Pup paralyzed after brutal beating demonstrates urgency for Iowa to make animal torture a felony

A Humane WorldKitty Block’s Blog
 July 21, 2020Drax, who is now in the care of a foster home, will likely need surgery to repair his legs and veterinarians are monitoring him for signs of feeling and sensation in his lower body.Earlier this month, Drax, a four-month-old puppy, was rushed to an Iowa emergency room with what appeared to be intense pain and paralysis in his rear legs. Drax’s owner, Thomas Hand, had been seen by witnesses beating and throwing the pup around. When the veterinarians examined him, Drax appeared to have lost all sensation in his rear limbs and had several fractures. The dog, who is now in the care of a foster home, will likely need surgery to repair his legs and veterinarians are monitoring him for signs of feeling and sensation in his lower body.Hand, who runs an online amphibian pet shop, was arrested and charged with animal abuse and torture under a new Iowa law signed by the governor just four days earlier. But unfortunately, Iowa prosecutors can only charge him with a misdemeanor for an act so violent as Hand’s was. That’s because Iowa is the only remaining state where torturing a dog or cat in a way resulting in serious injury or death is not an automatic felony.While some lawmakers in Iowa did attempt to include felony level penalties in the new law, others, beholden to agricultural interests, stripped the language out of the bill.Hand’s case should serve as a powerful example for these lawmakers on why they need to rethink that decision, not just to protect animals in the state, but also to protect Iowa’s residents.It is a known fact by now that those who commit acts of abuse against animals often also commit violence against people. There appears to be some evidence of this in Hand’s case. On Valentine’s Day this year, he was placed under arrest for domestic abuse assault and faces a charge of child endangerment.Iowans want their lawmakers to act to protect animal from such cruelty. In a Remington poll last December, 69 percent said they believe domestic animal torture should be a felony charge. Lawmakers in Congress and 49 states have already recognized that torturing animals is a serious crime, and should, in some circumstances, be dealt with as a felony.We are grateful to Iowa lawmakers for upgrading their animal cruelty laws this year, but as this case reveals, it is simply not enough. Animals like Drax, who may never walk again, deserve a fuller measure of justice. It doesn’t do Iowa’s image, nor its citizens, any good for their state to stand as an outlier in the nation, as a place where those who commit the most horrendous acts against animals can still get away with a slap on the wrist.The post Pup paralyzed after brutal beating demonstrates urgency for Iowa to make animal torture a felony appeared first on A Humane World.Related StoriesPup paralyzed after brutal beating demonstrates urgency for Iowa to make animal torture a felonyPup paralyzed after brutal beating demonstrates urgency for Iowa to make animal torture a felony – EnclosureVictory! Court says San Francisco fur ban will stay

HSUS/HSLF video lays bare the terrible practice of soring, as industry prepares for annual walking horse ‘Celebration’

A Humane WorldKitty Block’s Blog
By Kitty Block and Sara AmundsonCalendar Icon July 16, 2020In our video, a former big lick trainer says that “without some type of soring, they’re not going to do the big lick.” What that means, essentially, is that a horse who is not sored would not have a chance of winning at the Celebration or any big lick walking horse event. Photo by the HSUSTrainers who paint horses’ legs with harsh acids and chemicals that burn through the skin, causing unspeakable pain to the animals, then add heavy shoes and tie chains on top of those wounds to intensify their suffering. Trainers who hit horses with sticks and shove electric prods in their faces to get them to do what they want. Trainers who drag and force horses to stand when they are hurting too much to do so.A video we are releasing today presents some shocking scenes from the Humane Society of the United States’ undercover investigations of the Tennessee walking horse industry. Above all, it shows the abject cruelty visited upon the animals to get them to perform an artificial, high-stepping gait called the “big lick” at competitions by “soring” the animals.It is some of the worst animal abuse you will see, but here’s the kicker: it has been allowed to continue for half a century with very little to no accountability for those who break the law.Even now, as the nation reels under a pandemic, the big lick segment of the industry, after several months of forced shutdowns, is returning to business as usual. Preparations for the annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration at an arena in Shelbyville, Tennessee, to be held between August 26 and September 5, appear to be on in full swing, despite a reported increase in coronavirus cases in Bedford County, which is home to Shelbyville.The only acknowledgement of the coronavirus threat was the organizers noted in their press release that they felt it “prudent to select two alternates for this year’s show in case any of the five initial selections were to fall ill and be forced to quarantine.”Such callousness is not surprising in an industry that has always put winning ribbons above animal welfare. The Celebration has, in recent years, been little more than a showcase for some of the industry’s worst offenders, and there’s little reason to think that it will be any different this year. In our video, a former big lick trainer says that “without some type of soring, they’re not going to do the big lick.” What that means, essentially, is that a horse who is not sored would not have a chance of winning at the Celebration or any big lick walking horse event.What has made it easier for these animal abusers to get away with their misdeeds is the increasingly lax enforcement of the Horse Protection Act by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Trump administration. The USDA is charged by Congress with the job of inspecting horses at shows to ensure they have not been sored. But as we have been reporting, the number of citations and enforcement under the law has plummeted in recent years. The USDA has also repeatedly stated that the industry’s self-run inspection programs should be the primary line for enforcing the HPA.Not surprisingly, those industry groups—riddled with conflicts of interest—rarely, if ever, cite violations or issue penalties, and even allow participants to keep their prizes and titles if they’re found in violation after their wins. Making matters worse, the rider/trainers of the top three placing horses in the Celebration’s World Grand Championship class last year were all slated to begin federal disqualifications after they were allowed to compete. One doesn’t even begin his USDA-set disqualification until after this year’s Celebration, and another, after the 2022 show.The administration has taken other steps to facilitate the scofflaws. In 2017, the Trump administration withdrew a federal rule that had broad bipartisan support and was finalized in the last week of the Obama administration. That rule would have ended walking horse industry self-regulation and banned the use of the torture devices that are integral to the soring process. The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund are suing the agency for withdrawing the rule.Congress remains our only hope now if we are to stop this abuse swiftly, and a sweeping majority there, cutting across party lines, is eager to end soring.Last year, in a historic vote, the House voted to pass the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act by an overwhelming margin of 333 to 96. The bill would ban the use of devices integral to the soring process, end the industry’s failed system of self-policing, and significantly increase penalties for violators. Recently, the House Appropriations Committee also voted to double funding for HPA enforcement in FY 2021.The PAST Act has a bipartisan majority of 52 cosponsors in the Senate but it has languished in the upper chamber for months now because some senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are co-sponsoring competing legislation, introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and supported by those engaged in horse soring, which allows the industry to continue policing itself with no accountability and no restriction on the use of soring devices or tougher penalties.The HSUS and HSLF have long shined the spotlight on soring, and we won’t stop until it’s stamped out for good. As the cruelty on display in our video shows, it is high time for our elected leaders to stop giving cover to those who break the law and bring the PAST Act to a vote on the Senate floor. Please contact your senators to urge them to cosponsor the PAST Act, S. 1007, and do all they can to help secure swift passage of this crucial bill. It’s the only solution now before us to end the gruesome and archaic practice of soring that has caused so much unnecessary suffering for so many horses, all in the name of “entertainment” and for the sake of a ribbon.Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.The post HSUS/HSLF video lays bare the terrible practice of soring, as industry prepares for annual walking horse ‘Celebration’ appeared first on A Humane World.Related StoriesHSUS/HSLF video lays bare the terrible practice of soring as industry prepares for annual walking horse ‘Celebration’HSUS/HSLF video lays bare the terrible practice of soring as industry prepares for annual walking horse ‘Celebration’ – EnclosureSouth Carolina pet owners sue Petland for selling them sick puppies

Right whales are now ‘critically endangered’—just a step away from extinction

A Humane World Kitty Block’s Blog HSUS.org
By Kitty Block and Sara AmundsonCalendar Icon July 10, 2020Entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are largely to blame for the decline in right whale populations, as is climate change. Photo by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationIn late June, the body of a dead North Atlantic right whale calf was found floating off the coast of New Jersey—a victim of two boat strikes, according to a preliminary analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While this would have been a sad story no matter what animal was involved, it is particularly concerning that this was a young right whale with many reproductive years ahead of him. There are just 400 of these mammals surviving in our oceans, and the death of even one could have deadly ramifications for the entire species.Yesterday, the International Union for Conservation of Nature escalated the urgency around saving right whales by uplisting their status on its red list from “endangered” to “critically endangered”—meaning that these animals are now just a step away from extinction.The numbers are indeed alarming. Since 2017, only 22 North Atlantic right whale calves have been born. At the same time, 31 North Atlantic right whales have died and an additional 10 have been presumed dead due to the serious nature of injuries they’d sustained, bringing the total to 41 dead right whales in the past three years.This plight of North Atlantic right whales is entirely attributable to human actions. These native American marine mammals make their home along the eastern shores of the United States and Canada, and the reason their numbers went down in the first place is because they were easy targets for whale hunters for centuries. These mammoth animals are slow-moving and live close to the coast, which made them the “right” whales to hunt.While whaling is now banned in U.S. and Canadian waters, it has been replaced by new threats. As the IUCN said in its release announcing the uplisting, entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are largely to blame for the decline in right whale populations, as is climate change, which pushes the whales’ main prey species further north during summer where they are more exposed to accidental encounters with ships and are also at high risk of entanglement in fishing gear.The Humane Society family of organizations has been sounding the clarion call to these countries for many years now on saving right whales. We’ve taken the fight to court, and in April we won a lawsuit in federal court, brought along with our coalition partners, that challenged the U.S. government’s failure to protect right whales from deadly entanglements in fishing gear. In 2013, as the result of a legal petition we filed, the United States mandated that large ships slow down while passing through key right whale habitats. This resulted in reducing deaths from lethal ship strikes, which until recently was the leading cause of death for the species. We also successfully petitioned to expand their designated critical habitat protections in key feeding areas and in the southeastern United States where female right whales birth their young.The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have exhorted Canada to close more risk-prone fisheries during months of high use in order to protect right whales from dying after getting entangled in fishing gear. Last year, Canada announced comprehensive protections, altering fishing season dates and designating specific shipping areas with a seasonal slow speed requirement. This year, the country announced further restrictions regulating fishing and shipping in a larger area after a whale has been spotted nearby. But given that most right whales are killed in Canadian waters, the country needs to do more to prevent unnecessary deaths.We also need the United States to take more concrete steps if we are to save this important species. We need NOAA to urgently issue overdue regulations that would restrict and regulate where and how fishing gear could be set along the U.S. coast. This will help ensure less risk-prone rope is in the water during right whales’ migration up and down the coast. And we desperately need to ensure that funding for conservation efforts makes it into Congress’s Fiscal Year 2021 spending package.As Congress works in coming weeks on its annual appropriations process, the Humane Society Legislative Fund is pushing for additional funding for vital research for monitoring right whale populations. We also continue to urge Congress to provide funds to the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue assistance grant programs, which funds the country’s marine mammal stranding response network. This network responds in emergencies to injured marine mammals, including entangled or injured right whales, and could make a crucial difference in helping this species survive.We continue to press for the passage of the SAVE Right Whales Act (S. 2453/H.R. 1568), introduced by Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., former Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga, and Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. and John Rutherford, R-Fla. The bill authorizes $5 million per year for research on North Atlantic right whale conservation over the next 10 years.Your support to help save these North American marine mammals is crucial. Please contact your Senators today and urge them to support this important bill. The IUCN uplisting of right whales is a grim reminder that there is no time to lose.Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.The post Right whales are now ‘critically endangered’—just a step away from extinction appeared first on A Humane World.Related StoriesSpending bills move up in Congress, with provisions for gray wolves, non-animal testing methods and ending wildlife marketsSpending bills move up in Congress, with provisions for gray wolves, non-animal testing methods and ending wildlife markets – Enclosure

KFC, more Americans want to eat the plant-based ‘Kentucky Fried Miracle’

June 18, 2020 0 Comments

Last year, when KFC launched a new, plant-based chicken at one of its Atlanta locations, it sold out within five hours, with lines wrapped around the block to try it. According to the New York Times, sales of the plant-based boneless wings and nuggets in a single day equaled sales of its popular, animal-based popcorn chicken in an entire week, leading the company to declare it a “Kentucky Fried Miracle.”

KFC went on to test the plant-based chicken at an additional 70 locations in North Carolina and Tennessee in February 2020, again with great success. This is amazing, and it shows the scope of the large market that exists for meatless meat products all over the United States. So we have been hopeful that KFC will offer its meatless chicken at franchises nationwide.

The moment is just right for anyone looking to venture into plant-based foods, including plant-based meats, which are innovative, protein-packed foods that mimic the texture and taste of meat. With growing awareness of the benefits of eating more plant-based foods for animals, the planet and our health, so many people are reducing their reliance on animal products in favor of tasty plant-based alternatives. According to a 2019 Gallop poll, “[f]our in 10 Americans have personally tried plant-based meats.” And a 2020 Yale survey found that, “more than half of Americans (55%) say they are willing to eat more plant-based meat alternatives.”

Plant-based meats are so popular, in fact, that in March 2020, sales of such meats jumpedby an astounding 264%.

Many fast food chains like Burger King, Carl’s Jr., White Castle, Del Taco and Dunkin’ already offer plant-based options, with tremendous success. After launching the Impossible Burger, Jose Cil, who is the CEO of Restaurant Brands (the parent company of Burger King), noted that the offering was “one of the most successful product launchesin Burger King’s history.” After debuting a Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich at more than 9,000 Dunkin’ locations in 2019, Dunkin’ CEO David Hoffman said he was “happy with [Dunkin’s] first venture into” plant-based menu offerings, and said the company is discussing more plant-based options in the future.

KFC already has gotten a taste of this success, not just here in the United States but also globally. In April, the company debuted plant-based chicken nuggets at three locations in China and they were such a hit that they sold out at a Shanghai KFC within an hour of launching. KFC Canada partnered with Lightlife, a plant-based protein company, to make a fried “chicken” sandwich and plant-based “popcorn chicken,” which also sold out. In the United Kingdom, KFC sold one million plant-based chicken sandwiches throughout January 2020, which is the equivalent of one plant-based sandwich sold every three seconds.

We applaud KFC for its success with plant-based options and thank the company for its foresight in creating them. And today, we have one friendly request for the company: please launch these delicious meatless options nationwide so customers around the country can enjoy them.

Given the market for meatless meats today, which research shows extends well beyond vegans and vegetarians, this is a decision the company would not be likely to regret. You can lend your voice to continue such positive progress. Please click here to let KFC decision makers know just how much support exists for plant-based offerings.

World Health Organization says nations should end wildlife trade

Calendar Icon April 14, 2020

The World Health Organization is calling on nations to end wildlife markets because of the high risk they pose for the spread of pathogens like the coronavirus that can jump from animals to humans.

This week, David Nabarro, a medical doctor and the special envoy on COVID-19 and special representative of the United Nations secretary general for food security and nutrition, told the BBC that 75 percent of emerging infections come from the animal kingdom.

“This is dangerous. We have similar concerns about bushmeat. Really, be very, very careful when you’re basically eating wild animal meat or killing wild animals. All these things are higher risk,” he said.

Nabarro’s statements on behalf of the WHO, which has 192 member countries, including China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam—where many of these markets exist—came this week even as media reports circulated about wildlife markets beginning to reopen in China. The WHO does not have the authority to require governments to close down such markets, but, Nabarro said, “what we have to do is offer advice and guidance, and there’s very clear advice from the Food and Agriculture Organization and WHO that said there are real dangers in these kinds of environments.”

In recent weeks, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the United Nations’ acting head of biodiversity, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have made similar calls to end live wildlife markets around the globe. Fauci has called wildlife markets “a superhighway” for transmission of disease.

The Humane Society family has been urging the WHO to take a stand against wildlife markets and we are pleased to see the global health body do so. Earlier this month, Humane Society International along with 240 organizations around the globe, sent a letter to the WHO urging it to recommend a permanent ban on wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicine to governments worldwide.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund lobbied support for a letter co-signed by nearly 70 U.S. Senators and Representatives to the WHO, the Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, urging them to take aggressive action to shut down live wildlife markets and ban the international trade in wildlife that is not intended for conservation purposes.

Earlier this month, HSI released a white paper detailing scientific evidence of the link between COVID-19 and the wildlife trade that has been sent to 188 governments worldwide. HSI also sent an open letter to governments around the world asking them to ban wildlife trade (including wildlife markets), transport and consumption.

While we have expanded our efforts to move lawmakers and global organizations to take action because of the urgency created by the coronavirus pandemic, this is not a new fight for us. We have been calling for the closure of wildlife markets for many years now not only due to animal welfare concerns but because these markets often trade in endangered and at-risk animals or exploit captive bred animals.

Wildlife markets are filthy, crowded places where sick, injured and scared animals are displayed in small cages. Once purchased, they are often slaughtered on-site, creating a perfect breeding ground for transmission of disease from animals to humans. Moreover, many of the animals traded and killed at the markets are threatened with extinction. In fact, global wildlife experts say trade in live wild animals is one of the biggest threats to the survival of some species.

Health authorities have long cautioned the world about the risks these markets pose to human health: wildlife markets have been implicated in the spread of several disease outbreaks in recent years, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bird flu, Ebola and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The novel coronavirus pandemic was traced to a wildlife market in Wuhan, China.

Now, we hope to see decisive permanent action from key nations to end the wildlife trade and its connections to pandemic risk. China in February announced a ban on wildlife consumption as food, but it has not yet codified that ban into law. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese authorities are offering tax breaks to the multibillion-dollar animal products industry for the export of wild animals.

Around the world, the trade in wildlife continues. The United States, where hundreds of thousands of wild animals are imported and commercially traded each year, is a WHO member state, and we urge the federal government here, as well as state governments, to crack down on the wildlife trade to minimize the likelihood of another pandemic. This trade causes tremendous suffering to millions of animals each year and now, with the novel coronavirus sickening nearly two million people worldwide and killing more than 120,000, the writing is on the wall. The wildlife trade is rife with dangers, and the sooner we put an end to it, the safer the world will be.

The post World Health Organization says nations should end wildlife trade appeared first on A Humane World.

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HSUS sues USDA over policies that risk future pandemics

April 8, 2020 0 Comments

Today the Humane Society of the United States filed a federal lawsuit challenging the response plan for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (or “bird flu”) of the United States Department of Agriculture. The response plan, produced by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, is shortsighted and dangerous.

For years, the HSUS has been warning USDA and the factory farm industry of the imminent threat of a pandemic resulting from zoonotic pathogens — diseases transmitted from animals to humans—that are closely associated with the intensive confinement of animals.

Influenza spreads within factory farms directly from animal to animal or by way of workers, flies, manure, and rodents. When thousands of animals are tightly confined it creates a recipe for disaster, in which potential pathogens can recombine and generate viral forms with the ability to infect people.

While the COVID-19 pandemic likely resulted from a wildlife market and the wildlife trade,prior deadly and costly outbreaks of pathogenic illness in the global food chain have been linked to farm animals. For instance, a 2003 bird flu outbreak came from infected chickens and the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak that sickened nearly 60 million people was linked to U.S. pig farms.

Five years ago, seeing the threat of potential disease outbreaks based on farm animal to human transmission, we asked APHIS to consider how its Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza control plan could help prevent the development and spread of bird flu. The HSUS suggested a plan that would incentivize producers to give animals room to move naturally, instead of the industrialized norm which often involves cramming birds into cages. Giving animals more space would reduce the risk of mutation and spread of disease. But APHIS went in another direction, with a plan that essentially subsidizes the extreme confinement of animals that causes the threat in the first place.

During a typical outbreak of zoonotic disease, APHIS’s response is often to slowly suffocate and cook millions of conscious birds to death through a method called ventilation shutdown. This involves shutting down a facility’s entire ventilation system causing carbon dioxide and heat to build up. The animals’ bodies are piled up and burned or dumped together. This entire process releases fluids and gases, like dioxin—a toxin linked to cancer, liver and immune system damage, birth defects, and reproductive problems.

Under the APHIS plan, the companies that stuffed these animals in cages or warehouses are to be reimbursed with taxpayer dollars and allowed to continue cruelly confining birds so that this wasteful, cruel and self-defeating cycle can begin again. Between 2014 and 2016 more than 50 million birds (egg laying hens, chickens raised for meat, turkeys and others) were killed across more than a dozen states in an effort to contain a bird flu outbreak. This did as much as three billion dollars’ worth of damage to the U.S. economy, and APHIS spent over $900 million cleaning up the mess it describes as the most serious animal health disease incident in history.

An outbreak response plan that indemnifies factory farms in this way isn’t just cruel; it represents a threat to human health. As our lawsuit makes clear, the USDA’s approach foolishly props up practices that threaten not just Americans but countless others around the globe with more frequent and more life-threatening pandemics.

We advise a better direction. Our federal government should require producers to agree to end their intensive confinement of chickens in cages and shift to cage-free systems that give the birds dramatically more space and ability to engage in healthy, natural behaviors. Preventing outbreaks is far cheaper than trying to contain them, and investments in prevention pay off a whole lot more than the perpetuation of a failed and dangerous paradigm like intensive confinement. Bringing an end to government response plans that reimburse the perpetrators of such reckless practices would be a good start.

The lawsuit was prepared and filed by pro bono counsel at the law firm Shearman & Sterling, LLP and the HSUS’s Animal Protection Litigation team.

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

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

December 19, 2019

President Trump has just 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.

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 the 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: The House committee report presses the USDA Inspector General to strengthen its animal fighting enforcement and to audit the USDA’s enforcement of the AWA, HPA and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Humane slaughter of farm animals: Renews bill and report language directing the 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.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

America’s New Animal Cruelty Law Ignores 99% of Animal Cruelty

Ari Solomon    News

As an animal activist, I truly want to celebrate any step forward for animals. On one hand, it makes me very happy that President Trump signed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act into law yesterday. (And yes, it’s difficult for this diehard liberal to admit that Trump actually did something good, but even a broken clock is right twice a day).

The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously – something truly remarkable in these divided times – expands on the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act and increases the punishment for instances of animal cruelty, making them felony crimes.

The new law was heralded by many in the animal protection movement. Kitty Block, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, had this to say: “PACT makes a statement about American values. Animals are deserving of protection at the highest level. The approval of this measure by the Congress and the president marks a new era in the codification of kindness to animals within federal law. For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.”

Now, like I said, I agree that this is a positive step. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that this new law completely ignores 99 percent of the animal cruelty that routinely takes place every single day in the United States.

According to The Washington Post, the PACT Act “outlines exemptions for humane euthanasia; slaughter for food; recreational activities such as hunting, trapping and fishing; medical and scientific research; ‘normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice’; and actions that are necessary ‘to protect the life or property of a person.’”

Of course animal cruelty to dogs and cats by private citizens should be dealt with severely. But what about the billions of animals tortured each year on America’s factory farms? Or how about the tens of thousands of animals, including dogs and cats, who are tested on and mistreated in laboratories?

Can we actually say we’re cracking down on animal cruelty when we still allow SeaWorld to keep cetaceans captive and force them to perform? Or permit insanely cruel practices like fur trapping and bow hunting?

My objective is not to trash Ms. Block or even President Trump on this issue (though Trump’s record on animals is pretty abysmal), but merely to point out that animal cruelty is still animal cruelty, even when it’s done for money or recreation or sport. In fact, we should take those cases of abuse even more seriously because they affect so many more animals. One sick fuck torturing his dog is abhorrent, but what about a business that tortures thousands in a laboratory or a puppy mill?

As society’s view of what constitutes animal cruelty evolves, so will our laws. But, in the meantime, it’s the animals who needlessly suffer day in and day out. Sadly, the PACT Act leaves the overwhelming majority of those animals no better off than they were before.

Main image: Anna Moneymaker / The New York Times 


Breaking news: Washington governor signs historic law to end cage confinement of egg-laying hens

Breaking news: Washington governor signs historic law to end cage confinement of egg-laying hens

May 7, 2019

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has just signed into law the strongest protections for egg-laying hens ever passed in any state legislature. This historic win will benefit approximately eight million hens each year, freeing them from cage confinement by the end of 2023. The measure builds upon our previous work in states like California and Massachusetts where voters have passed transformational ballot measures against the cage confinement of farm animals in recent years.

Washington’s new law phases out the production and sale of eggs from caged hens, regardless of where the eggs were produced.

In a typical cage facility, each bird has less space than the dimensions of an iPad on which to live her entire life. While cage-free does not equal cruelty-free, this measure will significantly reduce the birds’ suffering. In addition to banning cages and requiring more space per bird, the law also mandates that hens be provided with vital enrichments, including scratch areas, perches, nesting and dust bathing areas.

The HSUS has spearheaded the passage of this law and others in a dozen states — from Florida to Ohio to Arizona — to eliminate extreme confinement. These successes bolster the work we have done with some of the largest food corporations in recent years, both in the United States and globally, to end cruel cage confinement practices by their suppliers. As a result, lawmakers and corporations are increasingly realizing that the future is cage-free.

In Washington, we partnered with Democratic and Republican legislators, key stakeholders in the agricultural sector, and other leading animal protection groups to ensure the bill’s success. It is a remarkable illustration of how good people in all walks of life can come together to create lasting and transformational change for animals. The HSUS will continue to work with lawmakers, non-government organizations, volunteers, donors and other members of the public to continue paving the way toward this more humane reality.

Let’s take a moment to celebrate today’s remarkable win for animals. But let’s also keep in mind that billions of farm animals around the world are still suffering in cruel cages. The laws in Washington, California and Massachusetts set a great precedent for other states and countries to follow, and further support corporate policy commitments reforming how farm animals are raised. Let’s keep the momentum going as we work toward the day when no farm animal is locked in a cage.

Harsher penalties sought for poachers

BOSTON — An unlikely alliance between animal protection groups and hunters is driving a proposal for stiffer penalties for those who poach deer, turkey and other wild game.

Under the proposal, which is being considered by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, violators would face hefty new fines, license suspension and jail time for multiple offenses.

Massachusetts has become known as a “paradise” for poachers because of its outdated game laws and paltry fines that do little to deter illegal hunting, trapping and fishing, according to one animal protection advocate.

“Illegal hunting and fishing damage conservation efforts, affect future generations of wildlife, create challenges for law enforcement and threaten our state economy,” said Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, a primary sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives.

“This is a proposal that will preserve the rights of law-abiding hunters while protecting our wildlife and natural resources.”

Backed by 70 lawmakers, the bill has strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Local co-sponsors include Reps. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester; Paul Tucker, D-Salem; Linda Campbell, D-Methuen; Brad Hill, R-Ipswich; as well as Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem.

The proposal also would add the Bay State to the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, a national database that shares information about suspected poachers and the suspension of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses.

Massachusetts is one of only two states, including Hawaii, that hasn’t joined the pact.

Animal protection groups say joining the pact would help change the state’s reputation as a safe haven for poachers.

“Right now, we’re unfortunately known as a paradise for poachers,” said Stephanie Harris, Massachusetts state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

“They know they can come here and poach animals and not face consequences, even if they’ve been convicted of illegal hunting in their own state.”

Under the pact, hunters who have been convicted of poaching or had their licenses revoked elsewhere would be prevented from getting one in Massachusetts.

Hunting groups, which seldom side with animal protection organizations on proposed legislation, are onboard with the tougher fines and penalties.

Under current game laws, the vast majority of poaching offenses carry as much weight as a parking ticket.

Some fines haven’t been updated in more than a century.

“Many of the fines for poaching are too low, which isn’t a deterrent,” Ehrlich said. “They’re basically letting willful offenders off with a slap on the wrist.”

Under the proposed changes, fines for killing a deer or turkey out of season or without a hunting license would rise from a low of $300 to a high of $3,000 per offense.

Violators could also face up to six months in prison.

Illegal killings of a bird of prey, which are protected species, will cost poachers up to $10,000 for multiple offenses, including up to a year in prison.

The proposal also adds smaller animals that now bring no fines for poaching.

Poaching a raccoon, rabbit or gray squirrel could cost you $50 per animal.

Last year, lawmakers increased fines for commercial and recreational fish poaching as part of a $2 billion environmental bond bill signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.

In the past three years, state environmental police have reported 2,242 wildlife and hunting violations, including hunting without a license and hunting on wildlife refuges or on other lands where it’s off limits, according to the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Police made 183 arrests for illegal hunting during that period and issued more $63,000 in fines, according to the state agency.

Supporters of the tougher sanctions say poaching is rampant in the state’s forests and parkland and is mostly unpunished.

Wildlife officials estimate that for every animal harvested legally, at least one other is poached.

A similar plan was approved by the Senate last year but wasn’t taken up by the House before the end of the legislative session.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.