This week, the U.S. Senate is expected to take up the Farm Bill—an omnibus agriculture policy bill that the Congress typically delves into every five years.
If you remember, the House passed its Farm Bill in July, and there were two animal protection measures unanimously approved as amendments on the floor—a provision to prevent pet theft and abuse by prohibiting the use in research of dogs and cats obtained from random source dealers (known as Class B dealers) and a provision to restrict the use of live animals in marketing demonstrations of medical devices.
The Senate Agriculture Committee approved its Farm Bill a couple of weeks ago, and the measure is expected to hit the floor today. The Class B dealer amendment is expected to be offered by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), and the live animals in sales demonstrations amendment is also likely to be considered. There are two other pro-animal amendments planned, and at least one amendment that we must fight.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the Majority Whip, is expected to offer an amendment to restrict the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills—an ugly and largely unknown facet of an industry we thought could hardly be any worse. This measure will require that any dog imported into the United States for sale to the pet trade be at least six months old.
A growing number of breeders in China, former Soviet bloc countries, Mexico and other countries see the United States as a potential market, even though we have a large domestic dog breeding industry and millions of pets available from U.S. breeders and animal shelters (with 3 to 4 million dogs and cats euthanized annually in U.S. shelters).
There is little to no regulatory oversight for these puppies as they’re mass produced in foreign countries under often inhumane conditions. The puppies endure harsh long-distance air transport, typically at less than 10 weeks of age, crammed tightly into cargo containers and sometimes exposed to extreme temperatures. The transit is highly stressful for the animals and encourages the spread of disease. As a result, many puppies arrive dead or seriously ill.
© The HSUS/Riley
A fighting dog seized in Franklin County, Ohio.
And Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is likely to offer an amendment to upgrade the federal law against dogfighting, increasing penalties for illegal dogfighting activities, making it a federal offense to train fighting dogs or be a spectator at a dogfight, and allowing prosecution of dogfighters even if there is no evidence of interstate transport of specific fighting dogs.
There is at least one hostile amendment we must fend off, too. We oppose an amendment that may be offered by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who has been a leader on stopping horse slaughter and is generally a very close friend and ally of The HSUS, to allow the sale of small turtles at pet stores for the first time since 1975. The prohibition on small turtle sales—in place for over 30 years and still supported by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—remains essential to protecting animal welfare and maintaining sound public health policy. This year, a 4-week-old girl died due to Salmonella exposure from a pet turtle. If the ban were lifted, tens of thousands of turtles would be subjected to inhumane handling and transport, all for pocket pets that kids can and, for their health, should do without.
We are also on the lookout for possible amendments to provide more subsidies for factory farms, also known as Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs, and to exempt them from key environmental laws.
So, today, please spread the word and contact your two U.S. Senators, urging them to support Farm Bill amendments that promote animal welfare and to oppose amendments that work against the interests of animals. You may want to add a special plug for the Class B dealer issue—urging your senators to support the Akaka amendment to ban the use of random source dogs and cats in research. HBO documented the extreme animal cruelty and illegal acquisition of dogs by notorious Class B dealer C.C. Baird in a documentary called "Dealing Dogs".
Please call your two U.S. Senators today (202-224-3121 is the switchboard number) and urge them to support the Akaka amendment on Class B dealers and all other animal welfare amendments to the Farm Bill. Urge them to oppose the turtle sales amendment and any effort to subsidize CAFOs or shield them from important environmental laws.