All 50 state legislatures will meet this year, and almost all of them have hit the “reset” button on pending legislation: Any bills that didn’t pass in 2014 are dead, and the slate has been wiped clean. The same also applies to the 114th United States Congress, which convened on January 6 for the first of its two one-year sessions.
Here at the ASPCA, we’re already off and running: Meeting with new and returning legislators, helping to draft new animal-friendly legislation and garnering support for the reintroduction of our priority bills from last year.
On the federal side, we remain fiercely committed to passing legislation that would permanently ban horse slaughter within the U.S. as well as stop the export of American horses for that purpose. Other familiar federal bills we intend to revive include disaster planning for animals and protecting domestic violence survivors and their pets. Establishing quicker processes for re-homing animal victims of cruelty cases and working with the USDA to shape the organic animal welfare standards for chickens are just a few of the new issues we’ll tackle this year.
We also have an ambitious state-level agenda for 2015. Among other priorities, we’re working toward the day when all 50 states will regulate large-scale commercial dog breeders (puppy mills); making sure veterinarians can take action to help animals during disasters and rescues that occur outside their home states; and supporting animal shelters and law enforcement agencies that rescue and care for animal cruelty victims. We’ll also continue to battle insidious and dangerous ag-gag bills that aim to cover up animal cruelty on farms and other agricultural enterprises.
Input from constituents is often the tipping point in your elected officials’ voting decisions. It is up to you to let them know that you care deeply about protecting animals. Here are a few ways you can get involved in the legislative process and ensure that animals have the protections they deserve:
Participate in an ASPCA Voices for Animals Day to lobby at your state capitol, or join one of our online training sessions on citizen advocacy. After joining the Advocacy Brigade, watch your inbox for the ASPCA’s invitations to events in your area.
Make a New Year’s resolution to get involved and be a strong voice for animals!
Felony Cruelty in All 50 States Earlier this year, more than two centuries after Massachusetts became the first state to punish animal cruelty as a felony offense, South Dakota became the 50th state to enact felony penalties for cruelty to animals. While reaching the 50-state mark is an exciting milestone, there is still much work to be done to strengthen these laws so they give law enforcement the tools they need to protect all animals from cruelty. In response to the horrific “Puppy Doe” case, Massachusetts upgraded its anti-cruelty laws as well.
Animals in Disasters Protected by Congress When a hurricane hits or a large-scale dog fighting bust occurs, animals need vital veterinary care without delay. Congress passed the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, which protects animals during crises by enabling veterinarians to perform life-saving services in the field. The law enables rapid response by allowing veterinarians to carry life-saving and pain-reducing drugs without fear of reprisal. Of the 8,359 pieces of legislation introduced in the 113th Congress in the past two years, this was one of just 296 bills signed into law.
U.S. Horse Slaughter Stopped in Its Tracks The 2014 and 2015 omnibus federal spending bills now include a provision that prohibits the use of tax dollars for horse slaughter, effectively preventing butchering of horses on U.S. soil for FY2015. This victory builds momentum for our ultimate goal of banning the slaughter of American horses entirely and enables us to move forward with plans to stop the flow of our horses to other countries for this grisly purpose.
Puppy Mills Thwarted The majority of states—most recently Minnesota—now have laws on the books to protect dogs in puppy mills. But until this year, there were no laws to stop pet stores from doing business with law-breaking puppy mills, particularly those located in other states. In May, Connecticut passed a groundbreaking law that prohibits pet stores from selling animals from breeders with certain violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act on their records. Similar legislation is currently on the desk of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The New York City Council just took it a step further by also prohibiting pet stores from doing business with USDA Class B dealers, puppy brokers who are notorious for obtaining animals from disreputable, difficult-to-trace sources. In response to increasing online puppy sales, California established import requirements for puppies from other states. Federally, the United States Department of Agriculture issued its final regulation to ensure that the United States is not importing puppies for resale from puppy mills overseas.
Animal Fighting Takedown The federal Farm Bill, signed into law in February, made it a federal crime to attend an animal fight and includes extra penalties for bringing children to an animal fight. And seven years after becoming the last state to make cockfighting a crime, Louisiana increased penalties and closed loopholes in its anti-cockfighting statute.
Domestic Violence Threat Addressed Recognizing the link between violence toward humans and violence toward animals, lawmakers in Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia all passed laws allowing judges to include pets in orders of protection for victims of domestic violence. Twenty-eight states now have these laws.
Breed Discrimination Is No More at State Level In order to reverse a 2012 court ruling that created a statewide policy of breed discrimination in Maryland, the Legislature passed a new dog-bite liability law that does not single out pit bull-type dogs. There are now no statewide breed-discriminatory laws, and 18 states—most recently South Dakota and Utah—actually prohibit localities from enacting breed-specific legislation.
Greyhound Racing On Its Way Out This year, legislation banning this cruel enterprise passed in Colorado, and Iowa passed legislation that shut down one of its two remaining dog racing tracks. Arizona also enacted a law requiring reporting of Greyhound racing injuries. Greyhound racing is now illegal in 39 states, with tracks still operating in only seven states.
Wildlife Gain Greater Protections Virginia lawmakers approved legislation that will phase out the cruel blood sport of fox penning; Michigan voters repealed two pro-wolf hunting measures at the ballot box; Illinois enacted protections for wolves, bears and cougars; and New York and New Jersey became the first states to ban the sale of ivory from rhinos and elephants.
Congress and most state legislatures will reconvene in January, launching another year of opportunities to strengthen protections for animals. Please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade below to stay informed of pending animal-protection legislation in your area as we head into 2015.
Our feathered friends made headlines all year long, from exposés of industry conditions to companies feeling consumer pressure to improve their practices. We’re proud of the part we’ve played in this movement and grateful to you for raising your voice on behalf of the billions of chickens raised each year in this country. Stay tuned in 2015 as we roll out exciting new ways to be involved in the Truth About Chicken. Together we can make a big difference in these animals’ lives!
Here are 14 of the year’s biggest chicken-related stories:
Chickens buried alive (June) Animal advocacy group Compassion Over Killing® investigated a Pilgrim’s Corp. chicken farm and found crowding, open wounds, lameness, chickens with mangled legs and workers burying sick birds alive in pits.
Tainted meat in China (July) A chicken processor supplying McDonald’s, Papa John’s, Burger King, and KFC restaurants in China found itself at the center of a scandal when a video surfaced showing workers repackaging expired meat and doctoring food-production dates.
Our dish of choice...chicken in chlorine sauce? (August) Europeans are so opposed to the common U.S. practice of bathing chicken carcasses in chlorine to kill bacteria that it became a sticking point in August negotiations over a free trade deal between the U.S. and Europe.
Nestlé gets nicer to farm animals (August) Nestlé announced an industry-leading animal welfare program that will eliminate many inhumane but standard practices within its food supply chain, including raising fast-growing chickens for meat.
A study on giant chickens freaked people out (October) A photograph in Poultry Science comparing modern chickens to those of the 1950s went viral. The underlying study detailed health problems facing today’s genetically manipulated birds, which include bone, heart, and immune system issues.
Consumer demand drives big chicken companies to drop the drugs (October) Tyson Foods and Perdue announced that they will no longer use antibiotics in their chicken hatcheries. It is industry practice to inject drugs into eggs and add it to feed to prevent diseases caused by the filthy conditions on factory farms.
Dirty birds in the UK (November) Scandal hit the British poultry industry when 8 out of 10 pieces of UK chicken sampled were found to be contaminated with Campylobacter, a strain of bacteria that causes food poisoning.
Horrendous conditions at a Koch Foods supplier exposed (November) Mercy for Animals (MFA) released footage from a Koch Foods supplier farm showing filthy, crowded sheds, violent abuse of birds during catching and slaughter, and birds boiled alive rather than stunned properly. MFA alleges that the farm supplies Chick-fil-A, but the chicken restaurant denies having done business with Koch since spring 2013.
One Perdue farmer speaks out (December) A Perdue contract farmer, Craig Watts, opened his doors to Compassion in World Farming to expose the inhumane conditions Perdue requires of farmers, as well as the welfare consequences of intense, selective breeding for growth.
The hug felt ‘round the world (April) In the face of a lot of depressing news, almost 2 million people watched a chicken hug it out with a sweet little boy.
People love puppies. But all too often—and in so many cruel ways—these animals are betrayed by the very breeders who raise them. These breeding facilities are called puppy mills, where female breeding dogs are kept in close confinement and forced to bear litter after litter without any break for their bodies to recover. Once they can no longer produce puppies, these mothers are often killed. Adult breeding dogs and puppies are typically kept in cages with wire flooring that can injure their paws and legs.
Most pet store puppies come from puppy mills, though families who eventually buy these puppies in pet stores don't know their purchase feeds the profit-making machine that keeps puppy mills in business.
That's why we stood proudly with the New York City Council last week as they admirably addressed this issue head-on. By an overwhelming margin, the Council passed groundbreaking legislation—Intro. 55-A, Intro. 136-A and Intro. 146-A—that will put effective and enforceable pressure on commercial breeders to substantially improve the lives of thousands of dogs currently languishing in puppy mills in this country.
Spearheaded by Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley and Corey Johnson, these measures will prohibit city pet shops from selling animals obtained from breeders who fail to meet even the most basic care standards prescribed by the federal Animal Welfare Act, as well as from animal brokers known for selling puppies to pet stores from disreputable, difficult-to-trace sources.
It will also require New York City pet shops to disclose information about the origins of the animals they sell, and require that dogs and cats sold at city pet shops are spayed/neutered, microchipped and dogs licensed prior to sale. These measures are critical to reducing pet homelessness, reuniting lost pets with owners and ensuring the safety of pets and the public.
Prior to this year, New York cities and communities did not have the authority to set their own standards, but in January, Governor Cuomo signed milestone legislation—including New York City—to regulate pet dealers for the first time in almost 15 years. Quickly acting on their new authority, the New York City Council created these humane measures.
While these laws won't keep all puppy mill puppies out of New York City pet stores, it's a critical step in the right direction. Taken together they will deeply impact the lives of dogs in puppy mills across the nation, and further New York City's reputation as a leader in animal welfare and safety.
These measures also send a clear message that I hope resonates outside of our city and state boundaries: A civilized society does not tolerate animal cruelty, whether it's fueled by greed, negligence or anything else.
Once that message travels far and wide, we may finally be able to elevate all our animal welfare policies and laws to match values that emphasize animal protection, not exploitation.
Photo: NYC Council Members Corey Johnson and Elizabeth Crowley, who spearheaded this legislation, flank ASPCA President and CEO Matthew Bershadker as he speaks at this morning's rally in support of stronger pet store regulations.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to share the news that the New York City Council today voted in favor of Introductions 55-A, 136-A and 146-A, legislation to regulate city pet stores that sell puppies. Certain provisions of the bills will take effect as soon as January.
These measures are designed to prevent pet stores in New York City from obtaining puppies from some of the most unscrupulous puppy breeders—a.k.a. puppy mills—in the nation. Pet stores will also be required to disclose information to customers about the origins of the animals they sell, as well as to spay/neuter and microchip dogs and cats (and license dogs) before selling them. This multi-pronged approach will protect animals from exploitation and suffering and help arm consumers with the information they need to make smart choices about bringing new pets into their homes.
Our deepest thanks go out to the New York City members of our ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, who emailed and called their councilmembers in support of these measures. To learn more about the puppy mill industry and its connection to pet stores that sell animals, please visit nopetstorepuppies.com.