In a pivotal decision, a federal judge in Idaho has ruled that an ag-gag law violates the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution, striking this terrible law from the books. This is the first time a court has ruled on the constitutionality of an ag-gag law, and the ASPCA is hopeful that this decision will mark the beginning of the end of these dangerous laws.
The Idaho statute, which passed in 2014 despite outcry from both humane and food industry voices, criminalizes undercover investigations into animal welfare, food safety, or worker safety at industrial farms. Under the law, workers, investigators or good Samaritans could be convicted for documenting and exposing animal abuse or dangerous public health risks.
Exposés on farms are a critical animal-protection tool, forming the basis of animal cruelty prosecutions and spurring reforms to ensure the safety of our food supply. In the past few years, in an effort to protect their bottom line from the consumer awareness these investigations provoke, the animal agriculture industry has been driving the introduction of ag-gag/anti-whistleblower bills in state legislatures across the country. A broad coalition of groups spanning animal welfare, workers’ rights, food safety, sustainable farming and environmental interests has worked together to block over 30 bills. Despite this collaborative work and broad public opposition to these bills, laws have passed in five states.
It is a great victory for farm animals, their advocates and whistleblowers across the country that the dangerous Idaho law has been deemed unconstitutional. The ASPCA applauds this decision and hopes it sends a clear message to the animal agriculture industry that hiding abuses and punishing whistleblowers is no way to conduct business in this country.
Sign the Open the Barns pledge to be an advocate against ag-gag in your state, and spread the word about these dangerous bills to your friends and family.
This afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives became an animal house! The ASPCA, along with the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (CAPC), hosted the fourth annual “Paws for Celebration,” a Capitol Hill animal adoption event that brings attention to shelter animals and honors rescue organizations locally and across the country.
CAPC co-chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) spoke to the crowd, which included members of Congress, congressional staff, and 50 adoptable dogs and cats. This year’s event included a very special guest, former Senator and Majority Leader Bob Dole. During his service in Congress from 1961 to 1996, he spearheaded passage of several landmark legislative advances in animal protection.
Best of all, several animals found their forever homes today at Paws for Celebration. Huge thanks to the following local animal rescue groups that participated:
•Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
•Animal Welfare League of Arlington
•Fairfax County Animal Shelter
•Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue
•Homeward Trails Animal Rescue
•Last Chance Animal Rescue
•Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation
•Pinups for Pitbulls
•Prince George’s County Animal Shelter
•Washington Animal Rescue League
•Washington Humane Society
“I was so pleased to be a part of the Paws for Celebration event–a favorite event on Capitol Hill, featuring dogs and cats from shelters and rescues from the D.C. area," said Representative Blumenauer. "We were also honored to host Senator Bob Dole, a longtime animal welfare champion, demonstrating yet again the incredible bipartisan and unifying nature of doing the right thing by our animals.”
This August marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which forever changed the way America responds to natural disasters.
The ASPCA knows firsthand that disasters create impossible and heartbreaking scenarios for both animals and the people who risk their own safety to rescue them. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we worked with animal welfare professionals and volunteers in Louisiana to help rescue, reunite, and re-home more than 8,000 animals stranded by the storm.
During disasters like hurricanes, fires and floods, the ASPCA and other non-governmental agencies play a crucial role in protecting animals and assisting with recovery efforts through search and rescue operations and set-up of emergency veterinary clinics, emergency boarding facilities, and pet supply distribution centers—at no cost to taxpayers. Given the size and expense of these efforts, it’s reasonable to expect that businesses regularly utilizing animals be required to prepare for emergencies and have comprehensive response plans in place to protect the animals in their care.
Legislation introduced in Congress this month will ensure that businesses like zoos, research facilities and large-scale animal breeders are prepared if disaster strikes. The Animal Emergency Planning Act (H.R. 3193), bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), will require facilities regulated by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to develop disaster response plans and ensure that employees know what steps to take when an emergency occurs.
We need your help: Visit theASPCA Advocacy Center now to quickly and easily contact your U.S. representative in Washington and urge him or her to co-sponsor the Animal Emergency Planning Act.
During today’s markup of the 2016 agriculture spending bill, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved the anti-horse slaughter amendment offered by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Coons (D-DE). The Udall-Kirk Amendment would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using taxpayer dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities; without such inspections, the horse slaughter industry cannot resume in the United States.
“Horses are a symbol of the West, and they are an important part of our nation's history and our way of life today,” said Senator Udall. “Not only is the idea of horse slaughter for human consumption abhorrent to most Americans, but USDA is already stretched too thin and doesn't have the resources to properly oversee the industry. The practice is unnecessarily cruel and has a record of gruesome pollution and terrible conditions. New Mexicans write to me regularly to say that horse slaughter has no place in the United States. I agree and was pleased to offer this bipartisan amendment on their behalf."
“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund the inspection of facilities that contribute to the brutal slaughter of our horses,” added Senator Kirk. “Illinois banned the practice of horse slaughter in 2007, and this amendment ensures that these inhumane facilities are not opened again on U.S. soil.”
Horse slaughter is inherently cruel, environmentally and economically devastating to local communities and unsafe for foreign consumers. The ASPCA thanks the Senate Appropriations Committee for recognizing that it is irresponsible and wasteful to use taxpayer dollars to fund this brutal practice. The House Appropriations Committee vote, one week ago, was a tie and did not allow the language to be inserted into the larger legislation, so having the Senate take this action is particularly encouraging.
In addition to banning funds for horse slaughter inspections, the Committee also approved a provision to improve the animal welfare policy at U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) and other federally operated agricultural research centers. Following a similar measure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Committee’s report requires USDA to ensure that the agency’s research is adhering to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including the necessary inspection and reporting requirements.
The 2016 appropriations bill now moves to the Senate Floor. The ASPCA will work steadfastly to make sure this language is retained in the final version of the bill passed by Congress.
Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee approved an agriculture spending bill with some positive notes for animal welfare, although it failed to protect our nation’s horses.
By a single vote, the Committee failed to approve an amendment offered by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) that would have maintained the status quo by barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using taxpayer dollars to inspect horse slaughter facilities. Congress renewed this ban last year, prohibiting the cruel and unnecessary horse slaughter industry from operating anywhere in the country. Without further action to extend this ban beyond this September, Congress opens the door for a possible return of horse slaughter to the United States.
It’s disappointing that the House Appropriations Committee could allow such an irresponsible, wasteful use of taxpayer dollars to resume. The ASPCA is working with leaders in the House to include the ban on horse slaughter funding when the bill reaches the House Floor. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to consider a similar amendment when it meets next week.
“A total lapse in management at every level” was the word from the Committee on another critical animal welfare matter. Referencing the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC)’s failures after a shocking New York Times exposé detailing egregious cruelties at the facility, the Committee took strong action to address the problems. The legislation approved this week provides funding for inspections of USMARC and other federally operated agricultural research centers and mandates improvements for animal welfare at these facilities. In fact, the legislation withholds $56.1 million dollars of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service budget until the agency offers official assurances to Congress that it is adhering to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and following necessary reporting requirements.
Additionally, the bill blocks funds for licensing of Class B animal dealers who sell “random source” dogs and cats, often stolen or lost household pets obtained from disreputable and difficult-to-trace sources, for use in research. This language, championed by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), was added as part of a non-controversial manager’s amendment to the bill.
Finally, the agriculture spending bill maintains current funding levels for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. These funds will go toward AWA inspections and enforcement of provisions for dogs in puppy mills, and will enable the USDA to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring.
The Agriculture Appropriations bill may move to the full House for consideration in coming months. Find out how you can help make sure it includes protections for our nation’s animals: Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade today.