The United States has completed its always momentous quadrennial presidential election, which in this case produced spending exceeding $2 billion between the campaigns, super PACs and other outside spenders. Thousands of other races decided at the federal, state, and local levels cost billions more when aggregated.
But elections just set the cast of characters hired by the American people to work on public policy — work that must continue even in a moment of transition. For members of the nation’s 112th Congress, it’s time to get back to the task of making and shaping policy. With so much at stake in the election, an enormous amount of work was delayed and will now need to be tackled during a lame-duck session between now and the end of the year. Animal welfare issues, including strengthening the federal animal fighting law, retiring chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries, and banning barren battery cages for egg-laying hens, hang in the balance.
A number of states, too, will have lame-duck sessions. One state we're paying particular attention to is Ohio, where puppy mill and anti-cockfighting legislation are overdue for action.
With his election to a second term, it is our great hope that President Obama will focus more attention on animal welfare issues and strengthen his record in this arena. These issues were not part of the main discourse during the long campaign, but they are important concerns for tens of millions of Americans, and certainly for HSUS and its constituents.
Chuck Cook for The HSUS
These are some of the items for the Obama administration to act upon, with some of them ripe and ready for final action.
● Puppy Mills: Issue two final rules to protect dogs in puppy mills. The first rule would close a loophole which permits large-scale, commercial breeders who sell puppies directly to consumers, including on the Internet, to escape basic oversight under the Animal Welfare Act. The second rule would implement legislation passed by Congress in 2008 to prevent the import of sick, young puppies from foreign puppy mills for resale in the United States.
● Downer Calves: Close a regulatory loophole that allows the abuse of downer calves too sick or injured to walk on their own and require that all non-ambulatory disabled calves be immediately and humanely euthanized.
● Factory Farming: End taxpayer subsidies to the pork industry. The government has been providing hundreds of millions in buy-ups of surplus pork, but asking nothing of the industry in terms of animal welfare reforms. The Obama administration, when it provided subsidies to the automotive industry, called for higher fuel efficiency standards, and it should give no more money to the industry until it develops a transition plan away from gestation crates.
● Chimpanzees: List all chimpanzees as endangered, phase out invasive experiments, and permanently retire these chimpanzees to sanctuaries.
● Wild Horses: Improve the Wild Horse and Burro program by increasing the number of mares treated with immunocontraceptive fertility control, improving care and handling procedures to ensure humane treatment, and decreasing the number of horses removed from the range and held in costly federal facilities.
● Horse Slaughter: Classify all horses without a proven lifetime medical history as condemned and unqualified for human consumption. Hundreds of veterinary drugs are administered to horses throughout their lives, many of which are expressly prohibited for use in animals produced for food.
● Lethal Wildlife Control: Ban the use of sodium cyanide (currently used in M-44 capsules) and Compound 1080 for predator control. These lethal, dangerous, and unnecessary poisons present risks to wildlife, human safety, family pets, and the environment, and the claimed benefits are largely illusory and limited to a few commercial interests. The administration should also thoroughly audit Wildlife Services, especially its lethal predator control program. This program is ineffective and costly, with millions of tax dollars spent to benefit a small number of private businesses and interests. The EPA must impose stricter labeling requirements and application procedures for Avitrol, a dangerous and inhumane poison targeting urban birds, in order to protect animals who continue to suffer from its indiscriminate use.
● North Atlantic Right Whales: Reauthorize and expand an expiring rule that requires ships to slow in right whale hot spots. Revise critical habitat to protect key feeding and birthing areas and to reduce the risk of the whales being struck by ships, entangled in fishing gear, and exposed to other dangers.
● Large Constrictor Snakes: List the reticulated python, the DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda, the Beni anaconda and the boa constrictor as injurious under the Lacey Act. This would prohibit the import and interstate transport of these snakes as pets, as the administration has already done for four species of snakes posing a similar risk to natural resources.
● Exotic Animals: Prohibit AWA-licensed exhibitors from allowing public contact with big cats, bears, or primates. Allowing individuals other than trained employees or veterinarians to come into direct contact or unsafe close contact with these animals at any age poses a risk to animal welfare and public safety. Finalize a proposed rule to regulate breeding of captive tigers.
● African Lions: Grant petition to list the African lion as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
If you have not yet written your congressional representative about the federal animal fighting law, the retirement of chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries, and the prohibition of barren battery cages for egg-laying hens, please do so now.