The U.S. Senate lost a voice for animals this week with the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). A leader on many important pieces of legislation to help animals, his contributions will have a lasting impact for years to come.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katina, which saw many people forced to leave their animals behind as they evacuated, Sen. Lautenberg helped pass the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act. This legislation, signed into law in 2006, ensures that localities consider pets and animals in their disaster plans. The ASPCA sees the benefits of Sen. Lautenberg’s legacy today as we assist states and municipalities in disaster recovery efforts all across the country.
Senator Lautenberg was also a leader on legislation to protect animals during air travel, and had a special fondness for horses. He was a leader on the Horse Transportation Safety Act, which would ban the cruel transport of horses in double-decked trailers, and was a longtime supporter of legislation to ban the grisly practice of horse slaughter. The senator’s compassion also extended to wildlife. He fought to protect exotic animals from captive hunts; dolphins and whales from brutal slaughters; wildlife and pets from the dangers of lead shot; and polar bears from trophy hunts. He had a big heart and a strong sense of justice.
The ASPCA remembers Sen. Lautenberg for his many years of service to this country and for being a strong voice for animals on Capitol Hill.
Surveys conducted by Lake Research Partners in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa confirm that an overwhelming majority (70%+) of voters in all three states disapprove of horse slaughter for human consumption and would oppose the opening of horse slaughter facilities in their states. Opposition to horse slaughter for human consumption in these three states is broad and deep, extending across every demographic, regional and partisan group.
Unfortunately, meat processors in at least five states—the three surveyed, as well as Oklahoma and Tennessee—are currently trying to get horse meat plants up and running. The New Mexico processor, Valley Meat Company, passed a USDA inspection in April and its permit to begin slaughtering horses for meat could come through as soon as the end of June.
Take Action There has been no slaughter of horses for human consumption in the U.S. since 2007, but there is no federal law against it. But with your help, we can fix that! Please join us in advocating for Congressional passage of the SAFE Act, a bill that would ban horse slaughter in all 50 states, as well as the transport of our horses over our borders for slaughter in other countries.
According to news reports, Smithfield’s new ownership is primarily intended to export pork products to China, which is prohibited from sending its pork and beef to the U.S due to food safety concerns for both humans and companion animals. Increasingly, American consumers are concerned with the conditions in which their food is produced. Smithfield is one of many companies phasing out gestation crates, horrendous metal-barred cages that keep breeding sows in spaces so tight they cannot even turn around. It had pledged to remove these archaic cages from its international operations by 2022, and we are encouraged to hear the company state that it plans to keep this commitment.
What You Can Do
What can consumers do when faced with difficult issues surrounding food safety and the welfare of animals? Animal health and consumer safety can be encouraged through expanded education. If meat is part of your diet, there are several product-labeling programs that require higher standards of care for farm animals. They include:
Similarly, the government is increasingly responding to consumer demand for more transparency around the conditions in which our food is produced. Just last week, the US Department of Agriculture approved mandatory country-of-origin labeling on steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat that will indicate where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. This is a huge step in the right direction and will help consumers make informed choices when shopping for their families.
Just in time for summer, here’s some great news to bark about! California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) wants to see more dog parks in the Golden State—and last week, his bill to make it easier for local governments to create these havens for their four-legged residents passed the Assembly unanimously.
Gatto's bill, A.B. 265, would help cities and counties by limiting dog park-related liabilities; it would also protect local governments from lawsuits by people claiming that they were unaware of the potential dangers of such parks. Since California already has a similar law limiting liability for skate parks, the concept is not unfamiliar to state legislators.
"Dog parks help build safer and stronger communities by providing a public space for neighbors to interact while training and socializing their dogs," said Assemblyman Gatto. "We should not allow liability concerns to be a major barrier to creating these valuable spaces." Added A.B. 265's co-author, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego): "This bill would have made my life significantly easier when I was on the San Diego City Council and trying to site a dog park."
We think that this bill, which aims to enrich communities and make life more pleasant for dogs and responsible pet parents, is a breath of fresh air! If you think so too, please take a few seconds to thank Assemblyman Gatto for his efforts by tweeting him a nice thank-you message (@mikegatto).
Military dogs aren’t the only animal heroes finally getting their due—the New York State Legislature has just passed a bill making it a felony to intentionally kill a police animal! The bill (A.2596/S.1079), which protects both police dogs and horses, passed unanimously and is headed to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.
This legislation was brought to the forefront after a March incident in New York’s Herkimer County: While pursuing an at-large gunman, Ape, an FBI police dog, was shot and killed by the suspect. Ape had been on the job for less than one month.
“Police dogs are on the front lines detecting dangers, apprehending criminals, and rescuing victims every day,” says Bill Ketzer, Senior Director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Northeast Region. “The loss of a police animal is a loss to the entire community, and we applaud New York legislators for passing this bill.”
A.2596/S.1079 was a priority bill at New York Voices for Animals Day, an ASPCA-sponsored animal advocacy event held in Albany earlier this month. Citizen advocates lobbied their state lawmakers in person to support the bill’s passage, and we think the results speak for themselves!
Inspired by this big win in New York? Share it with your friends with the hashtag #PoliceDogs.