This week, lawmakers introduced a swirl of major reforms to help animals, taxpayers

By on March 31, 2017 with 9 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

A few years ago, a group of very special citizens trekked from a number of states to Capitol Hill to lobby for a ban on shark finning in U.S. waters. Some of them had a bit of difficulty getting around, parts of their legs missing. Other took extra time to dress for the occasion, given the difficulties presented by such injuries as the loss of one arm.

Each one of these Americans had been a victim of a shark attack, and had lived to tell about it. Yet, in spite of their searing, life-changing experiences, they came to Washington to call upon other humans to stop maiming sharks.

It was an extraordinary expression of humanity. If even these folks – who had bitter experiences with animals – could advocate for protection, what about those of us who’ve known only joy and kinship with animals. Couldn’t we advocate for them, too, and with no troubling experience to overcome?

These citizen-lobbyists will now have an opportunity to dust off their talking points and get back to Capitol Hill, since Sens. Shelley Capito, R-W.V., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., have introduced legislation to fortify the laws against finning by banning any sale of shark fins in the United States. That bill has very impressive support, with five Senate Republicans and six Senate Democrats backing it. With nearly a dozen states having enacted bans on the sale of fins, there’s fantastic momentum for this bill.

This was quite a week on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers introducing more than a half-dozen major pieces of animal protection legislation on a wide range of subjects of concern to animal advocates.

Reps. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Ryan Costello, R-Pa., introduced legislation to ban circuses from exploiting wild animals. With Ringling Bros. – long the political protector of wild animal acts – shutting down its business by May, there’s a new political environment and new opportunities to get this bill done.

In another bipartisan effort, Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., teamed up on Thursday to introduce the Big Cat Public Safety Act, to prohibit the possession and breeding of such animals by private individuals and other unqualified parties. There’s just no reason for private citizens to have tigers or lions in their backyards or basements.

Earlier this week, I wrote about Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Booker, and Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., and Dina Titus, D-Nev., introducing companion bills to address the diversion of tens of millions of dollars in government funds to salaries, lobbying, and other inappropriate and impermissible activities undertaken through commodity check-off programs. This legislation, which has brought The HSUS and HSLF together with the Heritage Foundation and the Organization of Competitive Markets, would prevent the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, and other trade groups from diverting funds from check-off programs to fund their staff and lobbying efforts, especially when so many rank-and-file farmers oppose this tax in the first place and certainly don’t want the money spent to fight things they care about.

Yesterday, I wrote about an additional show of legislative horsepower, with U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., introducing the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Nearly half the lawmakers in the U.S. House joined Reps. Yoho and Schrader in a quest to close loopholes in the almost 50-year-old Horse Protection Act that have enabled the cruelty of horse soring to persist.

Also in the House, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced a bill to ban the use of sodium cyanide in M-44 devices and poisonous Compound 1080 in livestock collars for predator control by the USDA’s Wildlife Services program. Earlier this month, there were reports of three dogs killed by M-44s, deadly devices used by the program to kill wild animals.

These bills, varied in the reforms they seek, amount to a robust animal protection agenda, along with more than a half-dozen other major bills previously introduced in the House (including banning the sale of dog and cat meat, prohibiting the slaughter of horses, creating a new federal anti-cruelty law, and allowing domestic violence centers to add animal sheltering capacity). They’re all common-sense measures, with a diverse coalition of backers.

With Congress recently having taken adverse action against animals by opening up national wildlife refuges in Alaska to appalling and unsporting practices – by repealing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule that stopped barbaric methods of killing – legislators now have a chance to show some heart for animals by passing these sensible reforms. The bills introduced this week are just part of a broader agenda that makes sense for our country and for animals.

Companion Animals, Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Susan Whitehead says:

    With the action of this Congress to approve such grievous animal violations in Alaska, how can we assume they could approve any humane animal laws? Voting to defend sharks while also voting to kill baby bears in their dens hardly seems to indicate rational thinking and more probably would validate the corrupt influence of special interests in their decision making and voting. I am more discouraged with our government than I ever have been. My strong support goes to the HSLF in this daunting time.

    • Cynthia Rodgers says:


      I’m in complete agreement with your comments.

    • Carole Giacomazzo says:

      It is encouraging to read about these various bills being introduced and hopefully passed, however, I am still angry about the bill passed through Congress and already signed by the president that gives the okay to kill bears and their cubs, and wolves and their pups, to be killed while in their dens. This is terribly inhumane and very cruel. It’s bad enough that hunters and sharpshooters fly around in planes or helicopters, chasing these animals and killing them as they try to flee. For what reason? Is this conservation? No, it’s murder. This bill needs to be rescinded, however it can be done.

      Our government is way too involved in trying to change the balance of nature across our country. It seems that cattle and sheep ranchers think they should be the only grazers on our lands in the west. Our wild horses and burros have been suffering at the hands of the BLM (government) using helicopters to round them up and corral them for long periods of time. Then the government either puts them up for sale or adoption and complains about the cost of feeding them while holding them in these pens or corrals. Our horses and burros only use ~14% of the land for forage. They have lived for many, many years on these lands, way before the ranchers came to the west. These are herds or bands, i.e., horse families that are cruelly separated from each other, stallions, mares and their
      foals, during these round-ups. In many of these round-ups, the babies are left behind, separated from their families, left alone to fend for themselves. If various rescue organizations didn’t help these foals, they would die, and some have died. Is this humane? Is this what our government should be doing with taxpayer dollars? I don’t think so. If it weren’t for the many private rescue groups helping out throughout our western states, these wild horses and burros wouldn’t have a chance for survival. Thank you to all who have helped them live.
      I have read that the government wants the land to use for gas and oil exploration? Is this why our horses and burros are now being treated so badly? I wonder if selling them to “kill buyers” is still taking place in these states out west ? They are then sold to other countries for horsemeat through these “kill buyers”. I have many questions, wondering if HSUS has any answers? Thank you.

  2. Tamika Cheek says:

    I am so troubled by the actions of Congress. I concur with Susan Whitehead.

  3. patti conroy says:

    ? where to donate?

  4. Kasya Ro says:

    This is a very sad outcome of policies of our government , very disappointed. We should make our voices stronger for animal rights and don’t give up !

  5. Luba Shapiro says:

    Open a campaign to block this nonsensical reforms. I am sure thousands and thousands will sign a petition. HSUS – use Change or Causes – any venue. Just blogging will not do anything

  6. Dani Duran says:

    I agree with Susan Whitehead; If you can murder baby wolves and bears in their den with this administrations blessing; What chance does any other living creature have?????
    I am extremely discouraged at this time and absolutely heartbroken at the response to the Alaska animal crisis!!!

  7. Marcia Cooper says:

    Absolutely, in agreement with all the policies you have set forth.

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