The state of the animal union under the Trump administration

By on February 5, 2019 with 10 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

As President Donald Trump prepares to deliver his State of the Union address today, it’s a good time to take stock of how his administration has dealt with animal protection issues of interest to us at the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

President Trump has expressed his personal distaste for trophy hunting — to his credit — but in the past two years, we have also seen aggressive moves by the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to undo years of work done by previous administrations to save wildlife at risk of extinction globally and in Alaska. Moreover, the government has made blatant handouts to trophy hunters. The animal protection field has also had to grapple with a U.S. Department of Agriculture blackout of important information that groups like ours and the American public rely upon to ensure animals are not suffering.

On balance, it would be fair to say that the impact of federal agencies over the past two years on animal protection has been more negative than positive. Some of the areas where we saw the Trump administration fail include:

  • The blackout of thousands of Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act inspection and enforcement records from the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, making it harder for Americans to learn which puppy mills, roadside zoos and research facilities, among other enterprises, are failing to comply with animal protection laws. The USDA has also cut back drastically on the number of warnings, official complaints and license revocations it applies to the worst puppy mills and other Animal Welfare Act violators.
  • Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke illegally established the “International Wildlife Conservation Council,” an advisory panel stacked with people who have an interest in killing or importing rare and endangered animals from overseas. The administration also lifted the import ban on Zimbabwe elephant and lion trophies.
  • Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service proposed weakening the Endangered Species Act, creating additional roadblocks to securing comprehensive protections for threatened species, and to make the process of removing species from the ESA easier.
  • The Department of the Interior proposed rolling back an Obama-era regulation that banned some of the worst and most appalling hunting practices on 20 million acres of federal public lands in Alaska, including using artificial light to kill hibernating bears and their cubs, shooting wolf and coyote pups and mothers in their dens, using bait to attract brown and black bears, shooting vulnerable swimming caribou and using dogs to hunt black bears. This, just after Congress revoked similar protections on 76 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge lands in Alaska in 2017.
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act, and the Department of Justice committed funds for legal fights in the federal courts to make this administration action permanent.

We did see the Trump administration take some positive steps to help animals, including:

  • The National Park Service began work to augment the Isle Royale, Michigan, wolf population by introducing 20 to 30 wolves over a three-year period. New wolves will restore ecological balance to Isle Royale’s ecosystem.
  • The Food and Drug Administration pledged to conduct an independent, third-party investigation of the agency’s animal research programs, establishing a new Animal Welfare Council, and reaffirming its commitment to replacing, reducing and refining animal studies by creating a road map with this focus.
  • The National Marine Fisheries Service designated critical habitat for the Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale distinct population segment, although the area is smaller than many advocates had sought.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency released its strategic plan to promote the development and implementation of non-animal test methods.

We are also grateful that the USDA decided to abandon a proposal to outsource some inspections of puppy mills, roadside zoos and research laboratories to third-party inspectors. If implemented, the proposal would have essentially allowed these industries to police themselves and severely undermined protections for millions of animals.

As we look forward to 2019, we encourage the Trump administration to take necessary steps to prioritize transparency and to advance key animal welfare reforms, such as:

  • A proposed USDA rule to tighten licensing requirements for dog dealers and exhibitors, as well as strengthen requirements for dog dealers to provide basic care requirements.
  • A significant increase in the use of population growth suppression tools to manage wild horse and burro populations on our public rangelands. The Department of the Interior must also abandon past proposals to send wild horses and burros to slaughter.
  • Mitigating the harm being caused to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, including taking measures to reduce deadly entanglements in lobster gear and other trap/pot fisheries gear, and to reduce the risk of vessel strikes by imposing mandatory ship speed limits in additional areas of seasonal high use along the east coast.
  • Prioritizing the relocation of chimpanzees currently owned and supported by the federal government to the national sanctuary, Chimp Haven. The National Institutes of Health should also prioritize approaches to replacing animals in harmful research that not only represent the best available science, but could also prevent the suffering of millions of animals in laboratories each year.

Congress recently demonstrated that animal protection is a bipartisan value, with members from both sides of the aisle coming together to introduce bills to attack horse soring, horse slaughter, shark finning and malicious animal cruelty. We hope that in the coming year, we will see more of an effort by the administration to work for, and not against, animals. Animal protection is an American value and most of us — Republicans and Democrats — do not want to see innocent creatures hurt or killed needlessly.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

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

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10 Comments

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  1. Sally Palmer says:

    Excellent report. Thank you for keeping us informed on efforts we need to support or oppose to increase legal protection for animals.

  2. Rose says:

    I detest Trump. He lifted the ban by Obama to now enable big game hunters to bring back their dead wildlife “trophies”, elephants to the U.S. Trumps buddy, billionaire Stan Kroenke, donated 1 million dollars to Trumps campaign. Kroenke us married to Walmart heiress and is a “trophy” hunter and created a t.v. channel in Great Britain showing the killing of elephants and other wildlife in Africa. Trump is a nightmare.

  3. Cara Huerta says:

    Stop the killings !!! Animals have rights too ! Let them be in their own habitat !

  4. Suz Adler says:

    If you go into homes of members of the IWCC and the “extended arm” of the IWCC, you will find tacky furniture made of elephant legs and as well as disturbing dead animal menageries. It is a blessing Zinke and his deputy are gone. Please keep digging into these organizations. Several of the members are not that smart and push the envelope where they shouldn’t.

  5. Jean says:

    Blessings to you all for the work that you do. I so appreciate your relentless efforts on behalf of the animals. Gradually attitudes are changing for the better.

  6. Teresa Lehman says:

    I support our President but sadly I seen no evidence of him having animals in his life. He needs constant education and reminding that animal welfare is extremely important in this country so he knows what to fight for. And importantly to me I really want nonbiased political bashing. The animals don’t need that and certainly don’t care who’s democratic or republican. Just the truthful facts on who really wants to help them. I need to know who honesty to support to get the help the animals need. My heart breaks for every animal suffering, and horses are one of the greatest gifts from GOD, my opinion.

  7. Karen Wonnell says:

    The sorry, lazy, cowards called trophy hunters is a bane to the human race.’Lazy sorts that shoot swimming dear, denning, a most disgraceful thing, who could call themselves humans that would kill sleeping bears and babies, wolf moms and babies in their homes, use food to lure bears and deer to their death, while the fat, lazy slobs sit in a tree and murder them. Sick and should not be allowed to be done by a humane nation. I was hoping the powers that be would see the sick things going on and use their power to make AMERICA GREAT but so far no good. Shameful and oh so disheartning. I just cannot wrap my mind around how ANYONE could so the above things and call themselves a human being. Ug!!

    • Kym Froude says:

      The powers that be are NOT GOING TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT when the President’s sons are trophy hunters who are also members of elite hunting groups. These groups are constantly meeting and looking for new ways to lobby gov’t officials so they can import their overseas kills for their menageries. Heck, Trump’s sons recommended members for the IWCC!

  8. Sandy says:

    What about the lead back in bullets?

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