated animal to drown, bleed to death, or be eaten alive by other animals. It would also take our nation out of the destructive transnational shark fin trade, and reinforce U.S. leadership in global shark conservation.

THE PREVENT ALL SORING TACTICS (PAST) ACT:

Congress passed the Horse Protection Act almost 50 years ago to rein in the cruel practice of “soring," in which unscrupulous trainers deliberately inflict pain on the hooves and legs of Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds. These trainers use caustic chemicals, chains, weights, sharp objects, cutting, and other gruesome techniques to produce an artificially high-stepping gait and gain unfair competitive advantage at horse shows. But rampant soring continues, as shown in a 2010 audit by the USDA Inspector General and by HSUS undercover investigations in 2011 and 2015. PAST would end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of devices associated with soring, and strengthen penalties.

THE PUPPY PROTECTION ACT and WELFARE OF OUR FRIENDS (WOOF) ACT:

Most Americans consider pets family members, but under current federal standards, breeding dogs can spend their entire lives in small, cramped wire cages without ever touching the ground or having enough space to run and play. In addition, there are deficiencies in Animal Welfare Act enforcement of commercial breeding facilities, and the USDA often renews facilities’ licenses year after year despite severe and multiple violations. The Puppy Protection Act would improve weak and outdated standards of care and the WOOF Act would prohibit the issuance or renewal of a license to breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended, or to their immediate family members at the same address.

THE HUMANE COSMETICS ACT:

More than 1.7 billion consumers live in countries that have banned the manufacture and sale of cosmetics tested on animals, including European Union nations and India. These tests are not predictive of the human experience, are painful to animals, and are unnecessary – there are many alternative methods to ensure that products are safe for human use. Congress can help the United States remain a leader in the cosmetics industry by prohibiting the manufacture or sale of cosmetics tested on animals. The Humane Cosmetics Act would create a key incentive for cosmetics to be tested with cutting-edge technologies that are more humane, faster to perform and less costly to industry.

BANNING HORSE SLAUGHTER:

Horses have long been an integral part of American history, as loyal companions and comrades in battle, yet every year thousands are slaughtered for human consumption. Horses are shipped for long distances without food, water or rest in crowded trucks in which the animals are often seriously injured or killed in transit. At slaughter plants, the methods used rarely result in quick, painless deaths. Congress should keep horse slaughter plants shuttered in the United States by prohibiting the slaughter of horses here and end the export of horses for slaughter.

THE ANIMAL EMERGENCY PLANNING ACT:

Given the increasing frequency and intensity of weather-related emergencies, preparing for disaster includes having a plan in place to safely evacuate animals from affected areas. This bill would require that entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (such as commercial animal dealers, exhibitors, research facilities and animal carriers) have contingency plans in place to safely evacuate and care for animals in an emergency or disaster situation.

We’re proud of the difference that our organizations make, but the truth is that none of this can be done without your support. When you respond to our calls to action, when you take steps to engage others, and when you make calls to or email your members of Congress to support animal protection issues, you make a real difference for animals. In the New Year, we look forward to your continued support, and we look forward to working with you.

***

Kitty Block is acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States

Friday, December 21, 2018

What does a government shutdown mean for animals?

This week, the Senate passed a bill that would have funded the federal agencies whose budgets are not yet resolved (including the USDA and Department of Interior) through February 8th. But disagreements with the President and some members of Congress produced no path forward, and now, unless the full Congress and the White House reach a new agreement to fund federal operations, a partial government shutdown is set to begin at midnight tonight.

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iStock Photo

During a shutdown, “non-essential” federal workers are furloughed (placed on temporary leave) while some “essential” operations continue. Because many federal agencies run programs that directly affect animals, a shutdown can have varied effects. This last happened in 2013 and then as now, there were both positive and negative results for our work. Here’s an overview from our perspective:

National Parks
If you’re planning a trip over the coming holidays to see wildlife in one our nation’s amazing national parks, you may want to reschedule. While some national parks are set to remain open, the National Park Service (NPS) will not be able to provide visitor services—including maintaining visitor centers, restrooms, and garbage cleanup. NPS has noted, however, that if access becomes a safety or resource protection issue that endangers humans or wildlife, the area of the park in question must be closed during the shutdown.

Wild horses and burros
The Bureau of Land Management considers employees who manage wild horses and burros at government holding facilities essential, so plans are in place to feed and care for the more than 50,000 wild horses and burros in short and long-term holding facilities. Scheduled removals of wild horses and burros currently on our public rangelands will likely not proceed until the shutdown has ended, a win for animals since those “gathers” are cruel and land them in long-term holding pens. 

National Wildlife Refuges
National Wildlife Refuges will likely close throughout the shutdown. However, it’s good to know that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) considers law enforcement staff members at refuges “essential” employees. In its contingency plans, FWS states that in the event of a shutdown, all federal wildlife officers of the National Wildlife Refuge System will be essential, as will conservation officers and wildlife inspectors.

Animals in research facilities, puppy mills, zoos, and circuses
USDA’s Animal Care division is charged with ensuring that minimum standards of care and treatment are provided by entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act, including research facilities, commercial dog breeders and dealers, and exhibitors of exotic animals. Without federal government funding, USDA will not be able to inspect these facilities or bring enforcement actions in the case of facilities that are violating the Act. This means that puppy mills, laboratories, roadside zoos, and others could use the shutdown period to cut corners without fear of getting caught. Fortunately, some Animal Care employees will be placed “on call” to review complaints and  to determine if a response is warranted during the shutdown.

Tennessee Walking Horses
USDA’s Animal Care division is also responsible for promoting fair competition at events covered by the Horse Protection Act to ensure that Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds are not subjected to the abusive practice of soring. While USDA’s contingency plans do not directly address activities under the Horse Protection Act, it is likely that federal inspections will not be conducted at horse shows, giving sorers essentially free reign.

Wildlife Services
During the shutdown, the majority of USDA’s Wildlife Services staff would be furloughed, which would provide a brief reprieve for the thousands of animals killed yearly by the program. However, some Wildlife Services employees funded by cooperative agreements with private entities and state governments will continue to work.

The Wildlife Services program focuses on addressing conflicts with wild animals that cause economic harm or threaten human or animal health and safety. For decades, this program has relied on lethal control. It has provided a hefty federal subsidy for livestock owners and ranchers by relentlessly killing animals such as coyotes, wolves, bears, and mountain lions using cruel methods. One concern, which our organization expressed during the 2013 government shutdown, was the potential for prolonged suffering by those animals caught in traps that may not be checked by furloughed employees.

Wildlife Services also provides services to airports throughout the country to control wildlife populations that may impact airline travel. The USDA contingency plans state that employees who are engaged in transportation safety functions are exempted from the shutdown, so these programs will continue.

Humane slaughter
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Program’s contingency plans, employees who inspect meat, poultry, and egg products are essential employees and will work throughout the shutdown. Employees who manage these programs at FSIS headquarters will be furloughed, though they will be on call to support the inspection program. The contingency plans do not appear to consider how humane handling violations will be addressed if they occur. As a result, a shutdown could mean that humane slaughter violations go unaddressed, leading to unrelieved suffering.

While there are a few bright spots for animals from a shutdown, having the agencies described here largely out of commission will generally mean even weaker oversight. This is already a serious problem at USDA. We hope that the shutdown, if there is one, is short, and that the federal government gets back to work again soon.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Farm Bill: Mission accomplished!

The 2018 Farm Bill has now been signed into law by President Trump—most importantly without the odious King amendment—which makes this a banner day for our animal protection work. Stopping Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from hooking his massive power grab—to nullify state and local laws addressing animal welfare concerns—onto the package has been our top priority. To succeed, we marshaled a broad-based coalition of more than 220 groups to oppose it. And that strategy worked. 

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Jean Chung/For HSI

We never doubted that the King amendment would fall out as long as we could shine enough light on just how overreaching it was, but we didn’t take it for granted. If you were one of the many supporters and advocates who took action on this, we thank you. There was a lot at stake, but you came through. And together, we’ve done the whole nation a favor, because King’s amendment would have threatened more than just measures passed in the states concerning confinement of farm animals, shark finning, puppy mills, horse slaughter, and the like. It would also have jeopardized state and local laws focused on a vast sweep of social concerns including food safety, child labor, opioids, pesticide exposure, fire-safe cigarettes, and more.

Since the Farm Bill functions as an omnibus vehicle, we also worked full-tilt to see three animal protection measures incorporated into the final version. Each had been the subject of free-standing legislation for which we advocated and helped build overwhelming bipartisan support via leadership and cosponsorships. For over a year we’ve been working behind the scenes to secure their inclusion. And that worked too.

One of the measures bans domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption, which was until now only illegal in six states. This legislation prevents any possibility that the dog and cat meat industry can take root in our nation, and it strengthens our standing to press other countries to end their dog and cat meat trade. This will reinforce the voice and the hand of our sister group, Humane Society International, and others working on this issue around the globe. Countries such as Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines have already enacted similar prohibitions, and earlier this year the U.S. House passed a landmark resolution urging other nations to do the same.

Another provision extends federal domestic violence protections to include pets at risk. Abusers often exploit their human victims’ attachment to their pets, and the animals become victims in their own right, along with the people trying to protect them. This measure builds on laws already enacted by 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico allowing the inclusion of pets in domestic violence protection orders, thereby ensuring protections throughout the country. It also authorizes grants to provide housing assistance for survivors with pets—a desperately needed resource as only 3 percent of domestic violence shelters currently accommodate pets or help arrange pet shelter. Again, we mobilized a broad consortium of domestic violence, law enforcement, veterinary, animal welfare organizations, and pet product companies in support of this legislation.

The third provision clarifies that our federal prohibitions on dogfighting and cockfighting apply across every jurisdiction, including in all U.S. territories. This marks the fourth consecutive Farm Bill in which we have strengthened the federal animal fighting law, which was first enacted in 1976. It will protect animals from vicious cruelty, communities from associated criminal activity such as drug trafficking and gangs, and the public and food supply from transmission of bird flu and other diseases.  

When you support the Humane Society Legislative Fund, you do so with the expectation that we’ll put ourselves right at the heart of the action on Capitol Hill, to secure the best possible outcomes for animals. Thanks to you, we’ve succeeded. You are the vaunted “army of the kind” that the legendary author and animal advocate Cleveland Amory called upon to protect and defend the voiceless. We’re grateful, and we’re going to enter the New Year with confidence and the good feeling that when we bring the right constituencies together, we can make really great things happen in our work.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Breaking News: the final Farm Bill has been released and it’s great news for animals!

Update December 12, 2018: Great news! The Farm Bill passed its key test today with flying colors. The House approved the package by a whopping bipartisan 369-47 vote. With yesterday’s 87-13 approval in the Senate, it now heads to President Trump. We call on him to swiftly sign the Farm Bill into law to put to rest the disastrous King amendment that could have gutted countless state and local laws protecting animals and consumers, and to enact three key animal protection provisions—PAWS to protect pets and families from domestic violence, PACE to strengthen animal fighting law, and the Dog and Cat Meat Trade ban.

Thanks again to the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), for putting together this package that garnered such strong bipartisan support! Praise also to the sponsors of the pro-animal measures, those who pressed to keep out the King amendment, all who voted for the package this week, House and Senate leadership for getting it done, and especially to all the people who contacted their legislators over the past many months to make the case for animals!

Update December 11, 2018: The Senate has approved the 2018 Farm Bill by a vote of 87-13! That means we are one step closer to stopping the King amendment and passing three critical pro-animal welfare bills into law—a truly historic moment for animals. We applaud the Senate for moving quickly to approve this solid package and urge the House to do the same.

For the last year and a half, we have worked hard for the inclusion of key protections for animals in the Farm Bill, and today the Senate and House Agriculture Committees released a final version that rewards our effort.

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Photo by iStock.com

Above all, because of our resistance, the package excludes the disastrous amendment tacked onto the House Farm Bill in committee by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). We marshaled opposition to the King amendment from a diverse coalition of more than 220 groups across the political spectrum, 119 Representatives led by Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and 32 Senators led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The King Amendment threatened countless duly-enacted state and local laws, including laws addressing horse and dog meat, extreme confinement of farm animals, shark finning, and puppy mills, as well as a range of concerns such as food safety, child labor, opioids, pesticide exposure, fire-safe cigarettes, manure management, and handling of diseased livestock.

The legislation also includes language incorporating the content of three animal protection bills we’ve long supported:

  • Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act introduced by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.). The provision, championed by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in the Senate version of the Farm Bill will extend current federal domestic violence protections to include pets. It also authorizes grant money to help domestic violence shelters accommodate pets (only three percent currently allow pets) or arrange for pet shelter. The measure enjoyed the support of a broad network of domestic violence, law enforcement, veterinary, and animal welfare organizations.

  • Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act introduced by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Buchanan, Dave Trott (R-Mich.), and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). The provision, championed by Denham in the House bill and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) in the Senate bill, will prevent this appalling trade from taking hold in the U.S. and strengthen our hand in seeking to end it worldwide. Around 30 million dogs and untold numbers of cats are the victims of this brutal industry globally every year, with animals often snatched off the street or stolen from loving families, still wearing collars, and finally subjected to unspeakable abuse only to end up on someone’s dinner plate. 

  • Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement (PACE) Act introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Reps. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), Blumenauer, Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Steve Knight (R-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and Buchanan. The amendment clarifies the point that federal prohibitions against dogfighting and cockfighting activity apply to all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories, and will protect animals from vicious cruelty, insulate communities against associated criminal activity such as drug trafficking and gang violence, and safeguard the public and food supply from disease transmission.

We commend Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for reaching this strong bipartisan agreement

We couldn’t have achieved these wins without the faithful efforts of thousands of advocates across the nation who called, emailed, and met with their legislators, wrote letters to the editor, and spread the word in their communities. But the fight isn’t over yet—now we need to do our best to get this bill across the finish line. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the package soon and approval is far from guaranteed.  Please click here to contact your U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators today to urge that they support the 2018 Farm Bill.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Mission Complete: As a nation mourns George H.W. Bush, his dog Sully transitions to new service

We at the Humane Society Legislative Fund were saddened by the passing of George H.W. Bush, our nation’s 41st president, and we’re thankful for his extraordinary service to the United States. In this remarkable week of national mourning and celebration, it was naturally and deeply moving for us to see public fascination fix so heavily on a photograph of the late president’s service dog Sully, at the watch, in front of the casket. This image is destined to become an iconic remembrance of the late president’s loyalty and faithfulness as a public servant.

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Sully keeping vigil by late President George H. W.
Bush’s casket.

And that’s as it should be. For many years, the pets kept by members of the Bush family have been in the national spotlight. Barbara Bush’s dog Millie was the “author” of a children’s book that described a day in the life of the Bush family in the White House, complete with briefings, Oval Office deliberations, and other activities. And just two years ago, the second President Bush, George W., with his wife Laura, adopted a dog from the SPCA of Texas, showing their public support for adoption as the best option.

It gave us satisfaction to learn that Sully will now transition to further service at Walter Reed Army Hospital, where his special talents and personal characteristics can now benefit still more veterans. We’re sure that this would have pleased the late president, who knew combat at first hand, who understood the gravity of our sending men and women into battle, and who had the strongest possible commitment to those who serve.

In recent years, we’ve supported several congressional bills to further the training and placement of service dogs with veterans. These bills have generally sought to establish a grants program to support the work of non-governmental organizations involved in training and providing dogs for pairing with individual veterans suffering from PTSD and other conditions. One of the measures advanced calls for a Veterans Administration pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of service dog programs serving military veterans, at five VA medical centers.

We’ve also seen some allocations for training of dogs within FY18 and FY19 appropriations. The FY18 Omnibus package included $10 million for Therapeutic Service Dog Training within the Department of Defense Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program that awards grants to nonprofits providing therapeutic service dogs to veterans and active duty personnel facing physical injuries and emotional scars from their military service, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, blindness, loss of limb, and paralysis. The package also provided $1 million increase for Equine-Assisted Therapy under the Veterans Affairs’ Adaptive Sports grant program for veterans suffering from mental health issues including PTSD.

With respect to FY19 Appropriations, Congress continued to show its support, providing another $10 million for FY19 for the Wounded Warrior Service Dog program. With respect to Equine Therapy, Congress further directed the VA to allocate $1.5 million of the Adaptive Sports program funding to boost grants for the purpose of equine therapy targeted to mental health issues

When it comes to bringing veterans and animals together, we’re for it, emphatically, and we hope and expect to support such legislation in the new congress. We’d like to see officials consolidate approaches to this topic, on a thoughtful and strong bi-partisan basis, because we think this would strengthen chances of action.

We believe the need for such programs is great. And what a tribute it would be to the memory of the late president were the Congress to approve and implement more such legislation in the next session.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Election Day result - a good one for animals and the HSLF

We knew coming into this election season that it would be a fateful one for animals, at both the state and federal levels, and that’s why the HSLF made significant commitments of endorsements, independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates, and grassroots efforts in races throughout the nation. It was worth it, as we sent several anti-animal legislators packing, saw the election and reelection of a number of strong allies, and helped pass ballot measures of immense importance in Florida and California.

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Photo courtesy of iStock.com

One of the candidates we helped to defeat was U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) who in the course of his career voted against animal protection interests 40 times. As Chair of the House Rules Committee, Sessions worked to prevent commonsense, bipartisan measures from reaching the floor for a vote. That’s why we went all in with Colin Allred, who won the race by a margin of 6.3 percent. HSLF placed television and digital ads to contrast Allred’s commitment to animal protection with Sessions’ lengthy record of opposition at every turn.

This was our kind of race and our kind of outcome. We helped to replace a stubborn opponent of our work with a candidate we’re confident will do his best for animals.

HSLF also canvassed more than 38,000 households in CA-48 and CA-49, districts held by representatives who were way out of step with their constituents when it came to animal protection. While we await final results, it appears likely that Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) will defeat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) who recently voted against enforcing animal fighting prohibitions in the U.S. territories, and that Mike Levin (D-Calif.) will take the seat formerly held by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

We also played a critical role in the approval of two consequential state ballot measures. Florida citizens overwhelmingly voted to end greyhound racing, a miserable “entertainment” in which dogs suffer broken bones and deaths on the tracks. This was a big win because Florida is home to 11 of the remaining 17 greyhound racing tracks in the country. As a constitutional amendment, the measure required a threshold of 60% of the vote—it received nearly 69% in the end. We were proud to work with the HSUS, the Doris Day Animal League, Grey2K, and a number of coalition partners to sound the death knell for greyhound racing in the United States; no industry that inflicts so much pain, suffering, and death on thousands of gentle greyhound dogs deserves to survive.

Across the country, Californians resoundingly said “YES!” to Proposition 12, which ushers in the strongest farm animal protection law in the world. Proposition 12 builds on protections first passed by voters in 2008, to ensure that pork, eggs, and veal products produced or sold in the California marketplace come from facilities that do not confine animals in tiny cages for their entire lives. This is the fifth consecutive ballot initiative win on farm animal confinement issues since 2002, and promises to improve the lives of millions of animals. The measure will create immediate relief for millions of animals and bring more pressure on the pork and egg industries to accelerate their transitions to cage-free and crate-free housing systems. California voters saw through the false claims of the factory farming industry, and sided with compassionate and commonsense standards to protect farm animals and food safety.

With results still coming in, we cannot report in full on every race of interest to our supporters, but what we know so far is pretty good. HSLF-endorsed U.S. House candidates won 219 and lost 16 races, for a 93 percent win rate, with 14 additional races not yet called. In the U.S. Senate, HSLF-backed contenders won 16 races and lost 3, for an 84 percent win rate.

In other House races of interest, we worked to re-elect allies like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), the lead sponsor of the Puppy Protection Act (H.R. 4693) and Welfare of Our Friends Act (H.R. 4691), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla), co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

But the real story in the Congress concerns the many new faces we’ll welcome, including Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Lance Gooden (R-Texas), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) who defeated Cresent Hardy, who previously had a zero record on animal protection. HSLF targeted all of these races in its work, and these are great outcomes for animal protection.

Unfortunately, some key House allies lost their races including Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), sponsor of the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act (H.R. 4202) to ensure that federal animal fighting laws are applied to the U.S. territories. Roskam successfully championed the measure as an amendment to the Farm Bill which passed by a vote of 359-51. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a consistent supporter of animal protection and co-chair of the House Climate Change Caucus, also lost.

In the Senate, we saw several strong allies reelected, including Sen, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee who has fought off the frivolous King amendment in the Farm Bill while protecting the pro-animal measures it included, the Pet and Women Safety Act (H.R. 909/S. 322), the Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act (H.R. 1406), and the Parity in Animal Cruelty Enforcement Act (H.R. 4202/ S. 2971). Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a stalwart in our fight against cruel hunting practices on federal lands in Alaska, won his race too, by 23 percent.

We were active in a number of critical state-level races as well. HSLF was heavily involved in Michigan supporting the election of Gretchen Whitmer (D) for governor and Dana Nessel (D) for attorney general. Whitmer has a strong record of animal protection from her service in the state legislature, including votes to uphold the protections for wolves and other wildlife species, so her victory is great news. Nessel will become just the second attorney general to create a dedicated task force to assist prosecutors in cracking down on animal cruelty.

Several important races have yet to be called, so please check back in with our election site as we will be updating as results are announced.

At the HSLF, we put the animal into politics. This year, we endorsed a record number of candidates, and in crucial instances, we put our money and our energy behind them. And so many of you did, too. If  you voted or volunteered for one of these men and women, thank you. If you sent funds in support of our work to elect them, or made contributions yourself, we appreciate it. We wanted to swing for the fences this time around, and because of you, we were able to do it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Election Day is here – see what’s at stake for animals

Election Day is special for those who care about animals, because it’s the one day on which we can directly shape the future for animal protection by electing those who share our humane values. It’s just that important. If you haven’t already voted, today is your last chance. You can identify your polling place at www.vote.org.

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Photo by Mark Bacon/Alamy Stock Photo

But we’d also like to invite you to check out our election site and Humane Scorecard to read about the candidates we believe will do good things for animals.

A few races in particular have tremendous implications for the animal protection landscape at the federal and state levels. For example:

  • In Texas, the dynamic Colin Allred is challenging Phil Sessions, an incumbent in the 32nd district who has repeatedly blocked animal protection measures from receiving a vote on the House floor. HSLF has made substantial expenditures in support of Allred, and against Sessions.
  • In Michigan, a number of women who support animal protection are running statewide, including Debbie Stabenow for U.S. Senate, Gretchen Witmer for governor, and Dana Nessel for Attorney General. They are all proven advocates.
  • In Iowa, J.D. Scholten is challenging “the King of Cruelty,” Rep. Steve King, in the 4th Congressional District. If Scholten wins, King’s reckless anti-animal welfare amendments to the Farm Bill will go away with him. We’ve done our best to mobilize HSLF supporters in this race.
  • In Tennessee, former governor Phil Bredesen is running for the U.S. Senate against Congresswoman Marcia Blackburn, who has supported soring—the cruel use of caustic chemicals and other painful substances to injure the hooves and legs of show horses. We’re all in behind Governor Bredesen in this one.

Here are some of the other candidates we’re supporting:

  • In Colorado, former state official Joe Neguse is running in the 2nd Congressional District with a promise to build on his pro-animal record.
  • In Illinois, Peter Roskam, who has led the charge against animal fighting, is running for re-election in the 6th district, while prosecutor Brendan Kelly is fighting to unseat a callous incumbent in the 12th Congressional District.
  • In Nevada, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford are running for open congressional seats in Nevada’s 3rd and 4th districts, respectively. Horsford’s opponent is a former congressman who refused to crack down on heinous animal cruelty.
  • In New Jersey, Josh Gottheimer, who earned a perfect score on the Humane Scorecard, is running for re-election in the 5th district.
  • In Oregon, Earl Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, is seeking re-election in the 3rd district.
  • In Pennsylvania, Brian Fitzpatrick (8th district) and Conor Lamb (18th district) are running for re-election to continue their good work for animals, while attorney Susan Wild and state legislator Guy Reschenthaler are running for open seats in the 7th and 14th districts, respectively.
  • In Texas, State legislator Lance Gooden and county official Veronica Escobar are running for open seats in the 5th and 16th districts, respectively.
  • In Washington, Kim Schrier is running for the 8th Congressional District against a former state legislator who supported bills allowing the use of body-gripping animal traps, and the hunting of cougars with hounds.

Voters in California and Florida have a particular opportunity to drive positive change for animals in this election cycle with their support for two remarkable ballot measures.

  • In California, Proposition 12 will ensure baby calves, mother pigs, and egg-laying hens aren’t confined in tiny cages. For Congress, Jeff Denham is running for re-election in the 10th district, Harley Rouda is contesting an anti-animal incumbent in the 48th district, and Mike Levin is running for an open seat in the 49th district.
  • In Florida, Amendment 13 will phase out cruel commercial greyhound racing by 2020, and animal protection champions Carlos Curbelo and Vern Buchanan are running for re-election to the U.S. House.

Should you be a resident of either of these two states, or have family members and friends to whom you can reach out, we really want to encourage your advocacy today.

If you’re a supporter of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, you know that your investment means that we’re working hard in the nation’s capital every day, making the case for animals in the Congress and with the agencies of our federal government. And you play a crucial part in any success we achieve by writing and calling legislators and government administrators on your own.

That said, Election Day represents a distinctive opportunity to reshape the world consistent with our animal protection values. Please do get to the polls, and cast your vote in a way that makes a difference for animals. We also invite you to share our election site with friends and family, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates as each race is called.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Stop the King of cruelty

You may have heard U.S. Representative Steve King’s (IA-4) controversial remarks regarding the way he views people. But you may not know he also has a long record of ambivalence and hostility toward animals and their protection. Whether it involves animal fighting, horse slaughter, or the infamous amendment in the House version of the Farm Bill that carries his name, he has consistently fought to prevent any advancement in commonsense animal protections supported by the vast majority of Americans. Today, HSLF launched a digital ad campaign highlighting his longstanding contempt for humane values, and specifically for his obstructionist stand against cracking down on animal fighting and the criminal element that accompanies it.

King’s record on animal fighting puts him right at the bottom of the barrel, as he has repeatedly opposed legislation that would restrict it, making him a part of an infamous minority in the U.S. Congress. Last May, King voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill that would clarify that federal prohibitions on animal fighting apply in all U.S. jurisdictions, including U.S. territories. This measure would protect animals from senseless cruelty, communities from other criminal activity often linked to animal fighting, reduce public health threats from bird flu and other diseases, and enhance enforcement of the federal animal fighting law across the U.S. It passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 359-51.

King’s upside down record on animal fighting goes back a long way. In 2007, he voted against the Animal Fighting Enforcement Prohibition Act, which strengthened penalties for illegal animal fighting and made it a felony to transport animals across state lines for the purpose of fighting. In 2013, King worked to block legislation that made it a crime for an adult to attend or bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight.

These measures had bipartisan support and passed by wide margins, but each time, King was at the front of the parade of those staking out the wrong side of the issue.

King is also responsible for one of the worst threats to animal protection at the federal level in recent history. In its various forms over the last few years his bill, also known as the King Amendment is simply fanatical. It’s a radical federal overreach that could undermine thousands of state and local laws, including ones addressing intensive confinement of farm animals, horse slaughter, puppy mills, and shark finning. But the measure doesn’t stop at animal welfare. It could nullify any measure affecting the production of agricultural products, including those regarding alcohol, child labor, fire-safe cigarettes, and dangerous pesticides.

During consideration of the current Farm Bill, King again made plain his willingness to threaten countless state laws that protect animals from abuse and consumers from unsafe foods through his amendment. We’ve been working as hard as we can to stave off his reckless and dangerous attacks.

As if his mischief around the Farm bill weren’t enough, Steve King also has a history of voting against wildlife and equines. He has repeatedly voted to support the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in foreign countries even though the 80% of the U.S. public overwhelmingly opposes it. He voted for a bill that undermines the Endangered Species Act, removing critical protections for some of America’s most iconic and imperiled species, including grizzly bears and wolves. He also voted twice to restore scientifically unjustified methods of trophy hunting on federal land in Alaska.

All of this makes it pretty obvious why HSLF has proudly endorsed J.D. Scholten, a fifth generation Iowan and supporter of commonsense animal protection issues. If we want to end dogfighting and other extreme cruelties that cause animals so much suffering and misery, we must elect humane legislators. And there is no place where this need is more urgent in IA-4.  If you live in IA-4, please cast your ballot to say no to animal fighting, horse slaughter, and harming wildlife and say “YES” to a J.D. Scholten.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pete Sessions—not for animals, not for Texas

Over the years, thanks to our terrific base of supporters, we’ve been able to cultivate a strong bloc of legislators at the federal level who support our vital animal protection mission.  Even so, there are a handful who don’t care much about animals or our policy goals, and within that group there are a few who stand out for their indifference and obstructionism. That’s the case with U.S. Representative Pete Sessions (TX-32), and that’s why the Humane Society Legislative Fund began airing a television ad in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that exposes his abysmal voting record against commonsense animal protection legislation during two decades in Congress. By our count, Pete Sessions has voted against animals and their protection 40 times over that period. He’s in a swing district, and he’s facing a challenger whose commitment to our values and policies is crystal clear. That’s why we think it’s time for a big change of direction there. 

Sessions has a dismal score of 17 out of 100 on the HSLF’s 2017 Humane Scorecard—and his lifetime average score is a bottom of the barrel 11 out of 100. Recently, he voted against an amendment to the Farm Bill designed to end the horrors of animal fighting by applying the same legal prohibitions to the U.S. territories that we apply in the 50 states. Sessions was surely out of touch on this one, as the amendment passed the House floor by a vote of 359-51.

The congressman’s record of supporting the slaughter of horses for human consumption in foreign countries also marks him as an outlier. Some 80% of Americans, including many of his fellow Texans, are opposed to the practice.

Sessions has exhibited a horrible record on wildlife protection, too. He helped to block efforts to protect iconic elephants from the ivory trade and supported efforts to allow a small group of wealthy trophy hunters to import threatened polar bears’ heads and hides for display. He voted to eliminate vital protections on federally owned, taxpayer-supported lands in Alaska, allowing hunters to kill hibernating mother bears and their cubs in their dens.

A self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Sessions even voted to continue funding wasteful subsidies for lethal predator control, which relies on some of the most callous and ecologically destructive killing methods known to man.

All of this would be bad enough on its own, but it’s worth noting too that as chairman of the House Rules Committee, Sessions was a one-man barricade against animal welfare, preventing bills from reaching the floor even when they enjoyed widespread support within the House itself.  No one sent him to Washington to defend and protect horse slaughter, trophy hunting, predator killing, and animal fighting, and to prevent other elected representatives from voting on these practices, but that’s the kind of record he’s amassed.

With our engaged supporters and contributors, we at the HSLF work tirelessly for the passage of laws to stop the inhumane treatment of animals and ensure their greater protection. We cannot afford to overlook the out-of-step philosophy and voting record of lawmakers like Pete Sessions, especially when we know that tens of thousands of voters in districts like his want their representatives to support fundamental animal protection policy. That’s why HSLF has endorsed Colin Allred for Texas’ 32nd Congressional District—he’s a humane champion who has committed to support our work, and we’re confident that he will.

Let’s talk straight. Pete Sessions has wasted 40 opportunities to help end suffering and improve the lives of animals everywhere. That’s the kind of waste we are determined to cut. If you have friends and family in the 32nd Congressional District, please share our TV ad to let them know about the abysmal record that Pete Sessions has racked up, and encourage them to vote for Colin Allred on November 6th. You’ll be glad you did.

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