One of the ways we make a difference for animals is by working on the state and local levels to secure the passage of laws that prevent cruel and inhumane practices that threaten animals—from puppies born in massive puppy mills to coyotes and foxes at risk of coming into the scope of a trophy hunter’s gun.
Since the start of 2021, we’ve helped to pass 102 state and local laws that align with our priorities for animals. Putting laws on the books not only helps create a more humane and compassionate future for animals in the U.S., but it also reflects who we are as a society.
As with everything else, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we normally go about advocating for animals on the state and local levels, but we found a way to reinvent our approach. We transformed our annual Humane Lobby Day into a virtual lobbying for supporters. Our campaigners found new ways to communicate with lawmakers, like testifying on behalf of animals via Zoom. Over 5,600 advocates and law enforcement officers participated in our virtual trainings. Here are just some highlights of our local and state level work grouped by the animals who benefit:
Puppies and kittens
Puppy and kitten mills are breeding facilities that impregnate mother dogs and cats over and over to churn out a high volume of puppies and kittens for profit. Most puppies and kittens sold in pet stores and online are from these breeding mills, and these animals often suffer from illness and a lack of socialization. Mother animals in breeding mills spend their lives in cramped cages with very little or no attention, only to be abandoned or killed when they can no longer produce litters.
We advocate for the laws that prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens from these dismal facilities’ sales outlets in the hopes that one day these operations will have nowhere left to sell their “products.” We’re happy to say that earlier this year, Washington became the latest state to ban the sale of puppy and kitten mill pets from pet shops. Three states and 391 localities across the U.S. have passed similar laws. And Illinois’ governor has a similar bill on his desk.
Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice
It’s surreal to consider that in 2021 animals are still being used to test shampoo, mascara and other cosmetics when there are so many alternative ways of ensuring cosmetic products are safe. Companies already have a trove of ingredients that do not require additional testing on animals, and modern testing methods, like human cell-based tests and computer models, offer more sophisticated ways of ensuring a product’s safety. And yet, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs and mice continue to have chemicals and substances forced down their throats, dripped into their eyes or slathered on their skin.
But there’s hope. Whenever a state bans the sale of cosmetics tested on animals, it makes the market smaller for these products that seek to profit despite cruelty. Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii and Maine passed bans on the sale of cosmetics that are newly tested on animals, and New Jersey is on the cusp of doing so.
Big cats, bears, coyotes, foxes and other wild animals
Whether its wild animals out in their native habitat or captive animals like tigers put on display in roadside zoos, wild species in the U.S. need our help. Each year, trophy hunters kill thousands of animals, using cruel methods like baiting and hounding, just to obtain their heads, hides or claws to put on display. Some are killed during gruesome wildlife killing contests, where the participants who gun down the biggest, the smallest or the most animals win a prize.
Thankfully, there’s progress to treat wild animals better. Maryland banned wildlife killing contests, making life safer for the coyotes, foxes and raccoons who had been targets. Nevada passed a law that will prohibit public contact with captive bears, big cats, elephants and primates. And New Mexico banned trapping—a particularly gruesome and painful way to capture and kill wild animals—on public lands.
Pigs, calves and egg-laying hens
The largest concentration of animal suffering in the world occurs on factory farms, where virtually all egg-laying hens live their lives in cramped cages where they can’t even spread their wings or engage in natural behaviors, where mother pigs are locked in “gestation crates” for the length of their pregnancies, which are so small they can’t even turn around and chew on the metal bars to try to relieve stress until their mouths bleed. Baby cows raised for veal are taken from their mothers shortly after being born and raised in tiny crates. Our initiatives to abolish these practices promise to reduce animal suffering at a scale unsurpassed in most of the sectors in which we work.
We are waging campaigns across the country to end these farming practices, and Nevada and Utah have become the latest states to ban cages for egg-laying hens. Nevada’s law also bans the sale of eggs within the state that come from caged hens. And there is currently a promising bill in New Jersey that would end the intensive confinement of pigs and calves.
Promising work ahead
Although most state sessions have adjourned, we’re continuing to push measures that could make tangible differences for animals through a number of legislatures. These include a bill to prohibit toxicity testing on dogs and cats in California; measures to protect farm animals in Massachusetts and New Jersey; a bill that would end the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers in animal shelters in Ohio; bills and regulations in Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia seeking to end wildlife killing contests; and bills to prohibit the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. We will keep fighting to secure the local and state level victories you have come to expect from us—and we’re counting on you to help, knowing that you make all the difference.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.