By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Given the highly polarized atmosphere in Washington, DC, these days, our crucial bipartisan wins for animals in 2019 give great cause for celebration. Thanks to the support and engagement of countless Americans, we hit our marks this year. We succeeded in getting one of our highest priorities, a landmark federal anti-cruelty bill, signed into law. And that’s not all. Read on to learn about some of the other achievements you helped to make possible.
The Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, P.L. 116-72, enacted on November 25 following unanimous approval in the Senate and House, strengthens the 2010 federal animal “crush video” law by banning extreme animal cruelty in or affecting interstate commerce regardless of whether a video was produced.
The Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 693, won a sweeping bipartisan vote of 333-96 in the House in July, and S. 1007, the identical companion bill, counts half the Senate as cosponsors. The PAST Act cracks down on the cruel practice of “soring” Tennessee Walking Horses and related breeds.
With our urging, Congress moved forward on measures to address some of the most urgent threats to the world’s iconic and at-risk wild species, including:
- Wildlife trafficking—The Rescuing Animals With Rewards (RAWR) Act, H.R. 97/S. 1590, passed both the House and Senate. It authorizes the U.S. Department of State to target wildlife traffickers globally and combat international crime networks, including terrorist organizations. We hope to see the President sign this bill into law soon.
- Sharks—The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, H.R. 737/S. 877, passed the House by a resounding 310-107 vote in November, having cleared the Senate Commerce Committee in April. It prohibits the commercial trade in this country of shark fins and products containing shark fins, thereby reducing global demand for shark fins, helping reduce cruel finning and protecting ocean ecosystems.
- Whales—The Scientific Assistance for Very Endangered (SAVE) North Atlantic Right Whales Act, H.R. 1568/S. 2453, won approval by the House Natural Resources Committee in October and the Senate Commerce Committee in November. With no more than 400 North Atlantic right whales surviving, this bill provides vital federal funding for research to develop, test and use innovative technologies and other strategies to reduce the two main threats to the species: entanglements in fishing gear and vessel collisions.
- Big cats—The Big Cat Public Safety Act, H.R. 1380/S. 2561, received House Natural Resources Committee approval in September. It reduces the number of captive tigers, lions, cougars, and other big cats living in substandard conditions and protects public safety by banning public contact activities—such as “cub petting” and photo ops—and by prohibiting possession of big cats by individuals and entities lacking a USDA license.
- Trophy imports—The Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, H.R. 2245, passed the House Natural Resources Committee in September. This bill substantially restricts the import and hunting of any species listed or proposed to be listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
- PAWS—The Senate bill provides $3 million for a grant program authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, based on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, to support emergency and transitional shelter options for domestic violence survivors with companion animals. The House bill provides $2 million for these grants and includes language directing relevant federal agencies to coordinate implementation during FY20.
- Horse slaughter—The House and Senate bills both prohibit USDA expenditures on horse slaughter inspections, effectively preventing horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. during FY20.
- USDA data purge—The House bill directs USDA to promptly resume online posting of all inspection reports and enforcement records under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA), in their entirety without redactions that obscure the identities of puppy mills, roadside zoos, and other businesses cited for violations.
- AWA enforcement—The House committee report calls on USDA to require that inspectors document every observed violation, to reverse concealment practices adopted by the agency in recent years.
- Wild horses and burros—The House bill provides $6 million for a non-lethal pilot program using scientifically-based safe and humane fertility control tools excluding surgical sterilization, an increased focus on adoptions, and relocation to larger, more humane pasture facilities instead of perpetual warehousing in holding pens. The Senate bill provides $35 million to expand these humane and non-lethal management strategies to all wild horses and burros in the Bureau of Land Management’s care, and both the House and Senate bills prohibit the BLM and U.S. Forest Service from killing or sending to slaughter healthy wild horses or burros.
- Animal testing alternatives—The House bill provides $39.4 million more than the President proposed for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Computational Toxicology Program and Endocrine Disruptor Program, which develop replacements for animal tests.
We also delivered big results on the regulatory front, including:
In September, the EPA announced that it plans to phase out and end all animal testing on mammals for chemicals and pesticides. Instead, the agency will focus on non-animal alternative technologies that are faster, more reliable and do not cause suffering. The agency plans to substantially reduce animal tests, including those it commissions in-house, as well as those that it requires businesses to conduct, by 2025, and to end them altogether by 2035.
In March, the BLM agreed to return to a 2014 policy that allows individuals and organizations to buy only four wild horses over a six-month period, a necessary safeguard to ensure wild horses and burros aren’t bought by kill buyers who will send them to slaughter. Last year, the administration had put in place a new sales policy that allowed 25 horses to be purchased at a time, with no time limit between the purchases.
Licensing Requirements for the Animal Welfare Act
In March, USDA proposed a rule regarding much-needed changes to AWA licensing procedures. The rule includes a number of positive regulatory changes, such as requiring that licensees demonstrate compliance with the AWA regulations before being issued a license or a renewal, and requiring that dog breeding facilities provide continuous access to water, annual veterinary checks, and immunizations for diseases.
Relocation of Wolves to Isle Royale National Park
In March of 2018, the National Park Service announced its decision to augment the dwindling Isle Royale, Michigan wolf population with 20-30 animals within three years, as it was crucial for genetic diversity and ecological stability of this National Park. Currently, there are 17 wolves in the park, up from 2 when the relocation effort began.
When you sign on as a supporter of the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, it’s because you want to see the passage and implementation of positive protection measures for animals, prohibitions against cruelty across the range of issues, and legislative and regulatory action that makes both our nation and our planet much, much better for animals. We’re gearing up big-time for 2020, and we’re going to bring fight, poise, and will to the ambitious agenda we’ve set for ourselves. We work hard for animals, but we’re also working hard for you, our donors and supporters, and we never forget the simple fact that none of this would be possible without your support. We’re counting on you to stay with us in the fight for ALL animals in 2020.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.