We all want stronger sentences for convicted animal-fighters—and the government is listening. You can help make this a reality by telling the U.S. Sentencing Commission to get tough on dog fighting! Time to speak up is limited; take action today.
Last year, at the sentencing of Alabama dog fighters, we listened while one convicted criminal after another expressed shock at the notion that animal fighting was a serious crime. These men were entirely aware of the criminal nature of their drug deals and weapons-trafficking, but had little concept that fighting, killing, and maiming dogs within huge multistate gambling rings could land them in jail. The federal judge who heard that case likewise expressed his shock that the federal sentencing guidelines were so inadequate for a crime so brutal. The current guidelines recommend prison sentences as low as six months and almost half of all offenders only get probation. No wonder the Alabama offenders didn’t know that dog fighting could land them in prison.
Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission—the independent federal agency that constructs sentencing guidelines as a reference for federal judges—took a great step toward remedying this problem by proposing to revise the federal sentencing guideline for animal fighting in its upcoming amendment cycle.
Congress raised the maximum prison sentence for a federal animal fighting conviction to five years in 2008 in response to the Michael Vick case. The current sentencing guidelines never incorporated that increase, creating a huge gap between what is allowed under federal law and what is recommended in sentencing guidelines. As a result, convicted dog fighters too often receive unacceptably weak sentences.
We commend the U. S. Sentencing Commission for considering this critical issue. Tell the U.S. Sentencing Commission to get tough on dog fighting by making stronger animal fighting sentences a priority. The Commission will be accepting comments for the next 30 days—make sure they hear from you!
The House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee this week took a step forward to protect research animals by demanding the USDA address the serious allegations of animal cruelty and neglect at its research facility or forgo millions in funding. The 2016 appropriations draft bill approved by the subcommittee contains a provision to withhold $56.1 million of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) budget until the agency offers official assurances to Congress that its animal welfare protocols and reporting requirements are updated.
“The rampant cruelty taking place at this taxpayer-funded USDA research facility is inexcusable,” says Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “We cannot allow suffering of the kind exposed at USMARC to continue, and the ASPCA commends the members of the House Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee for holding the USDA accountable for farm animal treatment at all USDA research facilities.”
Withholding funds for further animal research is an important step, but more must be done. Congress must close the loopholes that allow for this type of suffering by passing the AWARE Act, bipartisan legislation that would require animal agricultural research at federal facilities like USMARC to meet Animal Welfare Act (AWA) standards, and Congress and the USDA should ensure that these facilities undergo regular inspections.
You can help! Make sure your tax dollars are used appropriately and in a transparent and humane manner: Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center today to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to cosponsor the AWARE Act.
Co-chaired by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), this bipartisan caucus raises awareness of animal welfare issues in Congress and builds broad coalitions in support of common-sense animal welfare legislation. In recent years, the caucus helped pass new laws to:
close the federal loophole protecting spectators at animal fights,
ban the commerce in appalling “crush videos,” and
protect the rights of states to pass their own animal protection laws.
The ASPCA regularly works with the Animal Protection Caucus to hold briefings that inform legislators and their staff about animal issues and legislation. Additionally, the caucus co-hosts our overwhelmingly popular biannual “Paws for Love” and “Paws for Celebration” adoption events on Capitol Hill, which highlight and celebrate the important work of our nation’s shelters and rescues.
The Animal Protection Caucus currently boasts 115 House members. It is wonderful to have so many legislators engaged on animal protection issues, but that leaves over 300 Representatives who are not involved with the caucus. We’re confident that many of them would happily join the ranks if their constituents—you—encouraged them to.
You Can Help! Use the form below to send a quick email to your U.S. Representative in Washington, D.C., and ask him or her to consider joining the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. Just enter your info and we’ll provide a pre-drafted message to your legislator (and if your representative is already a member, a “thank you” message will load up!). Please feel free to tell your representative why animal protection is important to you.
The New York State legislative session will come to a close on June 17, but there is still an important order of business for it to address—S.1081, ASPCA-supported legislation that will allow a portion of the funds allotted for the Animal Population Control Program (APCP) to be used to fund viable trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs in parts of Upstate New York and Long Island.
Lending her voice to this critical issue is award-winning actress Edie Falco, who was recently honored at the ASPCA Bergh Ball for her work to increase awareness and inspire action on behalf of animals in crisis in the United States. Edie is a lifelong New Yorker with strong ties to the animal welfare community and we’re hoping a direct plea from her will encourage the Senate to take swift action before time runs out! This bill is on the Senate’s floor calendar and is eligible for a vote by the full Senate, but leadership alone decides which bills are allowed to go to a vote.
TNR programs successfully reduce community cat populations, decrease intake and euthanasia at overburdened animal shelters, and protect public health by vaccinating cats against rabies. It is the only humane and effective way to manage these populations. Unfortunately, TNR programs are not eligible for APCP funding, but the New York Senate has the opportunity to ensure these life-saving programs get the funding they need to protect community cats throughout the state. S.1081 already passed the Assembly unanimously with bipartisan support, but the Senate must pass the bill by June 17, when the Legislature adjourns for the year.
Read Edie’s letter to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan below, and if you live in New York, please follow up by adding your voice to hers! Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center to quickly and easily contact Senator Flanagan and urge him to bring S.1081 to a vote before the end of this session.
Last week, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum requiring that when certain meat is purchased by the federal government for federal cafeterias, preference is given to producers who raise animals according to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) antibiotic recommendations.
Unfortunately, those FDA recommendations fail to address the deplorable animal welfare conditions that drive the overuse of antibiotics in the first place.
Nearly all land animals raised for food are kept in factory farms where crowding, filth and stress abound. To compensate, and to speed animals’ growth, companies often feed animals a steady dose of antibiotics. The chicken industry is a prime example.
The FDA recommendation that forms the basis of the White House’s new policy aims to stop companies from using antibiotics to speed animal growth. However, it does not address the common practice of routinely administering “preventative” antibiotics to compensate for poor welfare.
Reduction in on-farm antibiotics should always feature better animal welfare, and the ASPCA has a host of recommendations for achieving this on all farms, regardless of antibiotics protocols. These include things like more space, lower stress, better sanitation and, of course, treating animals with antibiotics when truly needed. Read more about how these common-sense measures can improve chicken welfare, and take action for chickens, on our Truth About Chicken site.