By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
This past year has been a mixed one for animals under President Donald Trump. On the one hand we’ve seen federal agencies take steps to improve the fortunes of animals used in testing and the wild horses and burros on our public ranges, and also to end breed discrimination of companion animals. On the other hand, we’ve also seen some shocking anti-animal actions, including a conspicuous decline in the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, a continued lack of transparency over recorded violations of these laws, and the dismantling of the Endangered Species Act, the bedrock U.S. law protecting imperiled species across the globe.
Today, as President Trump prepares to deliver his third State of the Union address, here’s a brief look at how his administration dealt with issues of importance to us at the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Among the positive actions taken for animals:
- The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to end all tests on mammals, including dogs, mice, and rabbits, by 2035. The agency will devote $4.25 million to the development of non-animal testing technologies at five universities.
- The Bureau of Land Management agreed in 2019 to return to a 2014 policy designed to prevent horses from being funneled to slaughter by allowing individuals and organizations to buy only four wild horses over a six-month period. In 2018, the Trump administration had moved to allow 25 horses to be purchased at a time, with no time limit between purchases, making the animals vulnerable to mass purchases by “kill buyers.”
- The Department of Transportation issued a proposed rule prohibiting airlines from banning certain breeds of service dogs, such as pit bull-type dogs, and prohibiting exotic animals like capuchin monkeys from flying as service animals—a designation that could lead to health, safety and welfare risks.
Among the damaging actions taken by the administration over the past year:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture cut back drastically on the number of Animal Welfare Act citations and enforcement actions—actions that could negatively impact animals trapped in enterprises like puppy mills and roadside zoos.
- The USDA finalized a federal rule to do away with slaughter speed limits at pig slaughter facilities, creating an animal welfare, worker and food safety nightmare.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service finalized rules substantially weakening Endangered Species Act regulations. One of these rules creates additional roadblocks to securing comprehensive protections for threatened species and makes it easier to delist species from the ESA.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service announced its plan to issue a rule to remove ESA protections for gray wolves.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service issued its third critically endangered black rhino trophy import permit since 2017, to a hunter who paid $400,000 to kill the animal in Namibia.
- The National Institutes of Health announced that it will not send chimpanzees, now held at the Alamogordo primate laboratory in New Mexico, to retirement at the federal sanctuary Chimp Haven, despite an express Congressional directive.
Looking ahead, we urge the Trump administration to take the following actions in 2020:
- Issue a final rule from the USDA to strengthen licensing and basic care requirements at puppy mills, roadside zoos and other facilities under the Animal Welfare Act.
- Significantly increase the use of humane population growth suppression tools by the Bureau of Land Management to manage wild horse and burro populations on public rangelands, and eliminate research into sterilization as a management technique.
- Issue a proposed rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to mitigate the harm being caused to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, including measures to reduce deadly entanglements in vertical fishing lines.
- Prioritize the relocation of chimpanzees owned and supported by the National Institutes of Health to the national sanctuary, Chimp Haven. NIH should also prioritize replacing animals in harmful research with approaches that represent the best available science and prevent the suffering of millions of animals in laboratories each year.
- Improve enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act and federal animal fighting laws, cracking down on puppy millers, horse sorers and cockfighters, and reinstate the final HPA rule to end horse soring that was withdrawn at the beginning of the Trump administration. Following a mandate in the FY20 appropriations bill, the USDA must reinstate all AWA/HPA inspection and enforcement records it took down in 2017 and resume posting them without redacting the identities of violators.
- Continue to provide necessary protections for endangered and threatened species, including rejecting permit applications for trophies of species like rhinos, elephants and lions, and ensuring that egregious and inhumane hunting methods are not permitted on federal lands.
Animal protection ought not be a partisan issue. Even in a highly polarized Congress, we saw major progress for animals last year with the passage of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act and other milestones such as the House approving the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act and the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act. Most Americans feel a deep compassion for animals and moving forward we urge President Trump to put the policies and resources of this administration squarely behind this very American value.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.