Guest blog by Ann Church, Vice President of State Affairs, ASPCA Government Relations
Thanks to the support of animal advocates like you, the ASPCA’s Government Relations team was able to expand greatly this year, increasing our ability to fight for better laws for animals in all 50 states. As 2012 draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to reflect on some of this year’s legislative accomplishments on behalf of animals. Here is a small sampling of state-level victories that the ASPCA and our mighty Advocacy Brigade helped secure in 2012:
California—“Hounding” of Wildlife California has banned hounding, a form of trophy hunting in which radio-collared dogs are released in forests to chase and tree bears and bobcats.
Idaho—Felony Cruelty 2012 will be remembered as the year that Idaho, a long-time holdout, finally enacted a law making animal torture a felony offense. The state made cockfighting a felony as well.
Massachusetts—Animal Control Reform Among other achievements, this far-reaching, comprehensive new law creates a statewide spay/neuter program, prohibits breed-specific legislation, places restrictions on outdoor tethering, and allows pets to be included in domestic violence-related protection orders.
New Jersey—Horse Slaughter New Jersey banned the slaughter of horses for human consumption as well as their transport through the state—a very meaningful provision, given the continued problem of export of horses over the border for slaughter.
Ohio—Exotic Pet Ownership and Puppy Mill Regulations Ohio’s Dangerous Wild Animal Act passed seven months after 56 exotic animals were released by their owner. (Most were killed.) Ohio was one of only a handful of states with virtually no regulations on wild/exotic animal pet ownership. In addition, the state passed its first-ever puppy mill law, which sets standards of care and requires annual inspections.
Tennessee—Felony Cruelty to Livestock While most states exempt farm animals from their animal cruelty statues, Tennessee became one of the first to make extreme acts of cruelty to livestock subject to felony-level penalties.
It’s important to remember that these victories, as well as the countless others, could not have been achieved without collaboration among state legislators and humane advocacy groups. Let’s all continue to champion stronger laws protecting our nation’s animals and make 2013 an even better year!
Need a little extra good cheer? Well, the U.S. Congress just passed legislation that will help protect military dogs. Included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, the measure will help streamline the adoption process of retired military dogs and authorize a system of veterinary care at no expense to taxpayers. The Defense Authorization bill now moves to President Barack Obama for his signature.
“Military dogs are true heroes—they play a critical role in our nation’s defense,” says Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations. “These amazing dogs have been loyal to us in extreme circumstances and deserve to be properly cared for and adopted into good homes after such unwavering service to their country. We thank Senator Blumenthal and Representative Jones for ensuring these heroic dogs’ health and well-being is properly cared for.”
This provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) through the leadership of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) in the U.S. House of Representatives. Both legislators introduced similar legislation to assist military dogs, the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act, earlier this year.
Last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed three new laws that send a clear message to dog fighters: Bloodsports are not welcome in the Great Lakes State.
Animal fighting is a felony in Michigan, punishable by up to four years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines, and so is watching an animal fight. But these new laws crack down even further. Here’s how:
•SB 356 allows local authorities to seize homes and automobiles associated with animal fighting. •SB 358 adds animal fighting, shooting and baiting to the list of racketeering crimes. •HB 5789 gives law enforcement the ability to shut down any venue found to be associated with animal fighting and declare it a nuisance.
Dog fighting is widespread in parts of the state, and experts have identified regions of the state as national hotbeds for animal fighting. That’s why we’re so glad Michigan decided to arm its officials with these new legal tools.
“We thank Governor Snyder for signing these critical measures to improve upon the existing law, making Michigan one of the toughest states on animal fighting,” says Vicki Deisner, ASPCA State Director of Government Relations for the Midwest.
Way to go, Michiganders! We’re one step closer to ridding the U.S. of dog fighting for good. Ready to help? Visit the Advocacy Center.
Guest blog by Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of Government Relations
Yesterday was the National Day of the Horse, designated by the U.S. Senate in 2004 as a day for “people of the United States to be mindful of the contribution of horses to the economy, history and character of the United States.” This led me to take stock of how our nation is doing when it comes to equine protection. While there have been advances in horse protection, much work remains to be done.
A 2012 national poll found that 80% of American voters oppose horse slaughter. Even though the last domestic horse slaughter plants have closed, the slaughter of American horses has continued in Canada and Mexico. Attempts made this year to resume horse slaughter in the U.S. were thwarted by massive public opposition. Legislation to ban these practices awaits action in Congress.
This spring, media attention focused on the plight of racehorses. A New York Times investigation detailed the tragedies befalling these equine athletes as a result of widespread drugging. Congress quickly introduced legislation to address this root cause of catastrophic injuries, and we continue to press for its passage.
We worked to draft a new piece of legislation to clamp down on “soring”—the practice of inflicting pain in horses’ legs and hooves so severe that they move with an unnaturally high-stepping gait. This new bill was introduced in Congress this year to amend the Horse Protection Act and end soring once and for all.
While New York City continues to allow the shameful and dangerous practice of driving carriage horses on congested city streets, the ASPCA has backed a pilot program to replace those vulnerable animals with vintage, electric cars. This project is gaining momentum but has not yet replaced the antiquated urban horse-drawn carriage. We continue seeking ways to implement alternatives to the suffering of these noble creatures.
Though Congress recognized wild horses as living symbols of the American West in 1971, competition for public land use has threatened the welfare of our last mustangs. In 2004, a backroom deal led to the amendment of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act permitting the sale of these iconic animals for the first time. This exception allowed over 1,700 mustangs to be sold to notorious pro-slaughter buyer Tom Davis (a devastating discovery made earlier this year). Many fear those horses were sent to slaughter, despite the Bureau of Land Management’s policy against such an action. In response to this incident, the agency just announced reforms to prevent such tragedies in the future—but it may be too little, too late. The ASPCA calls for an end to the sales program and a return to the preservation focus of the Act.
In 2004, when the U.S. Senate recognized December 13 as the National Day of the Horse, it called America to action, stating “horses are a vital part of the collective experience of the United States and deserve protection and compassion.” We at the ASPCA pledge to remain committed to this challenge and will ensure you know when and how you can join us in fighting for our beloved horses.
Last night, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill requiring all commercial dog-breeding facilities to be licensed and inspected—for the first time ever in the state’s history.
Friends, that’s a big step in the right direction for dogs in Ohio, a state known as a haven for puppy mill operators, and where untold numbers of dogs are currently languishing in filthy, barren facilities.
This law is the culmination of more than six years of work by steadfast animal advocates, including the ASPCA and our supporters, and we’re very encouraged to see it signed. “Ohio has taken a critical step,” says Cori Menkin, Senior Director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign.
Still, the law doesn’t go quite as far as we’d have liked. For one, it doesn’t require commercial breeders to provide breeding dogs with annual veterinary care, which is critical to ensuring the dogs are healthy and safe.
“This is just one of the problems that we weren’t able to fix, but the legislation is still a step in the right direction,” says Vicki Deisner, State Director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Midwest region. “We look forward to working with the Ohio Department of Agriculture to ensure humane standards of care are instituted through the regulatory process.”
We’ve got so much more work to do for puppy mill dogs in Ohio and other states. If you’re ready to join the fight, visit NoPetStorePuppies.com to get started.