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August 02, 2007

Congress Considers Flurry of Animal Protection Measures

There's been a remarkable amount of activity on animal protection issues in Congress in recent days, in the lead-up to the August recess, which runs about a month through Labor Day. I wanted to provide a quick report to show you the progress we are making, and that your calls and letters do indeed make a very big difference.

  • Last week, I reported on the House accepting legislation on the Farm Bill to ban "random source" dealers of dogs and cats to research and ban the use of live animals in medical marketing demonstrations. The Senate has not yet moved its Farm bill, but we will advocate including similar provisions in its measure, in order to see that these animal protection provisions are part of the final Farm Bill sent to the President. We are especially grateful to Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) for advocating for these reforms, and also to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for agreeing to include these provisions in the Farm Bill.
  • Also last week, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment to its Fiscal Year 2008 Homeland Security spending bill to require humane treatment of Border Patrol horses who become ill, injured or aged. The amendment, sought by long-time animal champion Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), requires that any such horse used by the U.S. Border Patrol can be adopted by the horse’s trainer or handler, rather than being put down, and the amendment includes safeguards to ensure that adopted horses will not subsequently be sold for slaughter or treated inhumanely.
  • Harp seal at Canadian seal huntOn Monday of this week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution, H.Res. 427, on the floor condemning Canada's barbaric seal hunt. The measure was sponsored by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), and Chairman Lantos and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) spoke powerfully in favor of the provision. Many thanks to these lawmakers for sending a shot across the bow to Canada's government. The Canadian seal hunt is the world's largest slaughter of marine mammals, and it is a sickening spectacle, to be sure.
  • Today, the House is poised to approve its version of the Fiscal Year 2008 Agriculture spending bill, and it will include a strong provision barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture from spending any funds to allow inspections of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption. We are grateful to House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) for her leadership on the issue, and also to Reps. John Spratt (D-S.C.), Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) for successfully advancing this amendment. The Senate will take up its own Agriculture spending bill in September, and we will work to include anti-horse slaughter language in that bill, too.

    young brown horse
    © iStockphoto

    I know that the horse slaughter issue has been confusing to our supporters, since there have been many votes in Congress on the issue, a series of state legislative fights, and multiple cases in the federal courts. Let me just summarize by saying this: we shut down the two slaughter plants in Texas earlier this year and they don't seem to have any real prospect of reopening in the near future; the Illinois slaughter plant in DeKalb that had been shut down reopened, but it's operating on borrowed time given a new state law that bans slaughter and the pending action by the federal courts and the Congress; and there are still exports of live horses to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico.

    The HSUS is focused on permanently shutting down the Illinois plant, making sure no new plants open up in any other state, and cutting off the supply of live American horses to foreign slaughterhouses. You'll be hearing more calls to action from us, and all of the actions we take are designed to allow us to achieve the aforementioned goals.
  • Mother pig and babies The Agriculture spending bills in the House and Senate have record funding for enforcement programs for the nation's animal welfare laws. The HSUS organized letters, signed by more than 200 members of Congress, to the leaders of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee urging higher funding levels for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, as well as funds to help develop disaster preparations and response for pets and other animals and sustain a new program to ease the critical shortage of veterinarians in rural and inner-city areas and public health practice. We are grateful to Senate Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Ranking Member Robert Bennett (R-Utah), and House Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Ranking Member Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).
  • The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday approved the Captive Primate Safety Act (S. 1498) to ban the interstate transport of primates for the pet trade. The HSUS estimates there are 15,000 captive primates in private hands in the United States. The animals suffer in captivity, and they pose a threat to people. The bill is co-authored by Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Senator David Vitter (R-La.). We are also grateful to Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) for his support. Next stop is a vote on the bill in the full Senate. We hope to see action after Labor Day in the House Natural Resources Committee on a companion bill, H.R. 2964, introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
  • I also want to pass on the good news that, at The HSUS's request, the House Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs included language in its report to protect wildlife. Specifically, the Committee report language reads as follows:

    The Committee is concerned about reports that USAID directly and indirectly supports recreational, sport and trophy hunting in its assistance programs in Africa. The Committee directs USAID to provide no funds to programs that support or promote recreational, sport or trophy hunting as a conservation tool.

    The use of federal tax dollars to promote trophy hunting of African elephants, leopards and other wildlife has been a long-standing concern, and we are grateful to House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) for her support of this provision.
  • Fighting pit bull dog hiding in tubeIn response to the massive attention recently on dogfighting, there's been a surge of interest in upgrading the federal law against this criminal activity. Last week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) introduced S. 1880/H.R. 3219 to strengthen the federal penalties against dogfighting, and make it a felony to engage in dogfighting, possess dogs for fighting or be a spectator at a dogfight. It is a federal felony now to move dogs across state lines for fighting purposes, so the Kerry/Sutton bill would upgrade that law by eliminating the need for the feds to prove that dogs were moved in interstate commerce to make a case. Reps. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) also today plan to introduce a strong anti-dogfighting bill in the House. Reps. Gallegly, Blumenauer and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) were the co-authors of the legislation passed earlier this Congress that made it a federal felony to move any fighting animal across state lines or the American border.

I remind our staff at The HSUS that our members support us because they want results. As head of the organization, I demand results every day. The results mentioned above—still works in progress in many cases—are evidence that your time and dollar investments in our work spawn an enormous amount of activity and, more importantly, tangible results to prevent suffering. Stick with us as we charge ahead on these important battles.

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