We are happy to report two significant state-level wins for horses in the past few days that will ensure horses have more options to protect them from slaughter:
Nevada Finalizes Wild Horse Agreement With Wild Horse Protection Group: Return to Freedom, the founding organization of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), and the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) reached an agreement to humanely manage more than 1,500 horses in the Virginia Range, which encompasses more than 280,000 acres. This precedent-setting agreement launches the largest-ever private-public partnership to manage horses while improving public safety and benefiting Nevada taxpayers.
Kentucky Gov. Signs Bill to Assist Stray Horses: Governor Steve Beshear enacted a measure to reduce the hold period for stray horses from 90 days to 15 days to enable the rescue and care of those horses. By shortening the amount of time a horse must be held before being re-homed, costs for local officials are significantly reduced and will enable a great deal more rescue work for horses in need. Prior to the enactment of H.B. 312, which takes effect on June 24, 2015, Kentucky had the second-longest hold period in the country at 90 days. This new law brings Kentucky more in line with bordering states that all have 10-day hold periods.
The ASPCA stepped in to provide grants for diversionary feeding, fencing and other management tools and we worked to help enact these reforms knowing these victories will pave the way for further assistance from local and national organizations. Importantly, these horses now have more options, which will help keep them off the auction block and out of slaughter plants.
As part of the ASPCA’s goal to end the slaughter of American horses, we work to pass legislation that protects horses from this predatory industry, including pushing for a full federal ban on horse slaughter. We also work to provide options for at-risk horses through grant-making, education and equine programs that support the horse-rescue community, offering more than $1.1 million in equine grants in 2014 alone.
We think people who report animal abuse should be applauded, not prosecuted. But in states across the country, "ag-gag" billshave been introduced to criminalize the exposure of illegal, unethical and dangerous activities taking place on industrial farms.
If people can’t speak out about what they see in factory farms, horrific animal abuse, food safety problems, and environmental and human rights violations may go undiscovered and uncorrected. Some of these laws can even shield puppy mill operators from prosecution!
We don’t think Americans should be kept in the dark, and we need your help to take a stand against these dangerous laws.
Help us generate 10,000 social media posts against ag-gag by visiting aspca.org/openthebarnsand sharing one of our images along with the hashtag #OpenTheBarns. Then sign our pledge to be an Open Barns Advocate and we’ll keep you informed on more ways you can take action.
Yesterday 13 organizations representing food safety, organic consumers, and animal welfare joined the ASPCA in asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to improve care standards for animals raised under the USDA’s National Organic Program (any animal used to produce products sold with the “USDA Organic” seal).
The Organic Program’s current animal welfare rules are far too lax. A 2014 survey [PDF] commissioned by the ASPCA found big gaps between consumer expectations and USDA requirements when it comes to things like space and outdoor access for the animals it calls organic. The ASPCA has sought better welfare for USDA Organic animals for years, and we now have a unique opportunity: The USDA will be revisiting its rules this year!
With this joint letter to the Secretary of Agriculture [PDF] we’ve made clear that the organic label needs to start meeting its obligations to both animals and consumers. The USDA’s National Organic Program has an obligation to ensure strong animal welfare.
We will continue working on this issue in the coming months and will let you know how you can help with this important effort!
As our recent puppy mill raid in Alabama illustrates, there is a real need for states to step up and regulate commercial dog breeding facilities. These laws not only benefit dogs, but also potential pet owners, taxpayers, animal shelters and the rescue community: states with no laws to oversee these businesses pay a high price when these facilities spiral out of control.
Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming. Breeding dogs at mills often spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements—or crammed inside filthy, wire-floored structures, stacked on top of one another, where they never get the chance to feel sunlight or breathe fresh air. To maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters.
Many people think that what we’ve just described is already illegal—but that’s not the case. The federal Animal Welfare Act regulates some breeding facilities, but not all of them. Further, the federal standards are far from what most people consider to be humane and amount to nothing more than mere survival standards for dogs. Most importantly, poor enforcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture means thousands of dogs are left to suffer in inadequate and inhumane conditions year after year, even in federally licensed facilities.
States have the authority to enact and enforce higher standards of humane care for commercially bred animals, yet 21 states still do not have any laws regulating large-scale dog breeders, making them magnets for puppy mills. Alabama is one of these states. Kentucky is another, and so is Michigan (are you seeing a pattern yet?). Please see the chart below to learn how your state stacks up. You’ll see that we have a lot of work left to do.
The ASPCA has a long history of working to pass laws that protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities. You can help us by joining ASPCA Advocacy Brigade. If you live in North Carolina or Montana, you can take action right now by supporting puppy mill legislation that’s pending in those states. And to learn more about puppy mills, please visit nopetstorepuppies.com.
Update, 3/14: Thanks to those of you who pointed out that we had mistakenly identified Wisconsin as a state with no substantive standards of care when in fact, there are some strong standards in place for commercially bred dogs there—our apologies for the mistake! Wisconsin's status has been updated in the version below. We do our best to keep these charts up to date, but sometimes we miss things and we want you to let us know if you see anything inaccurate.
On Monday, the USDA released a report in response to a front-page New York Times story detailing horrific animal abuse at the tax-funded U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC). The report attempts to let USMARC off the hook for the needless pain and suffering imposed on countless animals and demonstrates that the USDA continues to be its own best rubber stamp.
The New York Times piece made clear that there were serious problems at USMARC, and in some ways, the report backs that up. It acknowledges that USMARC’s animal welfare oversight committee was not compliant with certain policies and procedures. Specifically, the animal welfare oversight committee didn’t know what its job was, didn’t adequately review or oversee animal research to ensure it was humane, and didn’t meet regularly to discuss animal welfare.
But while it’s laudable that the report calls out those problems, that’s where the accountability ends. Inexplicably, the report finds that despite widespread systemic flaws, life for the animals at USMARC is just hunky-dory and no suffering results from the complete lack of structure and welfare oversight. This conclusion defies common sense and contradicts what we saw in the New York Times piece.
While USMARC was charging ahead with animal experiments outside of compliance with its own policies, the agency was failing to notice or act. Meanwhile, federal funds were doled out to pay for these projects—including experiments that allowed hundreds of lambs to freeze to death in fields, “twinning studies” that retooled cows to have more twins even while the calves died at higher and higher rates, and “libido studies” where heifers were restrained and mounted by bulls, causing the death of at least one cow from her injuries. If not for courageous whistleblowers, who knows when or if the USDA would have investigated?
This cavalier attitude toward animal well-being simply wouldn’t be tolerated at any respectable research institution. The fact that these deficiencies exist 13 years after the USDA instituted a largely ignored policy on humane animal care and use demonstrates all too clearly where animal welfare lies on the USDA’s priority list.