By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Update 7/1/2021: The INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684) has passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 221 to 201. We urge the U.S. Senate to include the House amendments in their version of the bill and pass it swiftly in order to make these historic wins for animals law.
Horses and wildlife across the country landed the bid for support that they deserve now that the House of Representatives just passed important animal welfare amendments in its transportation bill—the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684)—which will be part of Congress’ infrastructure package. Now members of the public will need to take action to push these three wins over the finish line.
Ending the slaughter of American horses
We have long fought to end the grisly practice of slaughtering our American equine companions in work, sport and recreation, for good reason. Healthy horses and other equines are gathered up by “kill buyers” who routinely outbid families and rescuers at auctions, making it difficult to spare them from slaughter and place them in good homes.
The animals are then crammed into crowded trucks and transported to slaughter plants in Canada or Mexico on journeys of more than 24 hours without adequate water, food, or rest and often arrive severely injured or even dead. At the plant, the methods used to render horses unconscious before slaughter are imprecise, often resulting in repeated blows to the head—a cruel process that cannot be made humane.
A bipartisan amendment introduced by Rep. Troy Carter (D-La.) will prohibit the transport of America’s equines to slaughter for human consumption, effectively placing a permanent ban on their slaughter both here and abroad. Cosponsored by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Andy Barr (R-Ky.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), this version of the amendment is the one for which we advocated. We worked closely with sponsors and other humane organizations to strengthen the approach taken and we are extremely grateful for the bipartisan support this humane measure received by the full House.
Although we helped shutter the last remaining domestic horse slaughterhouses and work with Congress annually to prevent new ones from opening, transport to plants in Mexico and Canada is still legal and ongoing. Passage of this critical amendment would be a truly historic end to the shipment of America’s equines to slaughter.
Protecting horses traveling across state lines
We were also pleased to see the successful inclusion of Rep. Cohen’s Horse Transportation Safety Act (H.R.921) for which we advocated in the overall package. This measure will ban the transport of equines across state lines in “double deckers”—motor vehicles with two or more levels stacked, which have inadequate head room, don’t allow the animals to stand in a normal position and put equines at serious risk of injury from cuts, abrasions and falls.
Final passage in Congress of these two measures would be a tremendous culmination of many years of effort in our work to protect equines from these cruelties.
Giving American wildlife safe crossings
Even though the U.S. prides itself on a robust network of public lands and waters that includes national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other conservation areas, wildlife populations continue to decline because of habitat loss and fragmentation—primarily from human development.
For wildlife, this bill includes significant new measures for mitigating vehicle-wildlife collisions and fragmentation of wildlife habitats by roadways, railways and other developments. The bill establishes a $350 million wildlife crossing pilot program which will create safe passageways, including bridges and tunnels, throughout U.S. transportation systems. The program will safeguard wildlife as they move across landscapes to find food, water and shelter, adapt to changing environmental conditions and migrate to reach breeding or wintering areas. This is a critical investment in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions that kill more than one million animals on America’s roads every day, endanger drivers, and cost Americans more than $8 billion per year in damages.
Further, an amendment advances language from the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, which will improve wildlife habitat connectivity through protected corridors on federal, state, tribal and non-public lands. The New York Times recently documented the variety of wild animals taking advantage of these crossings, illustrating that they work incredibly well. We are grateful for the support from Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and we will continue to fight for these innovative, necessary improvements through the rest of the legislative process. Final passage of this bill would be a tremendous victory for wildlife.
How you can help
Now that the House has included these measures, we urge you to speak up for horses and wildlife by contacting your U.S. Senators to encourage them to support inclusion of the House amendments in the Senate’s version of the surface transportation bill. You can find their contact information here.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.